The Beginning of my "Hero's Journey"
Leaving my home in Colorado to return to college was a way to deal with the loss of my son. It was also a way to deal with what had happened in my marriage (read previous blog PART I). The awareness that without William to bond us, my husband would naturally return to thinking about the relationship he’d given up to become a parent, was a heavy mental weight. I couldn’t handle that burden at this time. And since the lying hadn’t stopped without an ultimatum, I was aware that I couldn’t trust him anymore to be honest as we moved forward. So, I returned to school partially to continue on my own journey and not feel trapped in a life of suspicion and insecurity.
I hadn’t given up on my marriage and actually felt like we would inevitably reunite. I told myself this was just a crisis of identity he was going through (which psychologists were now calling the “Quarter-life Crisis”). Surely, I thought to myself, he will eventually wake up and realize that the beautiful life we’d created together in the Rocky Mountains was far more satisfying than any affair with a young, naïve, recent college graduate.
And, sure enough, he would come to that conclusion a few years later. But by that time, I would grow into a deeper sense of self-efficacy and create a life in which I no longer wanted to include him.
The way that would unfold would be through three particular adventures that would change me forever.
Following the summer back at the ranch that had been my home, I embarked on the Himalayan Kingdoms Abroad I mentioned in the previous blog. We arrived at the college for our trip orientation and found out that rather than going to Nepal (due to an increase in incidents of violence against Westerners), we were now going to Himalayan India. My friend, Gary, the lead professor on the trip, had completely re-planned our 8-week adventure in a region of India that had been Nepal one hundred years earlier.
We journeyed east for three days finally arriving at the Hotel Dekeling in Darjeeling, West Bengal. Located at roughly the same elevation of Denver, Colorado, more than 100,000 people perched on a ridge surrounded by tea plantations. Since this area was quite near the border of Tibet, had once been part of Nepal, and was now India, the cultural experience was extraordinary.
Waking up to honking taxis at 5am and the followers of spiritual guru Sai Baba singing and clanging symbols as they walked through the streets was exhilarating albeit annoying after jet lag. Out my window the snow-covered summit of the third highest mountain in the world, Mt. Kanchendzonga, showed off her majesty as diesel fumes filled my open windows looking out over the city.
In spite of the intense beauty of the landscape and the people of West Bengal, each day felt completely disorienting to me. Humanly, I felt stretched in every direction: emotionally, physically, mentally, academically, spiritually. Language, food, cultural competency, traveling with young people who were wonderful but had seen very little of the adversity adult life could bring - all of this kept me on my toes, growing constantly and struggling with deep loneliness.
A continual feeling of heartbreak plagued me. The constant thoughts of my best friend and chosen life partner betraying me, coupled with my imaginations and nightmares of their blissful romantic adventures of being in love and traveling through Australia, was nearly more than I could bear. The most painful part other than the longing for my son was feeling like my beloved in-laws had just been “stolen” from me, as he took his new girlfriend home to them.
Several times this mental anguish and confusion manifested in various moments of severe illness. But each time I was nearing complete defeat, some angel would appear on my path.
A child in the plaza with red vermillion smudged on her forehead for a ceremony honoring the goddess, Durga, peering into my eyes with her enormous smile, melting my pain.
Our Nepali teacher taking us to her home and teaching us in all her ebullient joy how to make (and eat!) traditional dumplings known as momo.
The young sisters working in their family’s Sari shop whose laughter was infectious, and who were brilliantly educated, yet knew “in many years” they would defer to their families to arrange their marriages because “that whole Hollywood falling-in-love thing doesn’t seem to be working very well.”
The rooftop dance party at our guide, Lucky’s, family home where they would have danced with us for days.
The sunrises and tea and food and kindness and trekking.
Close to the end of our trip we took an eleven-day trek in the province of Sikkim. For days we climbed trails higher and higher into the mountains led by a jovial train of porters and their tireless yaks. They would run far ahead in thin little flip flops loaded down with wood and food and supplies to set up camp as we slogged along. Then a couple miles before reaching each destination a couple of them would await our passing to offer us a beverage. “Hot juice” they’d chirp. And their exuberance and welcome were so warm that we would drink the hot tang-like drink.
These days brought much time for reflection and a deepening of my relationship to myself and to divine Love as I dug in with all my heart to understanding this confusing period of my life. Without the distraction of internet cafes, I had the opportunity to completely detach from my previous life with all of its heartbreak and confusion.
One particular night, after an early morning hike up to 15,700 feet elevation and witnessing an avalanche that shook me to the core, I was paired up with a fellow student on the trip who I’d come to enjoy but did not know well. Mia asked me a few questions about my son and my life from before this. She had experienced intense loss after her mom had died when she was in high school. I held nothing back. We talked late into the night under the brightest stars I had ever seen. I hadn’t told anyone my story so fully before. That night I was too cold to sleep as I’d given my silk liner to Mia after she told me she hadn’t slept well in several nights. But after she went to sleep, in that frigid state, something magical happened. I had an awareness of my son I hadn’t felt before. A seismic shifting began to occur for me that I wouldn’t understand for a long time. Here I was, truly in the “middle of nowhere” and I felt the beginnings of coming home to myself for the first time in my life.
A few days later on the way home, Mia – a talented artist – gave me the journal entry she’d written after our talk. On a beautiful watercolor background of mountains and a night sky, she had written about my son. She called him “Liam” and ever-after that, this is how I would think of him: transformed. It touched me so deeply that I wept. Cleansing tears burned down my cheeks and I could feel that not only my thought about my son had been transformed, by my thought about myself had too. I had completely forgiven myself and my husband for the choices we’d made and the burden of responsibility for his death that I’d been carrying all these months.
I journeyed home with a freshness and hint of wholeness that would unfold more as time passed.
<Thanks for reading about my journey! Please tune back in for the next episode tomorrow. Until then, be kind to yourself and know that, although this is some heavy stuff, I am not weighed down by it and have no intention for you to be either. This is a story of triumph and healing. Thank you for giving it your time and witnessing. Much love…>
Heather Barron is the Founder of Luminous Life, and Luminous Ceremonies. She is an Integral Life Coach, Marriage Celebrant and Wedding Officiant whose sole goal is to thread more light and spread more joy in the world. She does this through life coaching, designing and officiating weddings and ceremonies of all kinds, writing fiction and non-fiction, hiking in her beloved Colorado Rocky Mountains with her precious pup, by listening deeply to others, and by smiling with love and kindness everywhere she goes. Learn more and become a fan by clicking on the social media icons below! Thanks for reading!