“We are the hero each of us of our own life’s adventure – called to engage our own kind of latent complexity and diversity, our own hidden divinity… and together we are the heroes of our 21st century collective hero’s journey.”
~ John O’Donohue, Eternal Echoes: the Yearning to Belong and 21st Century Initiation Crises
Since the return from my pilgrimage, I’ve been exploring my understanding of bravery, storytelling (myth), and what it means to be heroic. You see, some people think I’m brave. Huh? They say to me, “You’re so courageous.” They whisper to me, “I could never do what you’ve done.” They gave me the Kevin Brown PWA Hero Award in 2010. Please understand that I am not sharing these things as a source of pride (although that Hero Award is frackin’ awesome – thanks). I’m actually rather puzzled with this honour. I don’t feel particularly brave. I’m just moving along with my life, and I don’t see this as brave. Bravery to me is doing something noble that you don’t have to do because it’s a task that someone else can do or it can be left undone. Living my life cannot be done by someone else and neither can it be left undone; ergo, I am not brave.
Or am I?
Recently one of my dear friends was feted by the Vancouver Rape Relief for his decades of service to fundraising, community engagement, and all-round badass feminist rebel-rousing. As he moved about the room talking with those at the celebration I could see the mix of pride, humility, and downright surprise in his being. For sure he does good work and he knows it. He’s slaying the proverbial dragon who seeks to rob women of their essential worth through acts of violence. He’s a quiet and gentle man. But don’t be deceived, because there’s a fiery conviction contained within. It’s beautiful to behold. To me, Tim is heroic because someone else can do this work; he doesn’t have to do this work.
Or does he?
So what is a hero? To my understanding, it is someone who has achieved mastery over interiority and exteriority by overcoming great obstacles in unfamiliar territory by accessing skills perceived to be beyond their capacity. Well, this is a very simple summation of monomyth or Joseph Campbell’s theory on the hero’s journey. The process is of course a lot more complex, isn’t it? But we both know taking that journey is always beneficial. Stop right now and take stock of the times you’ve surprised yourself with your accomplishments – both small and monumental. If we pay attention I reckon we will each see many layers of heroism in our own lives. Seeing our own bravery can be a challenge in a society that has wrongly transmuted the meaning of hero into celebrity. Perhaps you don’t see your own bravery.
Or do you?
We really do need to be our own hero because we cannot depend on someone else to save us. I’m not being cynical. I depend on others. There have been times when I’ve been saved by another. What I mean is that basically and ultimately we have to depend on ourselves because it makes us stronger and more able to be a source of present help to those around us. By being our own hero we develop an inner store of strength and it is upon this that we build our self-confidence. When we learn to meet our own needs and to reach beyond them we develop more skills and we begin to trust ourselves. We come to believe in our innate ability to meet the road and rise to the challenge. It is out of this inner knowing that we shine forth understanding and compassion. We are better equipped to navigate our various and changing worlds when we are our own hero. With each new successful quest our world becomes larger and we become more complex.
Maybe I am brave. I know I can depend on myself to save myself. I trust myself. But you know what really takes slaying dragons to another level? Having a theme song! Mine is “Wonder” by Natalie Merchant. This song never fails to grab my attention and I listen to it often. The lyrics talk about love, patience and faith, and resonate with my being.
What’s your rally cry? What’s your theme song? Let’s make a conquering heroine soundtrack.
This post was originally published by Positive Women’s Network.