Sometimes the past seeps into the present unexpectedly...and uninvited. It creeps in through the back door unbeknownst to the one it is greeting and it grates like fingernails on a chalkboard. It is visiting me now. I cannot define whether it is a he or a she. I don't want to turn and look for fear of what I might see.
I was going about my usual business this evening attending to the ordinary...yet aware of something I have been resisting and beginning to question why. That is when the past made its presence known...haunting and taunting so that I would turn around and look. It, he, she is clawing at my insides. Regret, shame, embarrassment, anger, bitterness morph into sadness and pain as I slowly rotate my head enough in her direction to see.
I think she sits hovering in the corner more often than I care to admit...and keeps me spinning my wheels fast enough to believe I am outpacing her and leaving her in the dust. No chance. The moment I slow just enough to feel, she whispers from behind..."I am still here...you can't outrun me...ever."
As I turn to face her I see that somehow SHE is the other part of me I have been looking for. She is power. She is grit. She is spunk. She is tenacity. She is the part of me I sever from when I think I have to do IT...whatever the IT of the moment is...all by myself. She is me but she is bigger than the me I usually identify as. She is not big in size but in energy.
She sits quietly and moves with a stillness that hardly seems to accomplish much...but in her quietness and stillness she commands a rather impressive amount of space and attention. As I hold my gaze in her direction she slowly emerges from the corner I have relegated her to. She rises and we move toward one another. She does not outpace me but matches my every step. As we merge I feel a distinct shift in my energy and a warmth and pulsation that swells within my chest.
She is Me. I am Her. We are One. The past happened and the present is. The only real separation exists within my mind. I stand in gratitude for the power of return, healing, wholeness.
This quote from Eleanor Roosevelt spoke loud and clear to me in 1998 when I was mentally and physically preparing for the longest mountain bike ride of my life, with all of my essentials in tow, in a place where I barely knew the language. As exciting as the adventure of it sounds, I’m more purpose-driven than I am thrill seeking. I was on a joint mission to spread a message about trash and what a mess it has made of the world and why Argentinians should mitigate their consumption practices and waste production immediately to avoid following in our footsteps. Our message was also that the North American bigger-better-faster-now lifestyle sold to them on television commercials isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and is leaving a multitude of people bereft of the very things that make them happy. When you transition to a life of ‘grab and go’ you no longer ‘stop and linger’...a practice which has long been responsible for connecting people and building communities worldwide.
Overcoming my fear and proving to myself that my legs could actually pedal all those miles to fulfill the mission of our trip, 4,300 of them to be exact, I eventually returned home to Milwaukee, WI where I got involved in some local sustainability initiatives. Internally, I was in hot pursuit of some serious peace because, from what I could see, trash was a much bigger problem than I ever dreamed it was and remote parts of the world were on course to replicate our purchasing practices thanks to the allure and success of global corporate sales and marketing efforts. These observations drove me headlong into a deep inner quest to try to make sense of the world I was living in.
As a young student of intense spiritual practice, doing the thing I didn’t think I could do looked like letting go and fully surrendering to a power and presence that was truly beyond the earthly realm I was accustomed to dwelling in. It is hard to say more in the space of this blog post but suffice it to say that the experiences I had ran deep to my core and will forever remain with me. Through them, I came to know that Jesus is indeed a real dude that yearns to be known by us in ways we can’t even begin to imagine. In fact, there are hosts of celestial beings at the ready to aid and assist us but they are far more respectful of our will and desire than most humans are and only come when we ask with sincerity in our hearts and demonstrate we are ready.
While the experiences I had in the order remain solid to my core, structural and leadership changes prompted a thorough examining of my heart, a recognition of our maturing family's needs and and eventually my departure. Doing the thing I didn’t think I could do then looked like leaving the order that I had taken eternal vows of service to my Creator in without knowing exactly where or how I would live out this commitment going forward. I had given my all to the order and it had become the core of my adult life. Our girls knew the people in our community as their own family. The ‘center’ we worshiped in was in our very home. Hearing the call to move on was a difficult one for me to trust. But in the stillness of my heart the inner voice that was speaking was familiar, clear and directive. I heeded the call, took the leap and set about building our life anew with my family of four in the Pacific Northwest. Our transition was blessed and we were embraced by family and friends well beyond anything we could have ever hoped for. Oh how we loved that life and those people. Three years there felt like a lifetime in the best of ways!
Then I heard that voice beckoning me to do the thing I didn’t think I could do. Again! This time it was nudging me to uproot from a newfound place and community we loved and return to the Midwest to buy a small farm that would become our family homestead and a nurturing space for guests who wanted to slow down and enjoy simple moments together. I kicked and screamed at that voice! I did NOT want to hear it! But I couldn’t not hear it! It led me in and out of rich life experiences before so I knew I had to trust it. With tears streaming down my face, a solid lump in my throat, and quivering in my footsteps, I heeded the call. Two and a half years in to life on the farm in rural Wisconsin, I am gaining clearer perspective on the fruits and the growth opportunities this move has provided, not the least of which has been bringing me to this moment right now where I am sitting down to begin writing the book that has been in my heart since I left the order.
Up until about a week ago, I felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff...legs full of lead, heart sunk to my knees, lips an icy shade of blue. Was it carving out the time? Writing the book? Paying for the coaching? Or a combination of all three?
