501st Mile :: Lessons from Women Who Run With the Wolves
I've started reading Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. A classic. Have you read it? Just in the first chapter, I feel that so much of where I've been these days is being responded to. Let me share a passage from that first chapter that I think is so interesting:
A woman's psyche may have found its way to the desert out of resonance, or because of past cruelties or because she was not allowed a larger life above ground. So often a woman feels then that she lives in an empty place where there is maybe just one cactus with one brilliant red flower on it, and then in every direction, 500 miles of nothing. But for the woman who will go 501 miles, there is something more ... some women don't want to be in the psychic desert. They hate the frailty, the sparseness of it. They keep trying to crank a rusty jalopy and bump their way down the road to a fantasized shining city of the psyche ... Don't be a fool. Go back and stand under that one red flower and walk straight ahead for that last hard mile. Go up and knock on the old weathered door. Climb up to the cave. Crawl through the window of a dream. Sift the desert and see what you find. It is the only work we have to do.
To me, that passage is about how we manage the disappointments of life. The "is this all there is?" of life. The shallowness of life. The materialism and greed of life. The predictable, boring, and suffocating limitations of life.
When I dwell on these things, it feels unbearable. And as Estes so aptly describes, we think to ourselves that from where we stand, there is a stretch of 500 miles all around us, of nothingness.
So you know I've been talking with a few friends of mine about how we combat this human condition where it feels at times that all we see is stretches of unbearable nothingness. And the conclusion that we are all coming to is what Estes points to ... which is that rather than searching for a jalopy that can rescue us, we need to push ourselves and walk that 501st mile. We have to do the hard work to climb the cave, crawl through the window, sift the desert. In other words, there is something beyond 500 miles of what we have become familiar with and therefore complacent with. There is something to discover or rediscover or reinvent in not giving up and going after more. Not just more of what others can provide, but more of what I can offer to the world.
I recently did an interview (that you can read here) with my good friend, Susan Tuttle. She asked me what I'm most afraid of. And I said to her that I'm afraid of being shallow. Because how do I know if I'm not part of someone else's 500 miles of familiarity and shallowness? How do I know if what I bring to the table has the kind of depth that I thirst for in life?
All I can say is that I'm committed to that 501st mile. And if luck is on my side, what I find in the cave, the window, and the desert, what I want from those discoveries, can be actualized above ground.