Kris Kristofferson: Midlife Mentor


At the age of 35 I had a wonderful family, good health, a comfortable lifestyle, and a master’s degree: everything a woman could want. Right? You’d think so. But I felt painfully unfulfilled. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I just be happy? I felt like an ungrateful wretch.
One day as I was listening to Kris Kristofferson’s album, “Jesus Was A Capricorn,” tears started rolling down my cheeks. With some surprise, I realized there must be a reason I was crying. What could it be? Suddenly I was hungry to understand, so over the next few months I listened carefully to these soulful songs. Somehow it seemed as if practically every one was written for me.
“Jesus Was a Capricorn” describes the intolerance people have for what they don’t understand. What struck me was that despite the rejection the writer had faced, he had the strength to be true to himself anyway. Why did that make me cry? Shame. I knew I didn’t have that kind of strength.
“Sugar Man” is about a woman who sells her soul to a pimp so she can buy drugs to escape her pain. Had I been ignoring some secret pain? If so, what was it? And why was I afraid to face it?
“Jesse Younger” is the story of a man who loses the love and support of his family when he makes choices that seem wrong to them even though they are right for him. This brought a huge “Aha!” I had talents and interests I longed to pursue but hadn’t — partly out of a sort of foggy lethargy, and partly because of deeply ingrained stereotypes about women’s roles. To change my habit of always putting my family’s comfort before my own seemed selfish, dangerous, daunting and wrong. I was experiencing a classic conflict between my need to find and fulfill myself and my fear of hurting my loved ones, inviting censure, and leaving a safe and familiar cocoon.
“Help Me” is a cry for help from someone who has given up trying to struggle all alone through the darkness. It is a recognition that repressing, escaping and pretending lead to dead ends, a confession of the ego’s limitations, and a painful plea for consciousness. My tears told me I was tired of living in the prison of conformity and needed help to break out.
“Why Me” expresses repentance for wasted life, gratitude for the gift of another chance, and the desire to help others who undergo the same struggles. I had always believed I had something valuable to give. Had my fears caused me to waste the best parts of myself? Was there still a chance for me? Would it be possible to make some original choices without destroying everything to which I had devoted the first half of my life? These were my thoughts and feelings, and they were so terribly beautiful and dreadfully sad. No wonder I cried.
Midlife can be a dangerous and decisive crossroads. Jung said the ego’s task at this time is to turn within and attend to the compelling reality of the Sacred Self. While some recognize the wake-up call, many misinterpret it. Luckily, the universe sent me a minstrel guide to help me through. Kris Kristofferson’s songs were a lifeline that awakened my ego to the melodies of my own soul and emboldened me to follow them. Choosing this path has made all the difference in my life and I will be forever grateful. Thank you, Kris.
Who do you have to thank for mentoring you on the journey to your Self?
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0 Responses

  1. It is amazing what a little Kris can do for the soul! Was at Luckenbach this past week-end and thought of you and kris too! Ann

    1. Dearest Ann, You’re so right! Kris is to the soul as cool water is to a parched throat. I’ll be wearing my Luckenbach T-shirt today in honor of two of my favorite mentors: you and Kris! Love, Jeanie

  2. Dear Jean, What a beautiful post! You have written this in a way that any person could understand-without being a Jungian scholar! I will be forwarding this to many.
    Thanks for your work!
    Ruth Martin

  3. Dear Ruth,
    Thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to write your kind comment. I’m so pleased and grateful to know that you find this post readable and relevant enough to forward to others.
    Blessings on this fine spring day (here in Orlando, at least!)

  4. “Who do you have to thank for mentoring you on the journey to your Self?” Inevitably Jung, but Marion Woodman, James Hillman, Robert Bly, and Caroline Myss as well.
    Reading you blog entry above I can’t help but notice how big of a presence “grief” has in Kristofferson’s songs. I find that there is inevitably a fair amount of grieving associated with midlife. Tears help to wash away the soot that covers the soul and helps us to “attend to the compelling reality of the Sacred Self.”
    Thank you Jean, for all you’ve shared with this blog entry…..

