Lean Forward and Just Let Go

“How are you feeling Greta, are you scared?”  I grin widely and shake my head no.  “What’s your social security number? Just kidding, I better see that smile when we get to the bottom.”  My skydiving instructor laughed lightly at his own joke, I felt a tickle in my chest and laughed as well as the small biplane banked slightly.  It was almost time to jump; I was ready.  I glanced across the plane where my brother sat, he too had a wide grin on his face.  I gave him a thumbs up as I was strapped onto my instructor for my first tandem skydive, here we go.

As I leaned out over the edge, I had no instinct to hold on any longer, no desire to pull myself back into the safety of the plane, I quite simply just leaned forward and let go.  As we were free falling my eyes raced to see as far as I could see, to witness as much of this Earth that I could fit into view as I fell back down to it.  I wanted to absorb every detail, to etch it into memory.  The wind pulled at my cheeks, broadening my smile even further.  With an abrupt tug, we were safely floating by parachute, enjoying the gorgeous day, reveling in the quietness that was so contrast with the roaring wind from a moment before.  I let out a giggle, overflowing with glee, that was simply too much fun.

I was 22 the first time I jumped out of a perfectly good plane.  It was probably the riskiest thing I had ever done at that point in my life.  Taking that leap of faith would come to be somewhat of a trend in other areas of my life, moments when I would realize the opportunity at hand, ultimately trusting that I was meant to land on my feet.  In every instance it has been worth the flutter of the heart as I leapt into the unknown.

Risk is a funny thing, it both inspires innovation and spurs imagination, while also confronting vulnerability and discomfort.  Risk pushes us to perform beyond the best of our ability, it takes us out of our comfort zones where real growth is tangible.  That risk I took jumping out of the plane had very real consequences, positive and negative consequences that ran parallel and a mix of luck, fate and preparation helped determine my experience of these consequences.

Over the years I’ve tried to make a habit of embracing risk with the same zest that I do when I jump out of planes; to maintain that thirst for experience, that desire to soak in every ounce of living from the moment I have left the ledge, stepped away from the safety zone, let go of the security and comforts of that which I am used to and acquainted with.

At this very moment, the sound of seagulls fills my ears.  The sun is warm, gently kissing my face as it slowly wakes up the rest of Valparaiso.  I sit from a balcony, overlooking the colorful city, homes of every shade of pastel you can imagine, ships sitting out in the harbor, the Pacific resting calmly to my left as I look out over the rolling hills.  It is quiet, the sounds of morning dominated by birds, with faint ship engines motoring off in the distance.  I have been exploring, and this place has filled me with imagination and wonder.  The cobblestone streets, the homes painted so many various hues of color delight at every turn.  Risk brought me to this little city by the sea built up into the the hills, whose charm is intoxicating alongside its grit.  A leap of faith brought me to this very moment that is filling me with so much joy and wonder. 

I believe that each and every one of us feels a tug to do something every once in a while that others may consider crazy.  Every single one of us has ideas that seem perhaps too risky, that we may be too easily talked out of.  Yet, there is greatness in taking bold action, there is so much growth awaiting us in the discomfort of the unknown.  To defy the fears of others, and perhaps the fears of yourself, by listening to the desires within and taking that leap of faith- this is truly living.  I recently walked away from a lot of very obvious opportunity for perhaps the less obvious ones.  Making that bold move, to write a chapter where I would be drawing on every ounce of strength I could muster, where I would again be searching every landscape to etch in memory the beauty it beheld, that has pushed me beyond what I believed capable, this is my latest leap of faith, and the journey has just begun.

A week ago I was rock climbing gorgeous granite deep in the Andes, discovering waterfalls and meeting the sunrise as it spilled through deep valleys.  Two days ago I was galloping horses up a mountain outside of the gorgeous organic vineyard where we’ve been learning about biodynamic viticulture. Today I am walking the streets of Valparaiso, ready to further discover this place, ready to soak in as much as I can with eyes of wonder.  Tomorrow, well, who knows where tomorrow will lead, but I will be sure to take a moment to acknowledge with gratitude the decision to take this leap, to embrace this risk, to lean forward and just let go.  Today, I let out a giggle of glee, this is simply too much fun. 

