Hero's Journey: Jane's Dark Night of the Soul

My husband and I stood on the lower deck of our ship Le Lyrial as other passengers boarded a tender to shore. It was our last day in Greece before crossing the Mediterranean sea to Italy. We had stopped to port in Fira where we’d visit Oia and Santorini. It wasn’t a calm day, the sea burgeoning and swelling so that the water lapped up onto the deck causing the tender to slam against the side of ship.

Our ship

Our ship

“Maybe I’ll just hang out on the ship and read,” I said ready to avoid getting into that tender any way that I could. The truth is, I’m terrified of getting sea sick and of people getting sick around me. The idea of climbing into a small sardine container that would take us to shore in those large waves was enough to test every bit of fortitude I had, and I wasn’t finding any.

The ship's tender (the sardine can)

The ship's tender (the sardine can)

My husband, a man of such eloquence and compassion said, “Naw. It’s all good.”

I could have used a compassionate embrace or a reassuring squeeze of his hand.  I didn’t receive either of these. Maybe a little symbolic in a way, because this was a moment I had to push through alone.

In every narrative, the protagonist must face a moment of truth.  It is the moment when she must decide to go backward, stay the same, or to change course.  This moment of truth is what Joseph Campbell’s “monomyth” describes as the Dark Night of the Soul, the Innermost Cave or the Belly of the Whale (yeah, like Jonah).  Remember that moment in The Empire Strike’s Back when Luke literally walked into a cave and had to face a vision of Darth Vader who just also happened to have Luke’s face? Yeah. That.

Standing on that deck watching the tender get whipped about by the waves and passengers getting handed to crew members from one vessel to another brought me to that turning point. I can imagine that it seems like such a small thing, but aren’t our lives moments of small things that invite us to act? I had a choice: stay on our ship and miss Santorini because I was afraid, or face my fear.  

I faced my fear and got onto the damn tender.