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We're in Part 2, that's why life feels dark but there's light ahead

Some people love part 2 of a trilogy -- the forces of darkness gather and seem overwhelming, but there's connection, inner strength, and hope to be found. We’re in part 2 now. It’s the dark part of the story but there’s light ahead.

The Empire Strikes Back is a great example of the common themes found in Part 2 of a great trilogy. The full might of the Dark Side is on display and the bad guys are making a come back. The party is split. The heroes are pursued across the galaxy, encountering deadly traps, dangers, and monsters along the way. They are betrayed by someone they thought was a friend. Han is captured and frozen in carbonite. Luke battles his darkest fears in the cave on Degobah, and confronts Darth Vader’s revelation: “Luke, I am your father.” Part 2 is a dark, dark place.

BUT Part 2 is also where the truest connection and camaraderie is found. Leia and Han share their first kiss. The team comes together with resolve and conviction. Luke trains his inner Jedi, finding inner courage, strength, wisdom, and light. Most importantly, there’s that ever present glimmer of hope that will carry the heroes forward into the future.

You see the same exact themes in so many other Part 2’s from my favorite trilogies of storytelling:

  • The Two Towers - The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien

  • Catching Fire - Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins

  • Foundation and Empire - The Foundation series by Isaac Asimov

  • Matrix Reloaded - Matrix series directed by Lana and Lily Wachowski

  • The Last Jedi - Star Wars sequel trilogy directed by Rian Johnson (I will pretend that the prequel trilogy never happened)

  • And so many more!

Part 2 is the initiation and the darkest, deepest parts of Joseph Cambell’s hero’s journey. It’s what my kids call “the hopeless part of the movie”.

We are in Part 2 of the year 2020. This week, the Zogg Fire erupted just outside of my town. As of this morning, it has claimed 4 lives, burned over 55,000 acres, and is only nine percent contained. We know one of the families who lost a life in the fire. A red sun rose through the hazardous layer of smoke and ash in the air. On Monday night we added two evacuee families to our household. One has been able to go home, the other is still with us, who knows for how long. Add to that the drama of a Presidential debate (debacle?) six months into a global pandemic.

One would be justified to think that this is “the hopeless part,” but despite all the darkness, there’s still hope, joy, connection, and strength to be found. It is time to commit wholeheartedly to the same themes found in Part 2 of the adventure that will carry us real life heroes through the darkness.

Find connection and camaraderie

Part 2 of Lord of the Rings is where the friendship between Legolas and Gimli blossoms and where Sam supports Frodo time and again. Part 2 of the Star Wars sequel is where the last spark of the resistance gathers to light the fire that will burn the First Order down. Part 2 is where the true allies of the Mockingjay are revealed in Hunger Games.

Who in your life fills you with joy, restores your spirit, and gives you the strength to keep going? For me, it’s my kids, husband, and friends. I feel lucky that the Zogg Fire forced my daughter's best friend to evacuate to us. I love hearing their laughter all over the house and yard. They see this as the longest sleepover ever. Their joy is contagious and eases our collective worry about whether their home is still standing. Plus, I love that I am able to share a glass of wine and conversation with the adults each night. How long has it been since I’ve been able to just chill indoors with good friends over a glass of wine? And if your closest support people are not nearby, call them or schedule time with them on Zoom. My husband’s fraternity brothers have drinks together on Zoom every Thursday night. Despite his work as a web developer and staring at a screen all day, he can’t wait to jump online with his brothers.

There’s a lot of research showing that support groups make a difference to quality of life for individuals with PTSD, trauma, cancer, mental illness, and more. Knowing that others share your experience and share your purpose matters. And even if you don’t talk to your friends and family about life challenges, even if all you are doing is playing a game or sharing a laugh and glass of wine, connection and attachment release the neurochemical oxytocin, which reduces the stress response and quiets the brain’s fear and arousal systems.

Train your inner Jedi

Luke trained his Jedi powers under Yoda’s tutelage, and Rey trained with Luke. In the Foundation series, Mis trained himself in the Great Library of of Trantor. I’m currently taking a mind-body medicine training. How will you train to gain new skills that restore your inner courage, strength, wisdom, and light for the challenges ahead?

Find something that restores you and that you are motivated to learn. Will it be physical training or an online exercise class? Establishing a better nighttime routine? Maybe invest in your spirituality or experiment with mindfulness? Will you learn to cook delicious, healthy food? Try yoga? Will you pick up a new hiking habit that takes you outdoors? Could it be music, painting, crafts, dance, or improv? All of these practices have an extensive research base that demonstrated reduced stress, restored energy, and increased wellness when they are built into your life. Experiment with making time for “Jedi training” of a type that’s right for you and just observe your day. See if a few days of training offer an extra reserve of courage and strength.

For myself, my mind-body medicine course is training me to experience and ultimately teach others broad new tools for healing and wholeness. I’ve been using the mindfulness app, Buddhify, for years. New to me as of yesterday was qi gong. It reminded me of seeing my grandfather practice tai chi and qi gong on the back porch when I was a little girl. I found it eye opening to bring a beginners mind to this practice and felt energized by the new experience. My training course also allowed me to experience dance as a form of meditation. I’ve always loved dance. I’m really excited to try my own experiment to see if diversifying the forms of meditation that I engage in, and building a few new ones into my daily routine, will increase my energy reserves.

Rekindle hope and conviction

Somehow thinking about life right now as a hero’s journey feels hopeful to me. This dialogue from The Two Towers is exactly what I needed to hear to restore my conviction, resolve, and hope this week.

“Frodo: I can't do this, Sam.

Sam: I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness, and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end, because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it'll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.

Frodo: What are we holding on to, Sam?

Sam: That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo...and it's worth fighting for.”

That’s my take away message to you. What is the glimmer of hope for you? Look for the good in this world that’s worth fighting for. This darkness will pass. Hold on to the conviction that there is light on the other side.

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Thank you to this Day 2 podcast from Brene Brown which informed and inspired this article. She and I agree that we are in the messy middle at the point of no return. We agree that we must stay the course. Her take brilliantly elaborates upon the vulnerability, self-discovery and redemption aspects of the hero’s journey.

Going further

Did you read this fantastic article on Surge Capacity by Tara Haelle? Did you love it as much as I did? Would you be interested in a FREE one-hour interactive “Renew your Surve Capacity” workshop that teaches you the basic neuroscience of wholehearted happiness, allows you to practice several restorative brain breaks, and organizes your other existing strategies into a menu of options that can restore your surge capacity for the long haul. PLUS you’ll build connections with a group of high-achieving, amazing humans struggling with the same challenges. I’m thinking early November. Email or call me at (530) 638-2448 and I’ll add you to the list.

If a group thing is not your cup of tea, I’d love to support you one-on-one. Use this direct link to my calendar to sign up for an “Initial Chat”. The first hour is free and you will walk away with a personalized action plan to sustain you past whatever your biggest challenge happens to be. At the end of that call, I will simply ask you, “Would you like me to continue serving you?” and you can say “Yes” or “No”, no hurt feelings either way.

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