It has been dancing around the edges of my mind for a while to use Joseph Campbells mono-mythic story-telling structure to guide my memoir. After 5 failed attempts at an audio recording from my closet, I am going to see what it would be like to apply the structure to my story.
Coming back here, after I worked part of the way through the outline, I am feeling like the journey is still very much in process. When I got to number eight, “Approach to the Inmost Cave” I saw and felt my closet in my mind’s eye. I feel like I am sitting the dark of my inmost cave right now here in Pittsburgh. And this is a little disturbing because the next stage in the outline is “The Ordeal” and shizbit, I thought I was done with this ‘whole ordeal’.
But if I’m honest, I know that I am not. There are still critical Hero Story pieces to emerge in the overall narrative arc of Falling Down. Waking Up.
After the ordeal, which I don’t quite feel as having happened yet, there are still four more phases! Maybe I’ll finish when I’m 50, which is only 2 short years away. Or maybe this just keeps going and going and going like a pink Energizer bunny rabbit…maybe my entire life journey is that of Joseph Campbells hero.
Through this writing session of playing in the Hero’s Journey outline, I can see a bit why I’m having a hard time to ‘write this memoir’. Because I am still in it. It isn’t as wrapped up as I can think it is. But still I’ll keep writing and sharing as I live along the path of the hero who wanders, and heals, and loves and breaths and shares my story all along the way.
The outline and italicized text below comes from from Movie Outline‘s “The Hero’s Journey – Mythic Structure of Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth” By Dan Bronzite
1. Ordinary World
“This is where the Hero’s exists before her present story begins, oblivious of the adventures to come. It’s her safe place.”
- When did I ever live in an ordinary world? Never. Ok not precisely true.
For the purpose of telling this story, I could call the 6 months of living in Pittsburgh, post-Haiti and pre-Falling Down, my “Ordinary World Phase”. There I was going along happily reassembling my life threads into a more neatly sewn garment. Teaching yoga and bartending for income, attending massage therapy school to build for my future. I was plugging along in as ordinary of a world as I could be in and then BOOM – fell down the stairs and broke my damn neck.
2. Call To Adventure
“The Hero’s adventure begins when she receives a call to action, such as a direct threat to her safety, her family, her way of life or to the peace of the community in which she lives.”
- Well this one is obvious, falling down the stairs was my clear call to adventure.
3. Refusal Of The Call
“Although the Hero may be eager to accept the quest, at this stage he will have fears that need overcoming. Second thoughts or even deep personal doubts as to whether or not he is up to the challenge.”
- This one is harder. My truth is that I never refused the call and never felt that ‘not . being up to the challenge’ was an option. From day one, I accepted that my new path in life included having to relearn how to use my body and establish a new way of being to accept each day as it unfolded.
- Of course I had fears and doubts and experienced deep sadness. While I never let those feeling waylay my courageous response to the ‘call to adventure’ of a full and meaningful life with a spinal cord injury, still they were hard, loud fears and doubts I faced. I can definitely write about that.
- Am I in a stage of refusing the call right now? By trying on an ‘ordinary life’ for a while?
4. Meeting The Mentor
“At this crucial turning point where the Hero desperately needs guidance she meets a mentor figure who gives her something she needs.”
- My mentors are many along this path of a healing journey. There is no doubt that the outpouring of love and support I received from far and wide created the foundation for my courage.
- My mom by my side, being my body when mine was immobile, was a critical beginning o the healing. And that she didn’t fight my desire to go to India was a game-changer. I can’t say she was excited by the trip, but she did not try to stop me, if she had, she would have won.
- David Garrigues in India is the clear and obvious ‘mentor’ in this narrative arc. The way he worked with me and my body in India allowed for the next up-level to happen.
- Others are Kevin who saved my life and stood by me in the toughest of times; George my Dad who has been a stalwart of strength and stability; Cem, Lizzy and Pele in Hawaii; David, Jolie, Vijaya, Pankaj, Durga in India; Jane, Rawan, Suzanne and Mr Bashear in Greece; Asako, Jiro, Helene, Henri and George in France.
5. Crossing The Threshold
“The Hero is now ready to act upon his call to adventure and truly begin her quest, whether it be physical, spiritual or emotional.”
- India 3 months after I fell. Holy hell that was a big threshold.
- The Healing Journey from Pittsburgh to San Francisco to Hawaii to India to Greece to France and back to Pittsburgh.
- The 9 mile walk to and from the active volcano on the 1-year anniversary of my fall.
6. Tests, Allies, Enemies
“Now finally out of his comfort zone the Hero is confronted with an ever more difficult series of challenges that test him in a variety of ways.”
- I will have to sort through this one carefully. This one feels like the core of the storytelling from my travels.
7. Approach To The Inmost Cave
“The inmost cave may represent many things in the Hero’s story such as an actual location in which lies a terrible danger or an inner conflict which up until now the Hero has not had to face. As the Hero approaches the cave she must make final preparations before taking that final leap into the great unknown.”
- um hello – I am writing to you from my “inmost cave’ …egads!
“The Supreme Ordeal may be a dangerous physical test or a deep inner crisis that the Hero must face in order to survive or for the world in which the Hero lives to continue to exist. Whether it be facing her greatest fear or most deadly foe, the Hero must draw upon all of her skills and her experiences gathered upon the path to the inmost cave in order to overcome his most difficulty challenge.”
- Gulp, I better get ready.
9. Reward (Seizing The Sword)
“After defeating the enemy, surviving death and finally overcoming his greatest personal challenge, the Hero is ultimately transformed into a new state, emerging from battle as a stronger person and often with a prize.”
- Something to bring hope into getting ready for the ordeal.
- I have definitely received rewards along the way. But I do feel that the ‘big’ reward has not yet been achieved.
10. The Road Back
This stage in the Hero’s journey represents a reverse echo of the Call to Adventure in which the Hero had to cross the first threshold. Now he must return home with his reward but this time the anticipation of danger is replaced with that of acclaim and perhaps vindication, absolution or even exoneration.
But the Hero’s journey is not yet over and he may still need one last push back into the Ordinary World. The moment before the Hero finally commits to the last stage of his journey may be a moment in which he must choose between his own personal objective and that of a Higher Cause.
“This is the climax in which the Hero must have his final and most dangerous encounter with death. The final battle also represents something far greater than the Hero’s own existence with its outcome having far-reaching consequences to his Ordinary World and the lives of those he left behind.
If he fails, others will suffer and this not only places more weight upon his shoulders but in a movie, grips the audience so that they too feel part of the conflict and share the Hero’s hopes, fears and trepidation. Ultimately the Hero will succeed, destroy his enemy and emerge from battle cleansed and reborn.”
12. Return With The Elixir
This is the final stage of the Hero’s journey in which he returns home to his Ordinary World a changed man. He will have grown as a person, learned many things, faced many terrible dangers and even death but now looks forward to the start of a new life. His return may bring fresh hope to those he left behind, a direct solution to their problems or perhaps a new perspective for everyone to consider.
The final reward that he obtains may be literal or metaphoric. It could be a cause for celebration, self-realization or an end to strife, but whatever it is it represents three things: change, success and proof of his journey. The return home also signals the need for resolution for the story’s other key players. The Hero’s doubters will be ostracized, his enemies punished and his allies rewarded. Ultimately the Hero will return to where he started but things will clearly never be the same again.