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'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.