Everything Old is New Again

December 30, 2009

What is enshrined on your mantle, hung from your rearview mirror, and what lies forgotten in the basement?

I stumbled upon this delicious question within the outline for the 2010 Mythological Toolbox (TM) Playshop; which is annual event held at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur each March.

Joseph Campbell has been my Main Man since I was first introduced to his Power of Myth series back in 1992.  At the time I was working with a spiritual healer –  who I now understand was a Shaman, although she didn’t title herself as such, and the descriptive was not in my vocabulary back then.  

But to tell this story of Joe and Me, I need to start at the beginning; although I do not know when the beginning actually began or if the beginning was the end of something less.

Christmas Day 1989, it is a sweltering hot day and I am alone in my car, waiting for the traffic lights to change at a busy intersection, enroute to my mother’s house to collect her to join me, my new husband and in-laws for Christmas lunch.

I am feeling somewhat out of sorts and stressed, and impatient for the lights to change when IT happened: the mother of all panic attacks and in one fell swoop, my life as I had known it changed.   I did not know if I was going to faint, vomit or lose control of my bowels and I was definitely not in a good place to be in control of a moving vehicle. 

 Geographically, I was half-way from my new marital home and half-way from my old childhood home. 

I was tempted to turn back; to return home. 

Twenty-two years later, I muse on which home I was thinking about; which home I should have returned to.  We live life forwards and understand it backwards so Christmas Day 1989, when the lights finally changed, I kangaroo-hopped out of the intersection and drove like a drunken bat out of Hell to my mother’s, zig-zagging down side-streets to avoid being stuck at more traffic-lights, crunching gears all the way, until I arrived at my mother’s and collapsed on her couch, breathless and scared shitless.

My mother was unsympathetic.  When I telephoned my new husband of 8 months, he was irritated.  I said to both that I just needed to collect myself before I could get back in the car and drive across to join the others. 

Indeed – I needed to collect myself; to retrieve the lost parts of my soul. Although that Christmas, back in 1989, I knew nothing of soul-retrieval. Was unaware that the  life I thought I was living had just ended in a spectacular fashion and there was another life waiting for me.

I spent the next 18 months in a fog of deep fear that manifested as Panic Disorder with Severe Agoraphobia and I had no idea why this had happened, only faith that IT had happened for a reason; and the resolution, for me, would not be found through conventional Western methods of psychotherapy or medicine.  I simply knew I had to stay away from anything that numbed and dumbed me down.  I don’t know how I knew; I just knew.  Don’t go there.

Long story short:  I am putting on my shoes after the third session with the aforementioned spiritual healer and she mentions that Radio National will be airing Joseph Campbell’s Power of Myth series with Bill Moyers.  She urged me to listen to it.

“Who’s Joseph Campbell when he’s at home?” I asked.

“A very wise man”  she replied enigmatically.

I twiddled the dial to Radio National.

I listened.

My life as I had known it changed.

I have never looked back.

What lies forgotten in my basement? 

Snips and Snails and puppy-dog tales

The Unknown She – 27 Nov 2009

Image Credit: Violet Hour Muse 




  1. This is deeply touching and inspiring, all at once. I’ve had that moment (too many times), but couldn’t return, no matter how much I want to. I am cleaning out the basement.

  2. When the student is ready, the teacher appears, as they say. And yours was Joseph Campbell!

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