An Inner Quest (4th in a series)

A warning: This blog post continues my tangent into a series of posts exploring the feminist writings I am reading. If this type of information is not of interest to you, I’ll return to more “retirement transition – life journey” stuff soon.

This blog is a specific look at The Virgin’s Promise by Kim Hudson and The Heroine’s Journey by Maureen Murdock and what it means in my life – my “so what”.

My simplistic interpretation of a woman’s life journey as outlined in The Heroine’s Journey by Maureen Murdock is simply, do the same things a man would do!

The patriarchal archetypical Hero’s Journey is about physically leaving home to pursue achievement and autonomy (stand on his own). A Hero learns to be brave in the face of adversity, is clever and strong, and learns the skills to do what needs to be done. In real life, this journey involves proving that we have good minds, can follow-through (get the job done, be productive), and are emotionally and financially independent. It’s about climbing the hierarchical ladder (until you hit the glass ceiling for a woman). Hero’s/Heroine’s don’t need help – they can do it themselves! They don’t show weakness (nurturing & compassion are weak.) If you ask for your needs to be met – be needy or dependent – it is not acceptable. Put your career before relationships, family, or even any hobby. Get things done logically, efficiently, analytically. The Heroine’s Journey is all about learning the male norms – leadership, personal autonomy, and competence – in order to survive and thrive in the Patriarchal Belief System. Essentially, be a man.

The Feminist Revolution was all about proving a woman could do anything a man could do. But, as a woman, you can never really measure up because we still live in a Patriarchal Belief System and you are not a man! So many women feel the Imposter Complex because there is always a nagging sensation that you will never be enough. If I’m a good girl, if I get that degree, if I act that way, if I meet those expectations… then I will be okay. But then I’m not, because I am not a man.

The woman’s life journey as outlined in The Virgin’s Promise by Kim Hudson is very different than the Heroine’s Journey. While the Hero/Heroine Journey is about physical distancing from mother/family/home to learn autonomy and achievement (in myth, that means fight the dragon and win; in life, that means achieve wealth and success), the Virgin’s Promise is about psychological distancing/separating from the expectations of family/society to find your authentic (feminine) self. This uniquely feminine journey involves connecting to the inner world; developing the feminine traits of creativity, sensuality & spirituality; and driving towards a life of joy. It’s overcoming the need to please others (be accommodating) and to stop conforming to others wishes (meeting expectations).

Intriguingly, in retirement after having completed my own Heroine’s Journey, I now feel compelled to embark on the Virgin’s Promise. But I really dislike that term!

Building on the insights of having lived the heroine’s journey for most of my life and now seeking the promise of the virgin to find my authentic self, I see myself on an Inner Quest. I am beyond the need to climb any corporate ladder or achieve prestige and recognition for achievement. Or I tell myself that. I do want to stop feeling the need to be busy and productive and filling every moment with doing. I need to learn to not hear expectations everywhere and to no longer need external validation.

I am becoming more aware about the truth of female life in the patriarchy. I recognize I subjugated my feminine side to succeed at work and bought into the Patriarchal Belief System. Now I want to let go of the need for accomplishment, recognition, and prestige and activate my femininity – be more in touch with feelings, intuition, sexuality, creativity, playfulness, and humor.
• I want to spend time on creative projects, building deep friendships with other women, and playing in the garden.
• I want to connect with the earth’s rhythms – the moon, the tides, & the seasons – and spend more time outside.
• I want to appreciate the movement of my body, have new experiences, and do things I want/love to do (engagement not mastery).
• I want to expand my spirituality, become more in tune with my intuition, and spend time in introspection.

Breaking out of a patriarchy mindset and cultivating an emerging feminine consciousness does not happen overnight. But my awareness has been heightened and I am intentionally engaging in activities that are helping me on my Inner Quest to unearth my authentic (more feminine) self.

Picture Credit: A quieter week; my best picture is another sunrise.

13 thoughts on “An Inner Quest (4th in a series)

  1. As I prepare emotionally for retirement, this resonates with me: “I do want to stop feeling the need to be busy and productive and filling every moment with doing. I need to learn to not hear expectations everywhere and to no longer need external validation.” I also want to find things I enjoy doing for engagement, not mastery. Even simple things. Can I enjoy a good workout because it feels good and not worry about results? Can I finish the book I wrote about my mother’s fascinating life and just enjoy the writing, without constantly asking myself if it’s any “good”? Do I dare try new activities as a beginner, knowing they may not “take”? It will be a journey for sure. It’s comforting knowing that many of us are on this journey together. Thanks for sharing your studies and your experiences, Pat.

