Joseph Campbell, mythologist and author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, once said that “hell is life drying up.” To him, life is about the individual journey—following your bliss and creating your own path in the world. To ignore the call to adventure or to follow a path that is not your own means stagnation. It is the wasteland.
There is really no way to describe the unease and disharmony—even on the body’s cellular level—of knowing you are off course unless you have felt it. But I would say that “life drying up” is a good start. For me it feels like swimming against the current, like the pull of gravity, like all-out war with your own cellular resistance.
I believe in listening to my body’s own cues—even if it sometimes takes me a while to catch on.
When I was just starting my junior year at college, my body decided I need a break whether I wanted one or not. I had just returned from a semester abroad, and before I even had a chance to feel jet lag, I began the cross-country drive back to school where I had signed up for a full course load (and then some), a writing fellowship and part-time campus job. I was also very close to getting engaged. But less than a month into the semester, I crashed. I was diagnosed with severe mononucleosis and had to withdraw from school and head to New Orleans for some R&R.
I have not experienced another corporeal coup d’état before or since, but I bring it up because now my body doesn’t have to resort to such extreme measures to get my attention. (Knock on wood!)
In the last month or so before I left my job, I began to dread every weekday. At the office, time slowed to a crawl, a very bored crawl. I left work on edge, completely drained and head throbbing. Life drying up.
I berated myself for being so unmotivated and unhappy, and for not being able to make myself turn lemons into lemonade. I tried to make the best of the situation, and do the “responsible thing” and keep the job until I could find something better. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had left my path. I was wasting valuable time, and I was miserable in the meantime.
In contrast, when I finally decided to leave—with no solid prospects—so that I could dedicate all my energy to getting back on track, I felt elated. Scared, but elated. The fog lifted. I was back to my old self again, and it only took me six months to figure it out.
So why am I talking about any of this? Because as bad as it feels to be off-track is as good as it feels to be back. And when you are feeling in flow with life and following your bliss, I believe that heaven and earth respond. Doors open that wouldn’t open for anyone else. Doors open where there were only walls before. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, calls it synchronicity (though I think she got it from Jung), and that’s exactly what I am feeling right about now. My life has officially been rehydrated, and I couldn’t be happier.
It’s great to be back!
“A bit of advice given to a young Native American at the time of his initiation: ‘As you go the way of life, you will see a great chasm. Jump. It is not as wide as you think.’” Joseph Campbell