Making The Leap
(This is a continuation from my previous blog post.)
I know some of you are hearing your Call right now. (The pandemic, the chaotic nature of our world has ignited the need in many women to make a change.) You may be standing in close proximity to the Threshold, the entry way to the Heroine’s Journey, thinking hard about what you’re going to do.
Can I trust myself?
Can I deal with not knowing?
Am I going to do this?
Hearing The Call
You do know that where you are now, inside your current comfort zone, is not where you want to be. You know what you want to do. But, it’s not easy to take a big leap into the future with no promise of how it will turn out. The process is different for everyone. Don’t judge how you’re doing it. Don’t judge yourself if you’re not doing it. Sometimes it takes a long time to cross over, to make the leap.
I share my story with you to give you an example of how it looked for me back in 2012. What’s interesting is that I think I’m approaching a similar place, here in 2022! I’m pre-threshold crossing - yet again! How coincidental that I chose this to write about at this moment. (There are no coincidences, Susanna, says something chuckling inside of me.)
I knew I was getting a strong intuitive message, a Call, to stop doing so much. I was working with groups in conflict for my Liller Consulting, LLC organizational development business and keeping my much-beloved women’s empowerment business, Ruby Slippers, LLC, going on the side. I saw myself as that woman in the circus whose act is spinning plates, spinning all kinds of plates at the ends of several sticks - all spinning non-stop.
Yep, that was me, and yet, like that overused metaphor of the Energizer Bunny, I kept going, until…
June, 2012…I am on a plane coming home from France with Barb — my good friend, colleague and retreat business partner. We had been leading our second retreat to Paris and Chartres… and visiting Claude Monet’s garden in Giverny.
I don’t remember exactly what prompted her (probably me talking about how I could use more retreat time to objectively assess my life) but Barb suggests I apply the Heroine’s Journey model to my own life.
The Heroine's Journey
“Susanna, do what you do with your clients, find out where you are on your current Heroine’s Journey. Plot where you are for me.”
Joseph Campbell (author, professor, mythologist) drew a circle representing the Hero’s Journey. He noted the milestones the mythic hero moves through on the journey, not necessarily sequentially, as he uncovers his heroic potential. I had created my own diagram of the journey. I needed something that was more like a map. I would ask my clients to use it to chart their previous journeys - and where they felt they were at the moment.
I would tell the women in my workshops: “Every time you leave your comfort zone in a significant way, you start a new journey. Every leap into the unknown starts you on a new adventure.”
I pulled my tray table down in front of me and began to chart my current heroine’s journey. I traced some of my prior leaps: leaving my first marriage; leaving my corporate job; starting my business for women, Ruby Slippers…noting the development of the Heroine’s Journey program…the ups and downs I’ve had in the Belly of the Whale, like the cease and desist letter from the Joseph Campbell Foundation… but then I get to the present moment and I’m where the Dragon hangs out (see her there in the upper left?) and I stop.
Dragons are made up of “old stuff” - beliefs, fears, often unexamined stuff. What do I need to look at? What am I not seeing? These are questions to ask when you’re feeling stuck and stymied like I was. Dragons invite you to go into the dark, into the innermost, deep part of you, and do some research. They can appear at any point in your journey. I stopped right there in my documenting.
“I’m blocked,” I explained to Barb. “I have these two businesses and I don’t know how to keep it all going.”
Barb is very wise. We have the discussion, not for the first time, that it’s sounding like I need space, to go on a sabbatical.
“Maybe you have to slow down, Susanna, in order to know what’s next.”
Having A Scary Idea
The idea scares me. And give up what I’ve built? In today’s world, you stop communicating, stop putting yourself out there and you’re done, you’re forgotten.
Regardless, I begin for the first time to seriously think about a sabbatical, about stopping. 2012 is particularly busy with consulting work, for which I am grateful…but maybe August? Maybe I could have the month of August as a sabbatical?
Right, Susanna…like a sabbatical, a real going within kind of processing, could be only one month! But that’s what I was thinking at the time.
I spend June and July trying to clear the way to have August as my sabbatical. I’m so beat from doing this that there’s only about a week in August where I feel freed from my long to-do lists — and the pressure that goes along with them. (I do clear out a lot of old files, though. Hey, high five, Susanna!)
