“Across the broad continent of a woman’s life falls the shadow of a sword. On one side all is correct, definite, orderly; the paths are straight, the trees regular, the sun shaded; escorted by gentlemen, protected by policemen, wedded and buried by clergymen, she has only to walk demurely from cradle to grave and no one will touch a hair of her head. But on the other side all is confusion. Nothing follows a regular course. The paths wind between bogs and precipices; the trees roar and rock and fall in ruin.”
Virginia was onto something when she wrote this. Even today, women choose to play it safe; following convention and sadly, end up living someone else’s life. Why do women do this to themselves? We surely didn’t start out this way. When we were teenagers, we were on fire with a passion for life and ready to conquer anything that came our way. We were a brave lot, full of confidence and laughter. But as we grew into our adulthood, we changed. We became fearful. Fearful of losing the things we held dear to our hearts. Many of us diminished our fire within so that society accepted us and our reputation stayed intact. We’re raised to believe that it’s not proper to pursue your bliss if it means your house might get messy or if your attention isn’t consistently on raising your family. Eventually, we end up losing ourselves in the mundane; not even recognizing ourselves when we catch a glimpse of our reflection in the mirror.
How secretively wonderful it would be to cross over the shadow of that sword Virginia speaks of. How wildly interesting life would become if we were to take that step. Yes, there would be confusion and the paths would wind perilously through shadows. But that is when our heart starts pumping again. Life races through our veins when we face the unknown with courage. Crossing over the shadow of the sword does not mean that we’re leaving the life we know behind us. No, we’re not leaving the kids, our partners, our work, or our homes. But it does mean that we’re venturing to make our own path and to become the women we were meant to be. Many of us will never take a “full leap” into the shadow, but we can dip a toe in to test the waters from time to time to see where it leads us.
One of my favorite quotes is by a nineteenth-century theologian, William Shedd. It goes, “A ship remains safe in the harbor, but that’s not the purpose of a ship.” We were created to explore, examine, and bring into being things that stir our souls. What is calling out to your soul? Is it a desire to paint? To dance? Rock climb? Start your own business? Do you have the yearning to go back to college and finish your degree? Attend that daily yoga class? Join a book club? Become a writer? When we choose to follow our bliss, we feel whole and alive again. This radical act will certainly cause some stirrings at home. From experience, we know that if our attention is on something other than what its been on all these years – cleaning house, wiping noses, making dinner, etc. – we’ll hear grumblings. But we’ll pursue our bliss anyway. And we will be transformed.