How I discovered in freedom - after sharing a bed with a woman - how important connection is.
Hey you, lovely human!
Last week’s post was a loaded piece of toast, wasn’t it? Talking about death & loss and anything in that region of subjects is not easy, and I don’t think anyone really enjoys it. Honestly, me neither, not really anyway. Putting this blog post out there in the open, into the world was actually a bigger step than I expected it to be. In the process leading up to publishing it, I was looking for pictures to add to the story. And that’s part of the story too: there’s really not a lot of them. All the pictures I made myself digitally, just started after 2009.
I did find one thing: a really old video I made with my flip phone back then. And as you could expect it took a while to load, because in these days & ages a video of +12 years old is ancient. And during that time, I honestly was really nervous and a bit scared. And that’s the reason why I’m starting this blog off again with this subject. Because apparently up until today, 12 years later, looking sadness right into the eyes is still scary as hell.
Looking death & sadness & loss in the eye always is scary, but that’s never ever a reason not to talk about it, to ignore it or minimize it. Give yourself the time to feel the whole feel the whole real deal, to actually work through the whole thing in a healthy way.
Anyway, that was a nice detour again. So there I am, back to the sequel of the story behind Ventuur.
The title of this blog post probably sparked some interest in some of you. If you’re expecting a deep dive in my sex life, I’m telling you right now you’ll be greatly disappointed. But the story I promised to share with you guys last week Friday in my newsletter (Want to receive it too? You can subscribe here), you can find in this post. So, just keep reading and you’ll find out what that title is all about!
There I was, on my bicycle, crying my eyes out. Bawling, because I just left behind all my certainty & my lovely family in Oevel, Belgium of all places.
Whoops, I'm sorry. Did I skip a few steps? Allow me to summarize those drastic life choices:
Nope, this relationship is not working for me. I'm moving back in with my mom.
Nope, this job is not working for me (haha, no pun intended). I'm resigning.
What do I do with all this time at hand? I'm leaving, I'm going abroad because that's what I wanted to do for a while now (don't we all?).
But how? By bicycle, because that's cheap and I discovered when cycling from and to Nike 3 times a week that I actually really did enjoy that. (This part was actually inspired by Sam - my best good friend - more about that bit later on)
Where was I? Right, bawling my eyes out on my bicycle. You might think: "Oh yes, Elise is a family kind of person, that must have hit her hard", and it did, because I am. Being physically & geographically far away from the people I love the most, and having lived maximum 5 km away for the majority of my life - that's what was and always will be the one and only reason why I would prefer staying at home instead of going abroad for a new adventure.
I still chose the adventure though, and those tears on my bicycle had nothing to do with that. Okay, that's a lie. The first tears were very much for that reason only. But after cycling some 40 kilometers my tears were long dry again, and then all of a sudden the tears were rolling over my cheeks once more.
And those tears had nothing to do with the sadness & loss & uncertainty of all those years before, those tears were there in the first moment of my life that I experienced the ultimate feeling of freedom.
Do you know what that feels like? Maybe you feel it when you're skiing down the mountain, or when you're walking through the grass with your bare feet, or when you buy your very own car or house.
Maybe you think you know what it feels like, maybe you have no clue at all or you're not really sure. All of it is possible and totally okay.
I felt it a little bit for the first time when Sam and I had the crazy idea to go on a weekend trip for our 7th date (I might share some more about that later on) to the French Alps.
Without any experience in the snow and just a mini indoor snowboarding class in my legs, we went for a snowboarding/skiing trip. Apart from the many instances where I almost literally ate snow (no worries, lovely people, I still have all my teeth and was wearing a helmet the whole time) that feeling of fresh snow under my feet and an empty to do list for the next 5 days along with just enjoying the fresh air and nature... That came pretty close to the ultimate feeling of freedom.
But that first day on my bicycle, that's when I felt the ultimate feeling of freedom for the very first time in my life, and I don't think I ever want to lose that feeling again.
During those three months on my bicycle, I got to know myself a lot better. My intention behind the trip was never really soul-searching as so many people would ask me before or after. But I have to admit - that's exactly what happened.
Every day is an adventure, literally. Thinking out of the box just becomes a bit more real when it involves your livelihood and basic needs like water, food and a dry & safe place to sleep at night. And it's exactly those basic needs you're confronted with all the time, which makes you go back to basics very consciously.
Those three months on my bicycle, I don't think I can summarize those stories in one email or even one blog post. Including the life lessons that came from it, they're still work in progress in my head & heart. Maybe I'll write a book about it someday, who knows.
What I can do is pick out the most important fundamental life lesson. I know now that, deep down, every single person on this planet - old/young, rich/poor (I look so differently at that bit now too, that's another story), speaking the same language or not - is just looking for connection.
Connection, is that a bit too fluffy?
I think I know how to de-fluffify that bit, and I’ll do that by sharing the story this title is hinting to.
Like every other day traveling by bicycle, I always looked for a safe & dry place to sleep. With my tent in one of my panniers (=cycling bag), that second condition was usually pretty easily met. That first one, that’s a whole other story. A story other people used to make up instead of me, including a whole lot more worries. But my wisdom belly (=gut feeling) never let me down on that part. Does the belly say: “Urgh, this feels weird”? Time to get out of there. Does the belly say: “Alright, this is cozy”? Time to grab the camping gear from the panniers and set camp for the night.
