Accepting the Invitation



I’m in training. I go to the gym twice a week for spin classes. Previously I was afraid of spinning; I thought it was for hardcore young gym enthusiasts.


But I’m spinning because my nephew invited me to chaperone his class trip, which involves riding a bike thirty miles a day. And I don’t even own a bike.


So I’m spinning. And feeling stronger.


This morning I’m thinking of other invitations and the doorways they’ve opened in my life, notably the invitation from my high school French teacher to visit her in Montreal. That trip was the first time I’d been out of Massachusetts, let alone out of the country.


As she and I walked across the campus of McGill University I thought, “I want to go to school here!” and lo and behold, I did. Accepting her invitation blossomed into a life path with countless more invitations and opportunities. Thank you Mrs. Root. (An apt name for a French and Latin teacher!)


Recently I’ve been invited into an experience of darkness, mostly through scary dreams, magnified by lingering smoke from the nearby King Fire and daily news of world tragedies. I’ve been trying to view this inner darkness as an invitation to growth and new life.


And in fact, by wrangling through nightmares and acknowledging my sadness, I’ve come to new insights and new freedom. The darkness is lifting in the very act of dialoguing with it. This is shadow work, a kind of inner wrestling advocated by Carl Jung.


Jung thought midlife posed a great challenge: keep going with worn-down old patterns or face one’s shadow—that unknown inner territory of unlived dreams, rejected ways of being, wounds and vulnerabilities. Ninety percent of the shadow is golden, Jung said, a treasure trove of potential energy necessary for vibrant later life.


Diving into my shadow I’ve re-discovered the enthusiasm of the young adventurer I thought I’d left behind. I’ve re-discovered the powerful dreamer (and needed to come to terms with all the dreams that weren’t fulfilled).


And last night, as I leaned over the handlebars of the stationary bike, with the instructor urging, Go! Go! Go!” I heard an inner voice well up. “You are strong,” it said.


I’d never heard this voice before.


With legs aching, I pedaled on, proud to be amongst the spinners.


Leon Bonnat, Jacob Wrestling With Angel, courtesy of the National Gallery of Art