So, what is that thing that makes your heart skip a beat?  What is that leap of faith you have only imagined taking, but haven’t given it serious thought, yet?  Think about it, imagine it taking shape, and believe that you really are strong enough to lean forward and just let go.

The view from where I sit, writing this post. Valparaiso is a gem of beauty and grit, a lovely place to meander, to explore and to imagine.

Follow that Ever-So-Bold Heart

Following my heart across the Appalachian mountains- just at the start of my five month journey, loving the rugged wilderness of Maine.

Following my heart across the Appalachian mountains- just at the start of my five month journey, loving the rugged wilderness of Maine.

Often times when I speak about my travels, my work or the adventures I’ve had, people ask me how I got here, how I’ve made those things happen.  And it’s funny, because the first time I was asked that I didn’t even think about it, I simply responded that I “have a tendency to follow my heart.” In a kind of weird way, it’s actually that simple.

Throughout our lives, we are all faced with millions of decisions- many of which we don’t even acknowledge because our brains are too busy filtering out the unfamiliar so we can make sense of it all in the comfort of the familiar.  Our hearts don’t really work that way though.  Within the heart, we have the comfort of intuition, the quiet, sure, “knowing” self that never demands center stage but always comes through in times of need.

I suppose I was a pretty self-aware kid growing up.  At a very young age, I learned what it was to work hard for something I loved and I never questioned that work, no matter how challenging.  I knew that if I was pursuing my love I was following my heart, and that very basic principle became my guiding light at the ripe age of 7.  It has translated over the years through the course of the jobs I’ve taken, opportunities I’ve pursued as well as those I’ve walked away from.

Our hearts can be pretty bold forces in this world, when given the chance.  Mine has certainly led me down paths that my rational mind challenged with fear and doubt. The beauty of it is that when you commit to the heart, when you commit to that bold voice within you, you are overtaken with a strength that allows you to look ahead, to set intentions without expectations, and to boldly go where you’ve never gone before.

Today I sit in gratitude for the boldness of my heart, for her constant guiding confidence, for the places she’s taken me, and for this next adventure whose ledge I rest upon.  In several weeks, my husband and I move to Chile with our dog, and only whatever we can manage to carry comfortably.  What do we seek? We seek a beautiful story, we seek adventure, we seek the friends we have yet to meet and the places that will take our breath away.  We seek that which pulls our hearts to a place neither of us has ever been, yet one that will no doubt push us beyond what we feel we are capable of. And we embrace it.

This state of being reminds me of another time, when I sat quietly contemplating an adventure that took every ounce of boldness within my being- the decision to walk continuously for 2,176 miles, from Maine all the way to Georgia, with my then boyfriend of 8 months (now the very same husband embarking on this Chile adventure).  This journal entry nicely captured the essence of embracing that boldness:

2008, April: “Oh this life…these twists and turns and winding trails of this beautiful life.  I’ve been longing to write- aching for it;  and yet you’ve sat by as my life is jarring and spinning.  Being in the woods again and writing takes me back to China, the hours of walking, the solitude and comfort in discomfort.  And I meditate on the new discomfort I will soon carry and embrace- to walk for hours, days, weeks and months.  To carry all of my belongings on my back and cherish the simplicity of my daily choices. 

The primary anxiety is only in the here and now, wanting so badly to wrap everything up finally- sell the car, pay off the last of the credit cards, everything else sold, stored or forwarded; all that remains of Greta either in motion or in memory.

I crave a shift in perspective- the change this will bring to my pursuits and my lifestyle, the chapter of my life that will be as foreign as those that unfolded before it.  There is no doubt it’s what I should do, regardless of how I came about doing it.  I am so ready to again embrace the beautiful boldness I felt not so long ago as I walked along the other side of the world.”

What bold step have you taken by acknowledging your heart’s desire?

What adventure did you embrace with the strength drawn from knowing it was just what you were meant to do, and that was all the reason needed?