Pilgrimage to Myself (or, Who Am I Becoming?)
Do I have something to tell you.
Ok, the groundwork first…I’m in Life Transition; I have reached the midlife-peri-menopausal-empty-nester-phase of a woman’s life. What a ride, hang-on-to-your-butt rocky at times. Billions of other women have undergone it before me, and yet here I am making this journey, as must be done with all important life passages, alone.
Women so often live a life of service, and like so many women I have defined myself through my relationship to others. Think about it…we say we are mothers, we are wives, we are public servants…it always seems to be about how we support other people, doesn’t it?
It has been my life’s mission to be a good mother, one I started preparing for around age 5. From rigorous self-examination and processing of my own life history to heal myself (Soul Compost and I Am Her Daughter), to taking my family on a 7-year-spiritual odyssey – parenting with my eyes terrifyingly open – my children have been one of my life’s greatest creative efforts.
And now I am at a normal and appropriate shift of identity as I move into this next phase of my life.
I feel I am at a choice point. I feel this is the moment that I have seen many of my female elders before me (and many of my peers) attempt to cling to what is familiar rather than follow the wise woman’s way, to allow to die what must be allowed to die. When life reminds them they can’t have it the way it has been and must let go, they have plastic surgery or develop addictions or desperately reach for comforts, safety – rather than allow the shedding of the skin. Eventually life/death, in its great wisdom (of course) wins.
Is this The Story of Every Woman?
A woman’s transition from mother, life partner and/or public servant is one of life’s great journeys, and is a powerful time for her soul. A threshold into who she is becoming, she can travel it with grace and wisdom; who she is for the rest of her life depends on how she navigates it now. How do we effectively, truthfully, kindly yet courageously let go of our previous self? We go into the change with the spirit of initiation.
Initiation, defined by Webster’s dictionary as simply “the action of beginning something” or “the action of admitting someone into a secret or obscure society or group, typically with a ritual,” is defined much more soulfully when viewed through the lens of our indigenous ancestors’ lifestyle. Initiation is the successful survival of a significant life passage. We see then, that initiation is true death and rebirth, the kind of passage that is a test of our faith and courage, a trial of our character.
The end of a major phase of life is not comfortable; we are creatures of habit, after all. I have felt Lady Death around since Jess left home in 2012…she touched him and decided not to take him, thank goodness. She has gotten closer and closer to me, perhaps the breath we feel on the backs of our necks when we reach midlife…it reminds us that we are mortal, after all, that there is a finite time for us to get done what we want to accomplish, so we’d better hop to it. Present in all things including marriages, families, careers, and all creative projects as the wise, creative force of rebirth, She will give me wings into the next phase of my life, if I do it well…if I cooperate.
Managing this transition is like the old story of the Seal Skin. The story goes that the woman takes off her true nature, the nature of the waters, to be a creature of the land, to answer the call of a lonely fisherman, to marry and have children, to do what she feels she must, but the day comes when she is called home, when the knock on the door by her true nature occurs, and she must answer. And she is scared, because it has been a long time since she wore her real skin. But when she slips it on again, ohhhh, the sweet relief. She must return home.
And so I am here, at this juncture, and here’s the big announcement. I’m being asked by the larger intelligence to go to Europe this summer for 2 months (for the first time in my life), and to walk the land of three countries where I don’t speak the language (France, Spain and Portugal), listening to the ancestors, seeking the Black Madonna, and seeking ME.
I’m excited, breathless, knee-cripplingly-terrified. My Seal Skin is knocking at the door.
After years and years of vision quests (in North America, my immediate homeland), I have learned that Pilgrimage is an act of initiation, leading us through a kind of death and rebirth process.
As Stephanie Dale says, “Pilgrimage is the art of ancient travel, a subpoena from the heart that defies all common sense. The pilgrim is not unlike a comet, burning off all that is futile and unnecessary until all that is left is the essential, un-malleable core. The pilgrim walks the Earth, walks the wheel, walks the turning seasons, surrendering all of who she is and all she thinks she knows and all she thinks she wants to the road and the weather.”
And on the heels of I Am Her Daughter being published, it seems somehow appropriate that I would be walking the land where the ancestors walked, where the feminine was actively beaten into submission through Roman occupation, massacres and the Inquisition, buried in the ground of the deep psyche for safe keeping. I will be walking that ground softly with big, elephant ears on the bottoms of my feet. Listening deeply, with my soul. And as it is my task in this life to be a messenger, I will be sharing what I learn.
You can follow my journey here on my blog, where I’ll be posting regular updates as I prepare, train my middle-aged body (oh lordy), and plot out the course of this initiation as I understand the details of what I’m being asked to do.
And then you can be in my pocket or beside me, shoulder to shoulder, for the journey, as I make pilgrimage to myself and walk the land. It will be nice to have you along. I’m fascinated and curious what I will discover.