The Return

The Return

Once past the Gate Out, the Return requires looking both backwards and forwards. Returning requires making both reparations and openings. What are they? How to create a successful “coming home”?

Finished with the Road of Trials, aware and awake passing through the Gate Out, the Journeymaker is focused on Home. But – wait –  there is another station, Return, opposite the position of Call on the circle of events. Remember the Call comes because there is a situation at the old Home that required the Journey. Remember the Road of Trials tested and taught the Journeymaker. Remember the Nigredo transformed the Journeymaker into a new being – same DNA, but transformed. And gifts were given and earned along the Road, gifts relevant to the Journeymaker’s new Home. For even if the Return is to the same home situation, or perhaps especially if that is so, who is coming Home is not the same person who left.

Hero Heroine Journey Wheel Lola Wilcox

Practical World Returns

Graduation, maybe from school or a training program. Getting married. Completing military or other service… whatever the Road of Trials was, it’s over, the ceremony (Gate Out) has been performed, and the Journeymaker is facing the rest of life. But it isn’t yet the culmination of the journey, and that’s the wisdom of Return.

What happens now? Is the Graduate prepared to get a job (is there one?)? Is the Retiree ready to take on 20 plus more years without an answer to the question “What do you do?” Having fed each other a piece of the wedding cake, is the Young Couple prepared to nurture their marriage in the years ahead? Having completed a service assignment, is the Journeymaker ready to return to civilian life?

Closed Will Return

Photo Credit: Tim Mossholder

Waiting on Hold

Sometimes the Return feels like being on hold waiting for hours for a service representative to come on-line and give you the answer you need. One might wait for months for a job application to come through with an offer. Maybe the journey has been building a new house, and the final necessity for living there is tied up in supply chain issues. Some describe the feeling as being ready but are camped outside a door that can only be opened from the other side. This is not procrastination. It’s a Return situation. The way forward begins with the question “is  this the right door? “ or “Who do I know who has the Door Key?” And sometimes, the situation where the Journeymaker is going is not yet ready – the job description not written, solar is available when boilers are not. The Friends have a saying: “Way will open.” If you are ready, you know you are at the right “door”, waiting is the task required in Return. In the folk and fairy tales sent down to us from ancestors as teachings there is a lot of waiting. 

Mind the Gap

Photo Credit: Suad Kamardeen

Traditional Dangers  

There are some dangers that show up repeatedly during Return, so much so there are stories that give warnings.

  1. Lack of attention to detail.  At the moment of return for the Minotaur-slaying hero Theseus, sailing into the harbor at Home, he forgets to put up the correct color of sails and his father and the city assume he is dead.
  2. In-Basket. In the mundane, ordinary world the daily tasks pile up, people demand attention, the Journeymaker loses focus, and the practical world swallows the journeymaker. Psyche (soul) has this issue on her downward journey to the underworld for the gift of Aphrodite’s beauty ointment.
  3. Falling asleep (perhaps again).  This is especially easy if the Journeymaker has not yet clearly defined the new Home , or the work required to prepare that Home for the Return feels overwhelming. Psyche (soul) has this issue on her Return. Do not go back to sleep.
  4. Old Contracts and Deals.  So often it is at this moment that the Journeymaker must read the fine print and finds out they didn’t understand (or perhaps even know) what won’t be paid out, or has to paid back, or that there are hidden costs for leaving their past and moving on. These can be literal contracts (pay off the loan, leave the job, etc.) There are many old stories of having “to pay the devil’s price” that have suggestions for how to handle these traps. Whatever they look like, they hinder the movement towards the new Home. Ignoring them sets up new issues. A task of Return is to clear them out of the way. 

Looking Backwards and Forwards

In the place of Return both reparations (looking backward) and openings (looking forward) need completion. Reparations may require the healing or closure of broken relationships, a restoration of connection, a redefinition, or an ending, hopefully graceful. Looking back requires closing what needs closure. People who have come through Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program have a head start on this work; the steps are all about reparation and preparation for re-entry or entry to Home. Another map is in Conflict Management at the Edge – another series in this blog on how to embrace the conflict that needs to be worked for your self-growth to continue.

Looking forwards is to fulfill the visioning work that led to the Gate Out. A dream of a new way of working leads to the Return steps of application/interview. Returning to past relationships involves a negotiation of a new role. And most important is to be very clear about what gifts are being brought to the old situation or new life. 

Final Journey 

There is a way of seeing one’s whole life as a single journey with many smaller ones inside it. There are some actions that make the final journey’s Return stage easier on self and family/friends. One example is to prepare a will, a clarification of who and what will survive you and how you want it to go forward. Return requires not leaving the end unattended.


How about you, Journeymaker?  

When have you been aware of being in the place of Return? 

What happened to you, what did you do well? 

What advice do you have to offer?


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  1. Jonathan Wiley January 24, 2022 at 7:24 am - Reply

    Thanks Lola! I enjoyed this. I think I’m in the Return right now. Last year I finished an over 2,000 mile river rowing expedition. I didn’t know when or where I’d be putting down roots, but it seems that I was drawn to where I am now through the inexplicable workings of life. That Return experience, I dare say, was more challenging than anything I’ve been through. There really is something to the idea of closing the holes, honoring the contracts of the past and letting go of the old that no longer serves. All easier said than done!

    I think maybe things inside my soul are starting to level out. Though healing is not something that happens linearly like a graph showing constant growth.
    – Jonathan W.

    • Lola January 25, 2022 at 10:26 pm - Reply

      Congratulations on this Hero/Heroine’s Journey, Jonathan. I think you are right about being in Return. When you pulled the kayak out of the water the last time could be the Gate Out. The challenging times after such a journey are what the Return blog was talking about – it’s as complicated a place as any other station on the Journey. I’m glad you’ve given yourself the time to heal. I agree that healing isn’t linear. Transformation is not often about “growth” in the sense we usually mean that word. The next blog in this series is about Home (Again?) and all the complications that may reveal themselves. I hope you will have some more wisdom for us when it posts next month.

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