I'm terrified of getting lost.
And on top of that, I'm uncertain about my ability to stand on my own two feet, all evidence to the contrary. I'm 57, separated from my husband of 27 years. My three sons (23, 21 and 18) are at various stages of leaving the nest. A common mid-life story, but it's not a cliché when you're living it.
Ashland artist/entrepreneur Betsy Lewis recently launched the Walkabout Woman Project. I decided to take up her challenge: "A walkabout requires a decision to take a first step, and a conscious and intentional movement (inwardly, outwardly or both) in the general direction of a longing or calling — with an openness to the actual experience, and a minimal attachment to expectations and results."
Carl Jung suggested that in the second half of life, we attempt to do things we haven't been good at or that we've shied away from, in order to become more well-rounded and whole. Doing a Walkabout — to purposely put myself in uncharted territory — is one way to hone new or latent skills, test my mettle and see what I'm really made of.
Things that seem true about me: I'm not handy. I can be clumsy. I have shockingly little to no common sense about certain things. I question my capability and competence.
Things I'm scared of — no, strike that — things I'm terrified of (along with getting lost): Getting physically hurt. Not being able to see (especially in the dark). Not being able to figure out what to do in challenging, new situations, where I've passed my comfort zone and reached a growth edge.
It's crucial to understand and respect our edges. There's an analogy about cooking rice and inner growth work: without a certain amount of flame, the rice doesn't cook; if the flame is too high, the rice burns.
Part of the art of "knowing thyself" is consciously regulating that flame. It's true that out of the ashes the phoenix might rise, but it's also possible to traumatize ourselves so as to be counter-productive. My friend Zan Nix is a big walkabout woman, once having traveled throughout Africa by herself (not as a part of an organized tour). This is WAY past my own edge; that adventure would have surely scorched my pot of rice.
I organized my walkabout as a road trip up through Oregon and Washington to Puget Sound visiting friends, interspersed with places where I was on my own. This felt exactly right in terms of degree of "fire" for me.
I made some headway in terms of my feelings about standing on my own two feet. I managed to do what I set out to do, and had increasing faith that I'd figure things out as I went along. And a good reminder was taped to a cash register in Port Townsend, Wash., in a handwritten note, "Remember to ask for help when you need it!"
Growing up, I was allowed to give up on things at which I wasn't naturally adept. Too much was done for me, instead of allowing me to get frustrated and work things through. I'm gently cultivating the ability to stick with things that are challenging for me, to feel good when I master them, but also to accept when my performance is less than stellar and to be able to give myself credit for trying.
One of my "companions" on this journey was Rebecca Solnit's "A Field Guide to Getting Lost." In it she writes, —…to be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery. And one does not get lost but one loses oneself, with the implication that it is a conscious choice, a chosen surrender, a psychic state achievable through geography. That thing "… which is totally unknown to you, is usually what you need to find, and finding it is a matter of getting lost."
If you would like more information about walkabouts visit The Walkabout Woman at www.thewalkaboutwoman.com or contact Betsy Lewis at: email@example.com. Read about my journey at www.marlaestes.blogspot.com.
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