This guest post from Elizabeth Milligan reminds us that listening to our wild soul calling can provide important clues to a more wholehearted life.
This is the second guest post in our Wholehearted Stories series on Quiet Writing. I invited readers to consider submitting a guest post on their wholehearted story. You can read more here – and I’m still keen for more contributors if you are interested.
Quiet Writing celebrates self-leadership in wholehearted living and writing, career and creativity. This community of voices, with each of us telling our own story of what wholehearted living means, is a valuable and central part of this space. In this way, we can all feel connected on our various journeys and not feel so alone. Whilst there will always be unique differences, there are commonalities that we can all learn from and share to support each other.
I am honoured to have my online friend, Elizabeth Milligan, as a ‘Wholehearted Stories’ contributor. Elizabeth and I met through Susannah Conway’s e-course, Blogging From the Heart, years ago now, and have followed and celebrated each other’s journeys ever since.
My sincere thanks to Elizabeth for the contribution of her beautiful personal story to Quiet Writing, including the stunning images from her journey. It’s a journey that has taken her to many new and rediscovered places – read on to find out more!
My wild soul is calling
It’s difficult to say where my story of living a more wholehearted life started. There was no one dramatic, life-changing event. It was more of an ongoing unease and restlessness that prodded me awake at night through my twenties and thirties. A gentle tap-tapping, a whispering breeze, a far-off voice calling my name. I tried to listen and follow my heart. I travelled widely and far afield but I never found an answer. I kept on moving. I switched careers, jobs and countries more times than I can recall, but still something was missing. Depression hit me. Anger. Despair. Why couldn’t I just be? Why the restlessness? The continual searching?
I arrived at my forties and decided it was stability I needed. I stopped moving, got a job, met a man. For a time I was able to breathe. The elation and euphoria of a new love blotted out all other concerns. Or did it? Soon the question of our combined futures was gently raised, and it turned out we were both looking for something other than the lives we were leading. Ten months into our new life together we jumped ship, left the city and ran away to the countryside. The plan was to use our savings, take a sabbatical of sorts from life and work in the city and do something more creative with our days, surrounded by nature. We found a housesit in the middle of nowhere in rural France, gave notice on our jobs, put our stuff into storage, and set off.
Doing the groundwork
It sounds like this was all a smooth transition, but in reality there was a lot going on before any of it could happen. I’m talking about mind-set and subtle changes that take place through conversation, discussion, self-questioning and research. Where ideas and thoughts start to become viable possibilities. I had been listening to Danielle LaPorte’s Fire Starter Sessions and was wanting to take a more proactive approach to my life based on my true values. I had made my first vision board and stuck it on the wall opposite my bed so it was the first thing I saw in the morning and the last thing at night. I wasn’t really sure what I was looking for but I was certain I was looking for something different.
I felt like I had spent the best part of my life as an observer and onlooker. When was I going have the starring role in my own life rather than a sad, out-of-camera cameo? I could see very clearly where I was in life and to most people, this probably looked like a pretty good place. A good job in a nice French city, a leisurely cycle to work, regular meetings in Paris, outdoor markets for shopping, and beautiful city parks or the hills of Beaujolais for weekend jaunts. But in reality, my job was boring me to tears. It was not who I was and it was not what I wanted. I felt guilty for not wanting it but I just couldn’t do it anymore.
I realised things had to change and I had become aware of other options. Instead of constantly trying to quash the panic and feeling of wanting to run, like I’d been doing for so long, it was time to listen to my gut and break free.
Taking a risk and breaking free
So we took a risk, threw everything up in the air and allowed the universe to catch us. Ever since I read the books of Oriah Mountain Dreamer many moons ago I have wanted to trust in the power of the universe, to open up and surrender to something bigger and infinitely more powerful than we will ever be. This was my chance. I knew that we were going on a journey but I didn’t realise, and still don’t fully understand, the long-term implications of that decision we made one warm summer’s evening in our tiny French apartment.