Anyway, that particular day when cheerfully enjoying the downhill of one of Montenegro’s mountains, I was doing exactly that - looking for a place to sleep because the sun was getting ready to go down. As you know, downhill always comes after a climb. And that specific climb was a pretty epic one, with crazy hot temperatures and quite steep, gravely slopes, and the very much needed swearing and sighing. This brought me to a beautiful monastery built into the hill side - which was quite an emotional experience in itself visiting this sacred place for so many people of different religions. Anyway, I was enjoying the downhill and decided to ask a few men working at a graveyard if they could help me out. As usual, communication at the time involved a few key words in Montenegrin language like ‘tsjator’ (=tent, I had to look this one up again - it’s been a few years you know) & a lot of body/sign language, but the guys knew what I was asking for and they sent me back up the hill again to one of the farms I just passed. Even though it was only 300m, I wasn’t very keen on that, but I did it anyway because my wisdom belly was curious about it.
After taking the small but steep climb up again, I took the little road downhill towards the farm again, with the same laughter as before. As you can imagine, that enthusiastic entrance created quite the alarm bells from all the farm animals that didn’t really expect to see a packed up bag with a crazy Belgian lady riding it.
That happy entrance immediately set the tone with the farm lady for the rest of the evening. We did not speak each other's language, still I was able to explain my story and she told me hers. I met the whole family and all the animals they kept, and received an amazing home-made farm festive meal (which was absolutely delicious, but also very much nog plant-based - which had the expected impact on my belly, but that’s a whole other story). And at the end of the night - which was about 5 minutes after I finished the meal, at about 7pm - I did not put my head down in my tent. Instead, I was able to sleep in a very soft bed with my head on a comfy pillow, right next to this woman I don’t even know the name of. We wished each other good night, both in our own language, and without understandable words, we exactly felt how big the connection was right then & there.
That bedroom was just about a size big enough for 2 beds - one for her & her husband, one for her son. Still, she managed to find a way - which was letting the husband sleep on the couch - to make sure I could have a good, safe & sound & soft sleep that night. She didn’t know, she didn’t speak my language, I looked really gross (offering a shower was always about the first thing people would do when inviting me - I wonder why?) but we connected, and it filled up my heart with gratitude and hope.
This is one of many stories I experienced, where each time over & over again I noticed that deep down, every single human being just wants to help out & connect.
What’s that like for you? How do you find connection in your life right now? During a time where connecting physically (which is a big part of the emotional bit) is linked to a fear of becoming ill or spreading a disease we still don’t know enough about. I looked & found connection virtually in the past few months, by teaching or taking part in workshops with like-minded people. And even though it’s not the same thing as the real deal and I sometimes wonder how & when I will be able to connect in real life again with people both physically close and far again, it’s a pretty good way to feel connected and fill up your heart for just one sec/min/hour or even day.
So, this week I have these 2 questions for you - to make life a bit more meaningful & cozy:
How do you experience #freedom in your life? Take the time for a minute to think about it and go look for it. A feeling of being free, whether it’s in time, in choices, geographically or emotionally - that’s the essence of how I want to live my life. It doesn’t have to be exactly that for you, but maybe when you open your mind to the idea - it will bring you something.
How do you find #connection with the people surrounding you? First of all with the people you already know, maybe by sending a kind message of sharing a glass/bottle of win. Second of all with people you might not know (yet), by sharing a kind smile with someone in the supermarket who is clearly having a hard time or leaving behind a surprise gift when going out for a walk for someone else to find. Or maybe just hang around a little while longer after very non-interesting team meetings, with your actually very cozy colleagues.
Those two things really really make life a little bit more meaningful. It can actually (I’ve seen & experienced it) get you out from under that dark lockdown cloud we’ve all been in for a while now.
I really believe that choosing to bring these two feelings - freedom & connection - more right in front of you into your life, will make a big difference in experiencing joy in your life.
So try it out, and let me know how it works out? I’m curious, as always, as you know!
Having a hard time actually finding these, or any other non-negotiable you set for yourself after reading the previous post? Let me know, because even virtually a coaching program might be so meaningful for you too, if you feel like you could really use that. Send me a message, and we’ll have a free first coaching session to see if what I love doing most can be of any help for you.
Anyway, three months later, I arrived back home (quite a little bit less clean) in Belgium, still with my bicycle & panniers, like a new version of me. In an old environment where, as Sam warned me about in time when I was traveling and feeling homesick, nothing really changed. And that feeling of freedom disappeared again, like snow on a sunny day.
Adding a disclaimer here: no, those 3 months were NOT all sunshine & rainbows. Both physically & mentally every second of every day feels like a rollercoaster - you know, that’s what soul-searching does to you.
But I would chose to leave and experience it all over again every single day. And actually I still do.
The thinking out of the box I did back then about basic needs, I can apply now on things that are a bit more deep & hidden.
And by diving into it and finding solutions, every single day of my life becomes more cozy, friendly, kind, loving & joyful. The change starts with me, and that way creates a more beautiful world
I know that now, but back then, after 3 months on my bicycle, being home again as a new Elise in an old environment - I wanted to leave again. As soon as possible. That story I’ll save for next time.
Lots of Love,