Doing the thing I did not think I could do meant taking out a small business loan and signing myself up to work with a book writing coach for the next 12 weeks to make some serious headway. Once I officially committed to the process, my heart swelled, my breath expanded, my diaphragm relaxed and tears began flowing softly down my cheeks which was all the confirmation I needed to lean in and move forward.
One of my guiding principals in life has been to live in such a way that I would never arrive at my death bed looking back wondering "What if"? What if I had succumbed to fear and backed myself off of any of those scary ledges that served as a catalyst for both death and rebirth? For me, doing the thing was never jumping out of a plane, solo climbing without a rope or harness or summitting Mt. Everest, although sea level to 16,055 feet on a bike feels like it might as well be Mt. Everest. Doing the thing for me has always been doing what is on my heart to do...doing that thing that I knew was up next when it felt impractical, hard or down right terrifying! It has been about listening to and stepping out on the promptings of that inner voice that is speaking inside of all of us and yearning for us to slow down, pay attention and heed the call.
Doing the thing we think we cannot do looks different for each of us and it shifts and changes over time. We are in relationship with a wise and intelligent being that knows us intimately. We are presented with unique challenges and opportunities that serve as the catalyst for our evolution into better versions of our former self. Only we can say yes or no. Nobody else can do this for us. If we pass on the opportunity at hand, our choice to pass will be noted and other opportunities will move into place that may leave us playing smaller in a world that needs us to play big right now! When we say yes, the magic happens.
I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes by William Hutchinson Murray from his 1951 book The Scottish Himalayan Expedition (inspired by Goethe):
"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back - concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now."
I feel that old familiar feeling creeping back in, beginning in my chest and making its way into each and every cell of my body via my boiling blood. I want to scream, jump outside of my skin, thrash, kick, swing my arms wildly. A voice yells out from deep inside, “But what about me?! When is it my time?”
While the rest of my new online writing group puts pen to paper, I stand in the kitchen doing dishes while discreetly shushing and ushering my kids to their beds and giving my husband a heartless hug and cool peck on the cheek. Goodnight, he says, with no warmth in return. This is my punishment for taking time for myself...for prioritizing something for me that means something to me. This is the story I am telling myself, the one I keep repeating like a broken record.
It is harder to admit that the real source of my angst lays in the fact that I don’t plan so well. I was invited to and signed up for the bonus class last minute knowing that I was on deck to put my youngest to bed while he chauffeured our oldest to her evening activity. I didn’t have the heart to draw a line in the sand earlier on in my evening and pushed the limits of time to the very end so that all activities collided at once. I was stuck in the middle feeling crunched by everyone else’s demands on me.
Setting clear boundaries and expectations early on would have opened up space, given me room to breathe, allowed my heart to beat with ease and allowed me to go about my evening tasks with serenity on my face and kindness in my voice. I could have hugged more wholeheartedly, each member of my tribe of three, and felt the satisfaction of their heart-felt hug in return.
Why do I resist changing a pattern, a behavior, a way of being when its consequences cut so deep and leave me feeling bereft of the very things I want...warmth, closeness, connection, and most of all, the feeling of being supported by those I love most?
Second exercise commences and on cue I hear the beckoning familiar call “moooooooommmmmmmmmmmm!” “moooooooooooooommmmmmmmmmmm!!!” Those three letters put together can create the sweetest sound in the world, but when I yearn to attend to something I deeply value, that word feels like a trap, a prison, like heavy metal shackles!
He has uninterrupted creative time during the day, so I tell myself. When do I get that time? How is this fair? Why do I always wind up feeling like I get the short end of the stick. Again, the voice of reason kicks in to chastise me…he was feeding animals, making and cleaning up from breakfast, shuttling kids to and from the bus stop, grocery shopping, caulking holes in basement walls, preparing and cooking dinner (a delicious one I might add!). “Yes, I know all that! But surely he had some ‘me time’ somewhere in between doing those daily chores!”, echoes that voice inside my head.
Somehow I have this story in me that in a perfect world, if all things were created equal, time would magically stop and space would open up for me to explore, create, write, pursue what makes my heart sing. But to be honest, I don’t think that this has happened for anyone, anywhere, ever! I have never witnessed such a phenomena. There is a well known saying about productivity that instructs, “if you need it done timely, give it to someone who is already busy as they will know how to get it done!"
Wrestling with time is teaching me something vital about time itself. I have to stake my claim on it. I have to get clear, bold, assertive and organized about it. It is not going to magically open up. Nature abhors a vacuum and if I don’t identify and voice what I want to fill the vacuum of my daily schedule, something or someone else surely will and I would only have my own self to blame for that.
Time will never slow down for my perfect life to happen. Time has never slowed down for anyone. Time just is. The clock just keeps on ticking. Sixty seconds will always be in a single minute and that is never going to change. What can change though is how I use time and who I see as being in the driver’s seat of my schedule. I can also decide how I communicate that stuff to the ones around me. Thankfully I am a work in progress and I am becoming better everyday at accepting that simple fact!
Did you know there are 1,440 minutes in a day and 525,600 minutes in a year. I am all in on shifting my relationship to time to make every single one of those babies count in 2020. Are you in too?
I'm Kelly Isabelle.
Full-time workin' mama & spouse aspiring to live a slowly paced, sustainably minded, creatively expressed, clutter-free life shared with kindred folk.