Monday, March 31, 2008
“It’s an old tendency of humans to leave home and strike out across a frontier that beckons as a zone of magic, mysticism, inspiration and holy conversion. When we are at loose ends emotionally we tend to set out on a symbolic journey into unfamiliar territory where newly aroused senses allow us to feel vigilant and reborn. In part this is based on the intuition that to change one’s self one must relinquish all that is known and habitual, cast off from the shore of one’s home and the endearing familiarity of everyday life, whose moods and manners one comes to know like an old friend. …we do not always travel to escape our circumstances but to find ourselves. Why must we do that in a foreign place, having become foreign to our past.
...The wilderness may be an actual frontier fraught with danger, or it may be a wilderness of doubt.
from Cultivating Delight, Diane Ackerman
Sometimes people travel to lose themselves, some people travel to find something they've lost, a nostalgia for their childhood town, or a sense of who they once were in younger years. Some people strike out alone, others in groups.
For myself, my mid-life quest or peri-menopausal quest, has taken me from Australia to India, from Panama to Massachusetts, from Vancouver Island to New Mexico. At least once a year, and often twice, I leave my kids in the capable hands of a caretaker plus my husband (or in recent years, up to their own devices) and go on retreat.
Sometimes it's a long journey amidst a group of fellow seekers, sometimes it's a lone ride in a rental car through the desert. Sometimes it involves camping on a natural reserve on the other side of the world and dealing with jet lag as I meditate amongst the Kookaburras, sometimes it's singing with 45 other women in a convent just south-east of Montreal and sleeping in a tiny room.
The important thing is, I get away by myself. That is, without family to take care of. I take some needed time out, because a year-long sabbatical is out of the question until the kids leave home. I'm used to working alone in my home office, typing away at my laptop, but it's not just solitude I'm looking for. It's the mystical sense of finding 'me' when I remove myself from my habits, my daily routines, my ruts, and plunk myself somewhere new, either in a workshop or retreat, and ask questions of where I am, what I'm doing, what I want to do.
The answers have been slow in coming. Sometimes it's about rooting deeper into my essence. Or jumping fully dressed into a swimming pool at midnight. But it always involves a challenge. Driving into a lightning storm on the desert roads of New Mexico with 2 newly found friends was dangerous, exciting and felt like crossing the fear-barrier inside me. Waking up to coyotes howling every night in a pitch dark adobe dwelling was breaking part of the fear-barrier too. Sitting in front of a blank page, facing the sacred Taos Mountain, waiting for a sign about what my work would be, or should be, or what project called to me, I faced the fear inside. Maybe nothing would come out of it. Maybe I had to stall this project of calling myself a writer and go back home empty-handed.
The answers are rolling in, now, slowly but surely. As I continue to learn, read, study, follow my natural inclination towards researching menstruation and menopause, I am finding my subject, or it is finding me.
I continue to quest. I invite you to read some of the entries on this blog, for pieces of my journey. Perhaps they resonate with your pieces. Or not. We each have a quest, and I believe that menopause is a fantastic opportunity for self-knowledge, self-awareness.
So leave home, if need be, as often as you can. And return. With something new you've learned about you.