I studied mythic story structure according to Joseph Campbell in A Hero with a Thousand Faces and Christopher Vogler’s The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers to prepare myself for a rewrite of my memoir.
A friend explained he saw his life in terms of mythic structure. He regularly speaks in metaphors and I found his perspective of life fascinating. I’ve rarely considered my life, or life in general, from a mythic story perspective.
What fascinated me was that when I laid out the sequencing of Three-Act story structure, archetypal characters, and overall quest structure of the hero/ine in mythic story structure my life’s narrative lined up closely, nearly exactly.
There were four tent-pole-climaxes/ordeals with scenes and sequences. I left the ordinary world at seventeen having been called to a challenge at eight, and entered the special world of a different culture and experience, replete with tests, allies, enemies, thresholds, threshold guardians, tragic heroes, magic talismans. I entered the inner belly of the whale and came back out to tell a story.
When I noticed the coincidence of how a life did fit into mythic story structure, I shuddered and contemplated Schopanhauer’s perspective that if we live long enough to stand back and look at our life story as an objective observer, we would be shocked to see the rich cohesiveness, as if we lived the plot line laid out by a conscious writer.
With a deepening appreciation of the perspective of mythic story structure, I stood back and reviewed my losses, my pains, my lessons, the betrayals I performed, the betrayals I experienced, as if they were completely separate from me, though they formed me, lent me wisdom and opened my heart. I felt all the pain I had experienced was worth passing through—every sob and splitting open of true feeling, a necessary step to reach where I have come:
Willing and determined to love unconditionally with full trust. All the pain of the past, all the hurts, all the lost hope from frustrated expectations were lifted from me completely and I’ve been reborn without the fear of death. For however the rest of my life plays out, it will be with the intelligence that the life as a whole has shown. I feel blessed beyond my deepest expectations. My life feels whole and complete even if I have to leave in this moment.
As I read about story structures, it also occurred to me that I was the heroine in my life story—not in the sense of story structure, but in the sense of fact. This sudden thought surprised me and made me very uncomfortable.
Who was this heroine? What type of heroine was she? What type of heroine did I want her to be?
Besides being the heroine in your life story, you are the co-author—two very important roles. If you’re not a writer, and the metaphor doesn’t speak to you, consider you are the composer, choreographer, or painter—whatever type of artist you are, you are the artist creating the landscape of your life.
Of course, we often feel that life unfolds its own mysterious ways. So mysterious sometimes it feels like pure chance, and other times so mysterious it seems everything is pure intelligence.
“Where should we begin? Begin with the heart. For the spring of life arises from the heart and from there it runs in a circular manner.” -Meister Eckhart
As memoirist, I think a lot about story—Three-Act story structure and Mythic story structure. I had hero/ines on my mind as I studied archetypal roles in story.
When a heroine in the story interacts with another person she is intersecting into the life of another heroine. Everyone is a hero/ine of their own story. If we honor ourselves as a heroine and everyone else we meet as the hero/ine in their story we can bring conscious respect for the spiritual hero/ine Self. When we do this with each other we forward the goals of all heroines. We create heroines and their stories of inspiration.
I’ve always thought a heroine would be gallant, brave, and a heart-centered nurturer. As I child I dreamed of becoming like Joan of Arc. I wanted to sacrifice my life for others. It took me forty years to learn how to sacrifice myself without losing my Self or hurting myself. The lessons that drew blood and broke my heart have meaning. I now trust and am peaceful, genuinely happy.
I’ve never thought of a heroine as a damsel in distress. The heroine of my ideals loves broadly and richly, continually giving and humbly accepting, pushing through the pain an open heart brings, and she keeps extending her capacity to give love beyond previous boundaries. It seems the more I nudge myself toward loving, the more the universe loves back.
When you hear “heroine” what comes to mind? If you thought about scripting your life, having power as the heroine, would you make any changes? How would you align your behavior and beliefs of the heroine you see or want to be? Are you taking steps to become her?
“The great events of world history are, at bottom, profoundly unimportant. In the last analysis the essential thing is the life of the individual. This alone makes history, here alone do the great transformations take place. And the whole future, the whole history of the world, ultimately springs as a gigantic summation from these hidden sources. In our most private and most subjective lives, we are not only the passive witnesses of our age, and its sufferers, but also its makers. We make our own epoch.” -Carl Jung
Pranada Comtois is a author, speaker, and spiritual activist. She shares the Bhakti Way, the Path of the Heart, in her blog “Little Ways of Being™.” She volunteers as the Managing Editor for Bacopa Literary Review; is raising her precious three-year-old granddaughter; grabs any free time to write poetry; and enjoys kirtans with friends. Pranada is passionate about assisting women exercising our full potential as the world’s natural spiritual and cultural leaders.
Editor Tanya L. Markul
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