365 Grateful: Rite of Passage

August 8, 2021

Declaration August 8, 2021

Today is a Rite of Passage, a coming full circle, or perhaps full spiral.
There is an ending of 12 years of wandering, a hero’s journey perhaps: purposeful, illuminating, wondrous, challenging.

Today is satisfaction. Not completion, but recognition that paths unfold as they must.
There is reconciliation with self, a reclaiming and, yes, a releasing.

Today is a familiar mile marker, infinitely and permanently changed, yet still recognizable.
And there is peace in the recognizing.

Today is my Rite of Passage, surprisingly simple, deeply meaningful. And yet …
There is coexistence with past, a reaping of wisdom.

Today is restoration, a taking back of voice and power.
There is a leaving behind. But not a returning to.

Today is a coming home of sorts, not to place, but to fully self.
(JCrow, 8/8/21)

Ah, Rites of Passage are momentous occasions. Recall the day you came of age as an adult. The day you graduated. Married. Retired. Perhaps the day a loved one died. The day you die also will be such a passage, for you and for those you leave behind.

But Rites of Passage are not always of a universal, commonly recalled kind. They can be far more subtle, far less typical, yet no less life changing. All such rites usher us from one phase of life to the next, from old habits to new ways of being and thinking, from unawareness to an understanding that, once seen, can’t be unseen. Uncommon rites are sometimes the most powerful of all.

Today was such a Rite of Passage for me. Today I purposefully walked into the edifice I purposefully walked out of 12 years ago. My step through its doors, however, is not the actual passage this day marks, although it opened the door to it. My passage is that I unleashed my voice and sang again in that place, the site of where I laid to rest my creative children some 12 years ago.

Clarissa Pinkola Estés, a first-generation American writer, Jungian psychoanalyst and trauma specialist, has written and spoken extensively on myths and stories and the state of the soul and culture. She teaches we can all tap the generative power of the goodness of the core self – all the creativity and understanding that lies just out of sight in darkness (the unconscious). We CAN walk in two worlds.

In “Mother Night: Learning to See in the Dark,” she illuminates this concept through stories and myths from many cultures, one of which is the story of Medea, the sorceress in Greek mythology. Medea was the daughter of King Aeëtes of Colchis, a niece of the sorceress Circe, and the granddaughter of the sun god Helios. If you draw a blank, recall Jason and the Argonauts or the Greek tragedy “Medea” by Euripides, first performed in 431 BC.

Estes recounts this version, although there are many variations:

When Jason comes to Colchis to claim his inheritance and throne by retrieving the Golden Fleece, Medea falls in love with him, promises to help him succeed if he will marry her and take her with him. He agrees. Medea uses what Estes refers to as her “medial nature” (that instinctive, intuitive ability and empathic connection that allows her to “see in the dark” what others need). That nature fuels her innate desire to help others, including Jason, who succeeds. They sail off with the fleece, wed, and have children.

But this is a tragedy, after all, and Jason eventually leaves Medea for a Greek princess. Because he betrays her, Medea turns against herself and denies her medial nature. She kills the children she had with him.

Here is the true heart of the Medea metaphor, Estes says: in the creative world, we can easily, when hurt, cut off that portion of ourselves – our intuitive, medial nature – and kill the creative children and expression within us. No more singing. No more dance. No more art. No more gift. In Medea’s case, no more use of her gifts for others.

Gruesome, to be sure. But we see it all the time. In the face of a tragedy, a criticism, a rejection, an unfortunate event – in this case a betrayal – we have two choices:

  • To seek insight and understanding and further our gifts and talents and abilities – our medial natures – and even channel them into new directions if that is what we choose, or
  • To figuratively kill our creative children – turn away from our gifts and abilities, deaden our passions, abandon our artistic pursuits, leave our life-giving purpose to wither, walk away from who we are deep in our psyches. Here, we leave ourselves diminished, our light dimmed, our thoughts often twisted or bitter.

Twelve years ago, I killed my creative children in a Rite of Passage into a new way of being, thinking, and gifting. I killed my creative children in terms of music and singing, which had been a huge focus of my life, my interests, my identity for 36 years.

Music simply stopped. I spent the next 12 years generally not raising my voice in groups, as a soloist, even with no one to hear but me. It was not that I couldn’t sing or didn’t like to sing. It was that I didn’t want to sing. Nor did I particularly want to listen. I simply turned away. There was no music in the car. It was replaced by silence while I occupied my mind in reverie, deep thoughts, or conversation. I tried singing in a choir for a time, but it proved unsatisfying and unsustainable. The community in which I had  practiced my gifts – the church – sustained collateral damage. I unchurched.

Instead, in what I now recognize as another Rite of Passage, I birthed new creative children: coaching, a return to writing, diving into authenticity and purpose and seeing in the dark how to help others who were also seeking something. I became a coach and dived so very deeply into that supremely satisfying world. Yet I, too, was seeking, always seeking, something undefined, something missing.

I realize, now, that I always nurtured whatever it was I was seeking – that elusive answer to the question a wise coach once asked me: “what are you longing for?” I could only shrug while tears flowed. I didn’t know. I couldn’t name it. In fact, I wouldn’t be able to name it until the spring of 2018, some nine years later.

All that time, those creative children were still deep within me, waiting for my awareness – for rebirth. Yet I was already walking in both worlds. I was “seeing in the dark” though I had no name for it and no conscious awareness. Then in a weekend retreat on “Crossing Your Next Threshold,” I found it: Community and Connection.

Oh, it was never about music and singing, really. It was always and ever about the community that held the music within it and the connection forged with those who moved and lived and loved and mattered within that community. For musicians, that’s not just other musicians, it’s also those who appreciate, who listen, and who support.

What I had killed wasn’t music. It was community and connection, although I spent nine-plus years continuing to nurture them both deep within the dark.

Now, I chose to walk away for reasons I will hold to myself. Like Medea, I grasped the knife in the face of a betrayal and sliced through every single tie I had to that environment, which had always heavily revolved around music. I silenced my voice. I deadened the sound of music. I locked away my gift of song.

So today I come full circle – full circle in myself, but not in place. Today, as a guest, I stand up in that same community and finally unleash my voice. I resurrect those creative children so long dormant. Though I was never idle, and I spent the intervening years birthing new creative children, it feels right for this one to reappear. Never again will it be all consuming, but it can resume its place alongside the gifts and the children who emerged in the interim. There is room for all … in the daylight as well as in the night.

And I? I accept my whole power, restore my voice. I am complete once more.

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