  5. Hi Jamie,
    It’s a pleasure to meet a fellow Jungian! I too have learned from the mentors you mention. I also owe many valuable insights to Robert Johnson and John Sanford.
    Huge “Aha” about the thread of grief in Kristofferson’s songs and midlife. And I love your imagery of tears washing away the soul’s soot. Another metaphor that comes to mind is that tears are evidence that we are tapping into a deeper well of our reality: an underground pool of our bottled up authenticity to which all the juiciness of our lives progressively retreated as we served ego and persona during the first half of life. So grief over our losses — of meaning, of youthful innocence, of feeling, of connection with our true selves, of unmet expectations and unfulfilled dreams, etc. — taps into that well, enabling feeling and creativity to spring forth, thus refreshing the soul.
    Thanks so much for the wise and thought-provoking comment.

    1. I discovered Sanford right after Jung in the early 80s with “Invisible Partners.” Love your response and the territory you approach with it. I didn’t get notice of your response by email…still getting the hang of social media and how it all comes together. Again, I appreciate this blog and your Twitter contributions….

  6. Hi Jamie,
    I didn’t discover Sanford or Jung until 1989. My first Sanford was “The Kingdom Within.” Second was “Dreams, God’s Forgotten Language.”
    Sorry you didn’t get notice of my response. I think the way to get notified of comments might be to click on “rss comments” in the fifth green box down from my picture in the upper right corner of my home page. If that doesn’t work, you might contact WordPress and ask them how. Let me know if it works, as others have had the same problem.
    Thanks for the appreciation. Feels good!

  7. This is so beautiful, Jeannie, and I feel a lot of what you’re saying. My mom was my most inspiring person in my life, and she died when Brian was 3 months old…I’ve forged my way since then…

  8. And done an extraordinary job of it! Thank you, Donna. You are one whose understanding heart and deep connection with feminine feeling has served you in the best possible ways! It is so sad when those who inspire us most never know of their impact on us. But we can pass the inspiration on by the way we live as a result of their positive influence.
    Much love,

  9. Brilliant, Jeanie. While midlife has long passed, this reminds me of an experience I had about two years ago. I was at the Irish Repertory Theatre in New York viewing Brian Friel’s play “Dancing at Lughnasa” when I had a equally powerful experience. At the end of the play the narrator moved to the front of the stage, the lights dimmed and the actors, standing about ten feet behind him, began to slowly sway to faint music. The narrator said, “When I cast my imagination back to the summer of ’36” and at that precise moment I knew my life had changed. That might sound ridiculous but I was sitting with a friend and I voiced my feelings without hesitation. In that moment so much of where my life had been, where it was going became very clear to me. It was a moment when I really understood the “journey,” when the journey was transformed from an intellectual concept to a real and highly visceral experience. I’d bore everyone to tears with the entire story but the long and short of it is I clearly heard the “wake-up” call and I no longer was, as you say, a prisoner of conformity.
    Wonderful story, Jeanie.

    1. Thank you for dropping by and sharing your story, Charlie. It’s great to hear from you.
      It’s very difficult to explain these experiences of “knowing” and “awakening” to others; maybe because it’s a completely internal, personal thing having to do with our own unique psychic energy: where it’s been, where it wants to go, when it gets released, etc. “Something” in you shifts, and suddenly you understand something you never did before. You weren’t expecting it and don’t know how to make it happen again. But it’s very real. I think of it as an inrush of meaning. In religious terms, events like this are sometimes attributed to the Holy Spirit or the Sacred Feminine. But it doesn’t matter what you call it. What matters is that you hear this inner guidance and take it seriously as a message for you about what’s important to your soul. And as you note, midlife is not the only time things like this happen. It can be a lifelong thing….
      It’s been a pleasure to see you following your inner guidance over the past few years and to know that the changes in you have been such a rich gift to so many others!

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