In Women Who Run With the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, a Jungian analyst and storyteller, retells a story about a handless maiden. It's a story that seems to me a kind of ideal story for a month in which I'm writing about ways in which a person can sometimes get stuck--hit obstacles--get bewildered. The story is one that I've found beneficial at crucial junctures in my own life, and it’s a story I have at times told in turn to patients or students when it seems that the labor that began so well—the first giddy success of creativity and vitality—has come to a grinding halt.
The story begins when a maiden loses her hands. She really does lose them—her entire hands. They’re cut off. It’s a moment of initiation. A loss of innocence. Her first serious loss. She has these stumps where she used to have hands, and she wanders, grieving, for many years. Eventually, she comes upon a pear orchard. Here, she encounters a beautiful pear—then a king. He’s a good king. He makes her a pair of silver hands and he fastens them to her stumps. They fall in love. It’s a particularly sweet kind of love for the maiden, coming as it does in the wake of grief, when she had only these stumps for hands and when she had all but given up hope. And this moment could serve, in one particular kind of story--say, a romantic story--as an ending. The king and the maiden have fallen in love. Happily ever after. Those exquisite silver hands. But this, as it turns out, is not the ending.
. . . this is still not the lysis, resolution. We are only at the midpoint of transformation, a place of being held in love, yet poised to make a slow dive into another abyss. And so, we continue.