Then, I think well, maybe January…
In December it comes to me. I have to do some serious letting go and from deep within (maybe I am listening better now) I get the message that what I have to let go of is my business for women, Ruby Slippers. Of course, this means leaving The Heroine’s Journey, the website, the Facebook page, all of it.
How can this be?
Give up my passion? What I always thought of as my purpose?
This is not at all what I had planned. I had always thought it would be the consulting work that I’d relinquish.
Someone sends me this wonderful quote from Rainer Maria Rilke:
“You must give birth to your images. They are the future waiting to be born. Fear not the strangeness you feel. The future must enter you long before it happens. Just wait for the birth, for the hour of the new clarity.”
The images are actually coming to me…I see myself as a cruise ship needing to be a sailboat. I’ve gotten too heavy, too unwieldy, too dense and I need lightness of being. I know it won’t be easy but I know it’s right.
I do it.
I let my women’s business go. I stop the weekly blog posts, Journey Notes. I stop the monthly newsletter, Journey News. I stop the monthly interviews on Blog Talk Radio. And I put the sign on my website. “Off on my own Heroine’s Journey!”
Here’s what I wrote in my January 2013 “Journey News” Newsletter:
An Unexpected Journey
I am on an unexpected journey. (Yes, The Hobbit movie shares the same sub-title. I am a big J.R.R Tolkien fan! But you’ll see, it’s applicable.)
Like the hobbit, I’ve received “a Call.” Bilbo’s call came from the wizard, Gandalf, knocking on his green, round door one fine morning, inviting him on “an adventure.” It hasn’t been that dramatic for me.
My Call is an inner one, more like a nudge. You know, the “still, small voice” kind of Call. It’s been rather undefined but has gathered strength all of 2012. At first, I thought, I just need to take a few months off, but it’s clear that is not enough time for whatever this is to surface.
I’ve tried to describe to people what it feels like.
“It feels like I’ve been an ocean liner and I am transitioning to a sailboat.”
“It’s like I’ve been seeing myself as Glinda in The Wizard of Oz and now I want to be Dorothy.”
Just these two analogies give clues…less me-power and more wind or Spirit power. And, being Dorothy? I’m ready to go on an adventure, myself, this time.
What is my adventure? I don’t know. I don’t think it’s traveling to far-off lands, like Bilbo. I suspect it’s an inner adventure.
But, in order for whatever it is to show up, I need to make space for it. I know that means putting a hold on Ruby Slippers LLC, my business for women, within which I created the programs The Heroine’s Journey, Circle Power, The Business of You and Attracting the Life You Want. These programs involved a multitude of workshops, talks, retreats, and a lot of writing. They have been a great joy. They’ve been my passion, allowing me to connect with the most amazing women.
But taking a journey involves leaving, packing up, and moving on. You have to leave the life you’re living and cross the threshold into the unknown, as we say in Heroine’s Journey language.
It is my full intention to return...I’m just not sure when!
My bag is packed…and it is with some sadness but also with much anticipation that I close the door on this “chapter” of my work (twelve years since my first women’s workshop!). I’m wondering what’s out there — or “in” there, the great unknown of me.
“The Road goes ever on and on Down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, And I must follow, if I can.
Pursuing it with eager feet, Until it joins some larger way Where many paths and errands meet. And whither then I cannot say.”
Sung by Bilbo Baggins, The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien
And it was done.
Life didn’t see my return to rekindle the business until after my book was published - in 2018. I needed to let go in order to have the space to write and give birth to the book. What was that Dragon? My inability to let go of everything I was doing. I know I inherited lots of “we never give up” from my immigrant grandparents and my Depression-era parents. There was some “I can do it all!” In there, too. But if I hadn’t let go and made room for what was wanting to be born then I wouldn’t have moved forward as much as I have. I think often we have to give up to move forward.
As I write this to you, this is what stands out for me from that 2013 newsletter: …less me-power and more wind or Spirit power.
I’m not stopping anything, but I’m going to stop my tight hold on the reins so that the winds and the Spirit can take me. We’ll see where we go!