“I have a confession to make.” After three days together and almost non-stop catching up, my friend was getting vulnerable. “I’ve never read Middlemarch.”
I sputtered for how to respond.
Not because she had committed some crime. Because I was groping for an explanation as to why I am so obsessed with that novel that my friend calls not having read it a “confession.”
For years, I was similarly obsessed by birth (check out my courses and my writings on it). Bring up any meaty topic, and you were likely to hear me say, “It’s like birth, really…” and then tell you why.
What connects these apparently disparate subjects – a 150-year-old British novel and the mundane miracle of giving birth?
The heroine’s journey.
It’s the feminine version of the hero’s journey famously described by Joseph Campbell, similar in shape but concerned with experiences unique to women.
Middlemarch is a novel about ambition, notably the constraints its heroine struggles with as she tries to fulfill hers in the very much man’s world of 19th Century England. And though often supported by men and the masculine infrastructure of medicine, no one can give birth for a woman; she ultimately does it alone, battling or partnering with birth’s enormous power.
One strong thread in my life has been a search to reclaim or discover my power. I looked for it in the usual places and found it in the unexpected ones. And whenever I have, I’ve wanted to tell other women about it, so they can be empowered, too.
It’s what my coaching program, Be the Heroine, is all about. My conversation with my friend reminded me how mighty and enduring the concept of the heroine is to me. Joseph Campbell articulated the hero’s journey, but I will articulate the unique flavor of the heroine’s journey, to see if it resonates for you, too.
The Qualities of a Heroine
She yearns to do good, to be of service, to contribute something unique and widely beneficial.
Not seeking power for self-aggrandizement, the heroine wants to use it for good: to make the world better and to lift others with her.
This is true in birth, where the mother will do anything for the health and safety of her baby. It’s true of the heroine of Middlemarch, Dorothea, who wants to “help her fellow creatures” by, for example, improving housing conditions on her family’s estates.
This is true of the women of Be the Heroine, who want to improve the quality of birth and death care, to empower others through coaching, to create community, and heal family traumas for the generations.
She tries. Even if she fails, even if it’s painful, she is impelled to get up and try again.
There’s a courageous helplessness to the heroine’s journey that I find so moving. She can’t not.
It’s perfectly reflected in birth, where the contractions come whether you want them to or not – and you don’t, because they’re so big and frightening. But you also do, because you want your baby to be safely born. So, you yield, allowing it to get as big as it needs to get, for as long as it needs, for the baby. In Middlemarch, Dorothea well-meaningly bungles nearly everything. But after tears and searching her heart, she bravely brushes herself off and tries differently.
The women of Be the Heroine face challenges – from mild to devastating – with similar, inspiring, courage. They ask themselves, “Where is my responsibility? What can I do now?” And then they try again.
She finds power in surrender.
Surrender is the essence of feminine energy, the yin to the yang that is masculine energy. It’s not fighting for your way but rather working with the way – with reality and the flow of energy.
When I was giving birth, I discovered that the contractions only hurt when I resisted them. When I relaxed and gave them my breath, it felt like riding a wave instead of being tumbled by one. In the climax of Middlemarch, Dorothea does something very hard because it helps many. Her self-sacrifice sets off a chain reaction of benefit far beyond what she intended.
The women of Be the Heroine hold their intention to do good and do the good in front of them. They cultivate curiosity in the face of apparent setbacks, trust that they are co-creating with the universe, and work with their circumstances.
A Great Life. An Amazing Group.
The hero’s journey makes for a great movie, but the heroine’s journey makes for a great life.
The purpose, tenacity, and courage of the heroine is deeply satisfying and beautiful to witness. I feel honored to get to work with these women… we also have a lot of fun! There is something magical about getting them together. They encourage and uplift one another and together become more than the sum of their parts.
To learn more about the Be the Heroine program and join the waitlist, visit the webpage and sign-up! If you’d like to read books featuring heroines (including Middlemarch), check out the Heroines Book Club.