In last week’s blog I explained the Hero’s Journey (Departure, Initiation, and Return) and how it has made me think of our current state of COVID-19 pandemic. I went into detail about how the first step in the Hero’s Journey, Departure, related to our current state. You can read that blog by clicking here.
So, this week we move to the next phase of the Hero’s Journey – Initiation.
Initiation – The Hero enters a new world where they face new dangers, tasks, and challenges. Alone or with a companion, the Hero faces many setbacks. However, the Hero survives and gets a reward for achieving their goal.
This stage of the Hero’s Journey is where we are right now. We, individually and as a community, have new challenges, tasks, and dangers we have never experienced before. We are all moving in uncharted waters. We have all faced new dangers and challenges whether it be fear of COVID-19 because of serious health issues, or the challenge of finding toilet paper. We have all had to adjust our lifestyles to adapt to “Shelter in Place” living.
Some, because of business closures, are facing the challenge of finances. Some are concerned about elderly parents. And others have the new challenge of homeschooling children. We have the challenge of making sure we have enough food to last a couple of weeks before we have to venture back out into the world. We all face the danger of contracting the virus, or a loved one becoming sick. There is a lot to worry about at the moment.
Hopefully, most of us have a “companion” with us on our journey. We are “Sheltering in Place” with family or roommates. In popular stories, the companion has unique gifts that help the hero on their journey, like Sam in Lord of the Rings. I’m sure your companions are helping and you are grateful.
However, in the stories, the companion is not always helpful. For example, Star Wars’ Jar Jar Binks, Lord of the Rings’ Merry, and Pippin and even Harry Potter’s friend Ron got into trouble here and there. So, companions can be a challenge all on their own. Which of course makes sense, as none of us know how to handle this situation perfectly. Plus, there is being at home with the same people 24/7, not leaving the house, and only interacting with those people…24/7. Add to that the other stresses of COVID-19 and you have a formula for high tension and possible (perhaps inevitable) confrontations.
When it comes down to facing these new tasks, challenges and dangers, we are not always successful. You walk into the grocery store expecting to pick up oatmeal and find the oatmeal shelves completely empty. You lose your patience with a loved one because of stress and not having any alone time. Or, because of stress, you decide to binge watch Grace and Frankie while eating ice cream instead of applying for unemployment or cleaning your car (something you have needed to do for months!).
And, after all of this discomfort, we are to receive a reward for achieving the goal. What is the goal? I think that depends on you. As a society, our goal is to flatten the curve. I think your personal pandemic goal depends greatly on what you want your reward to be in the end.
Have you thought about how a “Shelter in Place” order and social distancing might bring about good things?
One reward might be all the new skills you learn in preparing and thinking ahead. Maybe, if you are paying attention to your behavior when forced outside your comfort zone, you are learning new things about yourself. For instance, maybe you thought staying at home 24/7 would be a dream come true; now that you have it, you realize how important it is to your mental and emotional well-being to get out into the world on a regular basis.
Another reward: you suddenly have a lot of time and space to think about other things. Maybe you suddenly have the time and space to organize that closet, or challenge yourself to de-clutter the house. Maybe you suddenly have the time to exercise every day, read those books you’ve always wanted to read, start to learn a new language online, or write that book you’ve always wanted to write.
But what if you find yourself busier than ever? Between working from home and family, you find you have very little time. Your reward might be new time management skills, or maybe a new sense of gratitude for what you had before, or gratitude toward other people who were doing some of the tasks you are now solely responsible for.
You see what I am getting at? You can look at the challenging road ahead through blinders of despair, or you can look at the challenging road ahead and ask yourself, what am I going to make of it
Ask yourself, if the Universe always has a plan and everything happens for a reason, what is it you need? What is it the Universe wants you to learn, to see, to do so you may grow into a better person? Because, in the end, that is the purpose of the Hero’s Journey – To find new wisdom and skills. And with that wisdom and skill you are a better person.
To be clear, I am not trying to downplay the threat of COVID-19 by saying, “Look on the bright side!” I know many of you are experiencing more challenging journeys than others. Illness, and the possible death of friends and family, are the primary fears in this journey. COVID-19 is the Big Bad of the story, just like Sauron and He Who Shall Not Be Named. It is why we are on the journey, the reason for the hero’s departure from the beginning. But I do believe in every situation we learn something new about ourselves that can be used in the future, even if that situation is as grave as what we all face right now.
Take a moment to metaphorically “step off the path” and observe. What are my challenges? What am I learning? How will this benefit me in the future?
Hopefully you will have that answer when, next week, we will look at the third part of the Hero’s Journey: The Return.
Stay safe and healthy, friends.
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