At the age of 35 I had a wonderful family, good health, a comfortable lifestyle, and a master’s degree: everything a woman could want. Right? You’d think so. But I felt painfully unfulfilled. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I just be happy? I felt like an ungrateful wretch.
One day as I was listening to Kris Kristofferson’s album, “Jesus Was A Capricorn,” tears started rolling down my cheeks. With some surprise, I realized there must be a reason I was crying. What could it be? Suddenly I was hungry to understand, so over the next few months I listened carefully to these soulful songs. Somehow it seemed as if practically every one was written for me.
“Jesus Was a Capricorn” describes the intolerance people have for what they don’t understand. What struck me was that despite the rejection the writer had faced, he had the strength to be true to himself anyway. Why did that make me cry? Shame. I knew I didn’t have that kind of strength.
“Sugar Man” is about a woman who sells her soul to a pimp so she can buy drugs to escape her pain. Had I been ignoring some secret pain? If so, what was it? And why was I afraid to face it?
“Jesse Younger” is the story of a man who loses the love and support of his family when he makes choices that seem wrong to them even though they are right for him. This brought a huge “Aha!” I had talents and interests I longed to pursue but hadn’t — partly out of a sort of foggy lethargy, and partly because of deeply ingrained stereotypes about women’s roles. To change my habit of always putting my family’s comfort before my own seemed selfish, dangerous, daunting and wrong. I was experiencing a classic conflict between my need to find and fulfill myself and my fear of hurting my loved ones, inviting censure, and leaving a safe and familiar cocoon.
“Help Me” is a cry for help from someone who has given up trying to struggle all alone through the darkness. It is a recognition that repressing, escaping and pretending lead to dead ends, a confession of the ego’s limitations, and a painful plea for consciousness. My tears told me I was tired of living in the prison of conformity and needed help to break out.
“Why Me” expresses repentance for wasted life, gratitude for the gift of another chance, and the desire to help others who undergo the same struggles. I had always believed I had something valuable to give. Had my fears caused me to waste the best parts of myself? Was there still a chance for me? Would it be possible to make some original choices without destroying everything to which I had devoted the first half of my life? These were my thoughts and feelings, and they were so terribly beautiful and dreadfully sad. No wonder I cried.
Midlife can be a dangerous and decisive crossroads. Jung said the ego’s task at this time is to turn within and attend to the compelling reality of the Sacred Self. While some recognize the wake-up call, many misinterpret it. Luckily, the universe sent me a minstrel guide to help me through. Kris Kristofferson’s songs were a lifeline that awakened my ego to the melodies of my own soul and emboldened me to follow them. Choosing this path has made all the difference in my life and I will be forever grateful. Thank you, Kris.
Who do you have to thank for mentoring you on the journey to your Self?