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    1. Christie – Finish the book – not a should, a must! Your writing is definitely more that “any good” and the book will be a wonderful gift for your family. I know I wrote a blog one time of all the things I tried that “didn’t take”. And I continue to try things on – beyond the belly dancing (a definite didn’t take) recently I’m getting more into crafting, and this is definitely an area of engagement, not mastery! I’m still working on lots of the other things…and it’s been 7 years. You would think I’d have the mind shifted by now!

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  2. Hi Pat, I am in the UK & have been enjoying your blog for a while, as we are a similar age and career trajectory. The issues you describe really resonate with me.
    I gave up work just over two years ago and am finally really enjoying myself. I find it helpful to have a list of ideas for things I want to do which gives me a framework for an interesting life. However, I think you should absolutely stop logging how many times you do an activity as I often feel that sucks the life & enjoyment out of things. In the context of this article it perpetuates the idea that things are only worth doing if measurable which seems very Hero oriented. I’m allowing the flow and loving it!

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    1. Fiona, You do realize you gave me a “should”. And, to someone who hears expectations even when they are not there. Seriously, I log things not to see how much I’ve accomplished, but to be able to look back and re-live the things I’m enjoying – especially trying new things which I do enjoy. I love looking at the lists – it certainly does not suck out the enjoyment – the exact opposite! I only logged times of new activities when I was attempting to create new habits after the move. I don’t think either of those “why I do it” is Hero-oriented.

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  3. Sounds like a lovely plan Pat, and a peaceful one, and I wish you all the best! For me, after 4 years of retirement, I still feel a strong drive toward accomplishment and trying to unlock my real vocation to fulfill it. Is it a condition of my prior work life or a need I’ll always have? I don’t know but I’ve decided to just embrace it

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    1. Judi, I’ve embraced my personal need for structure. I do think at some point we need to recognize if something is truly authentically us. This reading has opened my mind to how much for me is societal. But, I’m still a structure girl!

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  4. Boy, does this resonate with me! I was raised with, “you better not cry or I’ll give something to cry about” and I was a cryer. I couldn’t stop it from happening. Well, until I did. And talk about making it in a man’s world, when I went to dental school I have professors tell me that I was just taking a spot from a man and shouldn’t even be allowed in dental school. I’ll just graduate, get married, have babies and then quit my dental career. All that talk just made me “stronger” and more determined. But maybe, they got it right, I did retire at 58 years old! How dare I! Anyway, dentistry was a “good ole boys” club and to make it I had to try to fit in. I will say, I think my femininity help with building my practice, the moms liked working with another female (and mom), My hero side is so ingrained that I’m not quite sure I’ve really pursued the “virgin” in me at all. I’ll have to think about that. Dance….but am I bringing in the hero thing again when I compete and want to win????

    Excellent path you are following. Thanks!

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    1. This comment made me think. I realize that I do not personally know one female dentist. I work for a health insurance company, and only 10 percent of our contracted dentists are female. That’s a shame.

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    2. Candyse, Your comment about dental school brought back a memory of college graduation – a guy I know said I only got a job because I was a woman – the whole affirmative action slant of poor white boy…. not the fact that I played a varsity sport, managed a varsity team when I wasn’t in season, led the Society of Women Engineers on campus where I created new events to encourage high school senior women to go into engineering, and had a better GPA than him and 2 summer internships. Even then I was playing the game better than the guys! Stopping playing the game has been a mental challenge. I cried a bit when I dissolved my LLC (versus shifting it to FL) and still wonder if I should still be consulting, starting another career, or doing something!

      Anyway, for dance – I think for me the “engagement, not mastery” has really helped. I’m playing with crafting stuff, and not caring that much if things are not perfect! Maybe focus on the fun and stop worrying about the winning? I know it’s hard!

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  5. Hi Pat – that was a really interesting insight into how those two books reflected your own journey. I’ve been on a similar trajectory (maybe without quite so much career success though!) and I’m really enjoying this second half of life where I can let go of meeting perceived expectations (and most of them are in my head – because other people aren’t really paying that much attention). I’m enjoying dabbling in different pursuits (loved your term “engagement not mastery”) and the freedom to finally discover what I like, what resonates with my heart, and what feels authentically “me”. It’s made me a much more settled and happy person than I used to be. I think you’re heading in the same direction.

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    1. Leanne, I am becoming more authentically me! I’ve been on that path for awhile and this reading is solidifying that is my right direction. I’m still working on shifting things and so need the constant reminders – crafting, compassion, get outside, time just being, stop hearing expectations….none of this is habitual for me! But it all feels “right” for me.

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