A Modern Heroine’s Journey

At Forty Five
Angkor-Wat Image Christine Westermark

It is a long car ride from Kuta to Ubud. While the threat of a volcanic eruption at Mt. Agung has reportedly reduced the number of tourists in Bali, the traffic does not bear witness to the lost numbers. I needed something substantial to occupy my mind. A distraction from the constant honking of horns, swerving around slow motorbikes and then coming to a complete stop for a vehicle suddenly in our lane. The lack of laws on the road is in contrast to the courtesy which the traffic operates under. Perhaps an epic tale from someone who has spent some time on a heroine’s journey, right through these roads?

Discovering A Heroine’s Journey

An obvious and fitting choice was a podcast with Oprah Winfrey and Elizabeth Gilbert. Their discussion harked back to the best-selling book which started it all, “Eat, Pray, Love”. Ubud, Bali was the setting for the last journey in the book called love. I felt a distinct connection to the voices as I wound my way up the narrow roads.

This is a 2-part conversation where Elizabeth Gilbert introduces her personal heroine’s journey. But, she does not describe the classic hero’s journey by simply swapping out the genders, male turned to female. Just as men and women are very different in many ways, so are the big stories which form the arcs of our lives.

As Elizabeth points out, classically there have been very few female hero stories to mentor women. They just don’t exist. With scale, we are the first generation of women who are writing the guidebook on what a heroine’s journey is. We are building on the work of historical feminists, and rewriting the male version of the hero’s journey into something fitting for our time, for modern women.

As I let the explanation of the heroine’s journey sink in, I felt a sense of connection and understanding to my own story. I have always felt as if I have walked my path alone. There were very few female role models whom I could relate to. Where were the heroines who had come before me and I could look to for guidance? Look closely, in historical accounts in literature, in every corner of the globe, there are so few heroine’s journey’s it is shocking. At least to me.

However, times have changed. More than ever before, women are stepping up and answering the call. We are a new breed, living in a new age and we are rewriting what it means to be a woman, to be feminine. Now, we can look to each other, our sisters, and find the heroine’s journey everywhere. We can even see traces of it in women who have had to overcome incredibly difficult circumstances. Not only have they survived significant trials, but have proven themselves in every occupation. They are living in every part of the world and are spread throughout society, at every level.

Heroine's At Forty Five
Angkor-Thom Image Christine Westermark

So, What Is The Heroine’s Journey?

Maureen Murdock is generally regarded as the first to chart an alternative to Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey narrative paradigm that she believed is more appropriate for women’s life journeys.  As a student of Campbell’s, Murdock, came to believe that the Hero’s Journey model did not adequately address the psycho-spiritual journey of women.

Maureen Murdock received a surprising response from Joseph Campbell. He reportedly said, “Women don’t need to make the journey. In the whole mythological journey, the woman is there. All she has to do is realize that she’s the place that people are trying to get to.” I think that comment misses the point. Luckily, Murdock didn’t accept Campbell’s somewhat patronizing explanation. Instead, she went on to create her version of the heroine’s journey.

Modeling A Heroine’s Journey

Murdock’s model, described in The Heroine’s Journey: Woman’s Quest for Wholeness, is divided into the ten stages. I have added my progress:

  1. Heroine separates from the feminine – I chose to focus on my education, then pursue my career full-time while my husband looked after our children.
  2. Identification of the masculine and gathering of allies – I worked in male-dominated companies, with very few other like-minded women. These men were successful and upwardly mobile. They were good mentors for me at the time. I could see the path they were taking and knew I was up for the challenge.
  3. Roads or trials – my children had teachers in school who claimed I was a neglectful mother. I traveled so much, my daughter often made strange with me, when I returned home. I missed so many milestones. When I was physically at home, my mind was still at work. I was not fully present for my family. I feared that an emotional gap was forming, one that would be very difficult to bridge.
  4. Experiencing the boon of success – I worked really hard, got promoted, made more money as time went on. (This is where the story ends for some).
  5. Heroine awakens to feelings of spirituality aridity/death – my success was never making me feel as happy and satisfied as I thought it should. If I was not getting what I wanted and my kids and family didn’t get the best version of me, what was it all for? What kind of legacy was I leaving?
  6. Initiation and descent to the goddess – I had always thought I didn’t need to surround myself with women, that the company of men was preferable. As the years passed by, I began to question this wisdom. There was no denying my feminine side any longer. That strong, powerful and not masculine nature was a good thing!
  7. Heroine urgently yearns to reconnect with the feminine – The higher I climbed on the corporate ladder, I found myself surrounded by men. Reconnecting with my feminine side and with other women would be difficult.
  8. Heroine heals the mother/daughter split – my mother had taught me to be creative and crafty, she lit the flame in me as a child. I spent my career at a distance from all that, it was time to revisit that decision.
  9. Healing the wounded masculine withinTBD, Heroine makes peace with the “masculine” approach to the world as it applies to herself.
  10. Integrating the masculine and feminineTBD, to face the world or future with a new understanding of herself and the world/life.  Heroine sees through binaries and can interact with a complex world that includes her but is larger than her personal lifetime or geographical/cultural milieu.

I’m still on my path, I have not completed my last steps. But, it has been a worthwhile quest, particularly now that I know there are others walking with me. I’m starting to meet them, to understand their stories. The internet and social media are on the rise at a time when I need it most. There is no end to what I can learn if I choose to be vulnerable. It is with grace which I attempt to write the last chapters of my story.

Join me on this creative journey. Creating a life I don’t need a vacation from is my path. Part creativity, part connection, always honest, informative and inspiring. I blog 2 times per week at www.dailycreatives.com/blog – see you over there!

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Christine Westermark
I am a world traveller, lucky enough to have a loving family who support my dreams to learn, create and give back by designing creative content which enables a lifestyle we don't need a vacation from.