“I think I might like to go to Africa on mission someday” I offhandedly told the surgeon whose mobile surgical ministry my church supported.
“You should go to a 2nd world country before going to a 3rd” he said. “Perhaps come along to Ecuador in September” he continued. “Yes, I’d love to” was my response before I could even process what all it would entail.
I hadn’t left the country since I was 14. I didn’t even have a current passport and September wasn’t far off. I also had an August trip planned with my daughters that would need to be cancelled. I would have to secure time off work, etc.
I hadn’t factored in any of these things yet I was all like “let’s go”. Throughout the planning process I came up against more than one stumbling block.
For every hoop I had to jump through to make this adventure a reality I simply reassured myself I would take the next step necessary and if it were meant to work out it would.
I ignored the voice in my head telling me “this is impossible, you can’t do this”, and step by step, it did work out.
I learned so many things on that trip, and most of it was lessons about myself. I suppose of the vast amount of take aways from my journey one of the most life changing was this newfound trust in the universe I was cultivating.
When I was younger, as in my teens, I flew without fear. I’m not sure why, when one considers what an anxiety ridden child I was, flying didn’t scare me, but it didn’t. However the first time I flew after having my first child it was a particularly bumpy flight, and with an innocent babe in my arms who I was solely in charge of protecting, I felt vulnerable in a way I never had before. That’s when the fear crept in.
I continued to fly throughout my life, my need to travel outweighing my nerves, but to say the feeling in the pit of my stomach was unpleasant would be putting it mildly. And that was nothing compared to the places my mind took me as I imagined the scenarios of death and destruction if my plane were to plummet out of the sky.
Until traveling to Ecuador the longest flight I’d endured was NY to Arizona, which I recall actually being an excruciatingly long and turbulent flight. How on earth had I not given a single thought to the sheer amount of hours in the air this upcoming trip would require?
Well, somehow I didn’t and here I am at JFK boarding a flight for my first leg of this trip…NY to Miami was a typical enough experience. Not too horrible.
The layover in Miami included some wrong gate drama, a mad dash through security, and a walk of shame to the very back row of seats as I was the absolute last person to board.
Finally we depart.
I felt my usual unease as the plane continued to climb. And then, somewhere in the sky between Miami and Quito, something changed. Another of those recognizable shifts in perspective I so often share about. A feeling of peace washed over me and replaced the nervousness.
This contentment with my current situation wasn’t that I suddenly felt a guarantee my plane would land safely, it stemmed from the sudden confidence that no matter what should happen, all was well. The universe is always unfolding properly and in the grand scheme of things all will always be well.
It didn’t matter if I was gazing out a window 36,000 feet in the air, sitting at my desk, sleeping in my bed, or crossing a hometown street…I am not in control….There is a driving force to this universe, call it God, call it a divine energy, call “it” whatever you choose, but regardless of names we assign, I personally do believe there is something…
So in my little enlightened aha moment I recognized yet another opportunity to surrender. I surrendered my preconceived notions of safety, I surrendered the fear I held gripped in white knuckles, and as I had experienced in the past, with surrender comes a freedom.
A freedom to live in the moment, to experience it fully in a way you just can’t when worry is stealing pieces from you.
I experienced that on the puddle jumper from Quito to Cuenca. And on the 7 hour bus ride to the remote village where I would spend a week volunteering.
I experienced it walking into a make shift operating room, as well as hiking through the Amazon Jungle, and while gazing up from under an impressive waterfall.
So having unpacked “worry”, I left it behind, and carried my newfound “faith over fear” mantra home with me like a prized souvenir.
From adventures like tracking down wild horses in the Wild West to roaming solo through new cities, I have kept it with me, and it continues to serve me well.
It allowed me to look at my future in a different way and I made this fabulous, fearless five year plan to move to a city that captured my heart. (Ok I know a five year plan doesn’t fall under the spontaneous category, but to be fair there were child rearing obligations to be taken into consideration) No longer held back by thoughts of “well that’s impossible” step by step my timeline passed and finally with the last pre-move year unfolding, something ( read: someone) wrecked that plan.
And that’s ok. Because sometimes plans change. And as courageous as it is to move to a far away city where you don’t know a soul, it sometimes takes even more courage to stay put and be open to a whole other kind of adventure.
I still make plans…Fun plans, brave plans, spontaneous plans, always loose plans…I’ve learned to give the universe room to work it’s magic, for sometimes it has an even better plan than me.
And as one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver said, this is my one wild and precious life….As for what I plan to do with it? Live it…Live it without apology, without self imposed limits, and without fear.