In 2010 my friend Suzanne Braun Levine published another one of her great books in which she wrote about being patient with the confusion of the Fertile Void we often experience in later adulthood. By remembering that my powerful sense of unknowing what was to come next for my husband Jerry and me actually had a rich fertility within it, I let go of trying so hard to plan it out and surrendered to not knowing and seeing what might germinate. It was that very year when I was invited to become the first woman to serve as Executive-in-Residence at IMD Business School. Who could have imagined how sublimely happy we would become in our new life living in a 15th century village on Lake Geneva surrounded by the Swiss and French Alps? Me teaching senior executives from our every nation in the world: Jerry, who says he’s “gone to heaven without dying” biking around the lake and meeting an ever-growing circle of friends in our village and beyond as he approaches 80.
So, it is with a great sense of being grounded with roots in our new community of three years nourishing both of us, that we joyfully now are visiting the US to celebrate the college graduations of our two oldest grandchildren. Our grandson Braedon is plunging into the world of civil engineering and our granddaughter McKayla is pursuing her dream of combining her interest in urban planning with her passion for bicycling (yes, Jerry – AKA Granddad – planted early seeds of this for her). When my friend Suzanne learned about the unbridled joy that’s emerged from my dark Fertile Void, she encouraged me to write this piece.
I had first read Carl Gustav Jung in the 1960s and was fascinated by his archetypes long before I possibly could viscerally grasp – even if I cognitively understood – the generative aspects of the Fertile Void. Only now, coming full circle as I’m living in Switzerland can I appreciate how Jung, a Swiss who founded analytical psychology, would have articulated something I’m living on a daily basis. I’m flourishing in what germinated from within tremendous – almost terrifying – uncertainty. If you want to know more, see Suzanne Braun Levine’s website. While she focuses through the lens of women’s experiences, her insights resonate for all genders. You also can read “Embracing the Silence of Not Knowing: Entering the Fertile Void” by Susan Campbell.
And, whatever age you are, please share what you’ve discovered in letting yourself wander in that rich place of not knowing.