What if you could deliteralize the situation you're in right now?
What if you could step away from it just long enough to see it from the outside?
This isn't for those of us who are trying to survive. Survival takes priority, we know this.
But for those of us who have food, health, safety, and sufficient income but are just running on anxiety, dread, and anticipatory loss, journey with me for a moment.
We engage with fairy tales all the time; from Star Wars to Harry Potter to Frozen II to everything in and around them. We love adventure storytelling where our protagonists are called to some mission and respond. We watch as they're lead to unexpected challenges, relationships, realizations, and ultimate growth. More than growth, the hero's journey always ends with the hero returning home to share their new understandings with those they had to leave behind, creating potential for evolution.
Often when we engage in these stories, some part of us yearns to play a role in them. We fantasize about our own great call to adventure, some opportunity to rise to the occasion and embody heroism. We wonder what that might look like in our version of reality, but in what feels like the mundane nature of our daily lives, we never spot the invitation.
Now I'm not saying immobilization at home is exactly the stuff of fairy tales or the hero's journey but since I know you've been asking yourself a million "what ifs" this week, let me pose another one for you:
What if your battle, your mission, your call to adventure right now is to overcome the powerlessness and darkness of this situation? We don't have to take literal trips to have metaphorical experiences. Sure staying at home doesn't create quite the landscape for adventure, but can't it? This is strange territory we're in - it's anything but what feels like the mundane nature of our daily lives.
Most hero's journey tales begin with an orphan; Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, Frodo, Dorothy. This frees and encourages the protagonist to let go of the life they knew in pursuit of something else. They usually end up finding new sources of that parental/mentoring support along the way and it's a rich experience. But more than that, they find out who they have the potential to be with or without it.
Right now, I can't help but wonder if our isolation is, in a sense, our orphanhood. We can't be with the people we feel most protected by, we can't go to the office we've grown to know, we can't engage with our usual external coping skills, we can't operate as we know how to, and we're shrouded in uncertainty. And while our comforts and that which we know remain waiting for us on the other side of this, and while community is important, right now, we have more room than we ever have to feel into our individuation.
Surrender, Inquire, and Forget What You Think You Know
To begin, you must release any expectations of who you will be on the other side of this. You must let go of what you always knew and what you'd rather be doing right now. "Shoulds" need to vacate the premises.
That requires hearing the imagination, wiggling through discomfort, asking new questions, listening, surrendering, and arriving for yourself. As you can see in the image of the hero's journey, it takes entering the unknown to cross the threshold of transformation.
I can't give you much more direction than that because metaphor is intangible, albeit palpable. We know archetypes deeply within our collective unconscious without any explicit lessons about them. Which means we have access to wisdom inherently within us.
Perhaps the next fairy tale you read or watch (may I suggest a free trial to Disney+?), feel into the ways this current real life situation can be recognized in the metaphor. And have fun while you're at it.