Before arriving at our housesit, an isolated farmhouse sitting alone in over one hundred acres of rambling fields, I had no plan of what I would do every day. I wanted to see how things would unfold. I was not going to force myself to do anything. I was craving unstructured days and freedom and this was the perfect opportunity.
Finding my inner child
Being completely free with no commitments, no expectations from anyone, and no structure in the day is rather strange at this age. I can see how some people may be uncomfortable with this, but for me it was a wonderful and decadent regression. I felt like a child left behind in a secret world after all the adults had gone home.
I found a pair of wellington boots that fit me and spent my days in wellingtons and shorts trudging around the fields spotting the local wildlife. Deer, hares, coypu, egrets, foxes, wild boar, although these I never saw. I only heard them some nights when the moon was full, calling across the fields with their terrifying blood-curdling screams. I chopped wood for the fire and foraged for herbs and fruit, making nettle soup, elderberry jam and mountains of quince chutney. I made friends with the barn owl that lived in the unused kitchen chimney, and the bats that flew around at night, often through the open windows. I watched the sunrise in the morning and the sunset at night and every full moon I would run into the field behind the barn to catch the first glimpse on the horizon.
Feeling like I was finally in my true environment, I became re-acquainted with the little girl inside and realised with relief that she hadn’t left me after all. She had just been hiding and waiting for the right conditions to show herself again. As a child I loved cycling and I had forgotten what fun it was to cycle around quiet country lanes. Using bikes we found in the barn we started cycling to the shops for our groceries instead of driving. When the weather was warm we would stop off and swim in the river on the journey home. I felt alive. I felt in touch with this beautiful planet we live on. I had rediscovered a missing piece of the puzzle.
Rewriting my story
The next piece of the puzzle I found was regarding personality type. I was in an online group of women and one week a discussion about personality type came up. This was new for me so I did an online test and identified as personality type INFP on the Myers-Briggs scale.
This means nothing if you don’t know about this scale. But what the test results revealed was that I was an introvert. I had never considered whether I was extrovert or introvert before but the realisation felt like the penny dropping. I suddenly saw my past with startling clarity. I had felt like an outsider my whole life. An observer. Someone who kept their distance. I thought I was maybe anti-social. I had been called shy and quiet at best, and aloof and stand-offish at worst. Here was something saying I was perfectly normal and not only that, other people felt the same way too.
I realised that if the stories I had been telling myself were no longer true then everything could change. If I nurtured my introvert qualities and stopped trying to be extrovert like the world seems to want, then I could rewrite not only my past, but my future. Astounding.
Freeing my creative soul
So I started to nurture my newly discovered introvert self. I very tentatively started to allow myself to enjoy being who I was, rather than reprimanding myself for not being someone I wasn’t. I tried to stop worrying about all the things I was not and focus on all the things I was. Of course, this is easier said than done. But what seemed to help me was the daily pursuit of a more creative way of life.
To document life in the farmhouse I had started a blog and this became my way of communicating my newly discovered introvert self to the outside world. Using writing and photography I started expressing myself and sharing my journey online. Later on in our housesitting adventures, I would learn to express myself through art, something I had sadly locked away for years but which thankfully resurfaced along with other creative pursuits as yet another important, and previously missing, piece of the puzzle.
Intuition as a guiding light
Trusting my intuition, although incredibly difficult at times, has become a guiding light on my journey. If I had planned things out too much I would never have discovered my creative side as I have, because I would have been busy committing to those plans. I still have a lot of problems trusting my intuition and tend always to look outward first even though I know that only I have the answers to the deep questions I ask myself. But I’m slowly learning to take the lead in my own life. Inhabiting my life with my creative, nature loving, introverted self rather than filling the role of onlooker in a life that appears alien to me.
Bit by bit the negative and fractious energy built around the person I thought I should be has dissolved and been replaced by a more positive, gentle, flowing energy that is built around who I truly am. Some parts of me I am still shy to show to the world, but these things take time and if I continue to trust my intuition then I am sure everything will slot into place as and when it needs to.
The struggle of self-discovery
All of these new experiences and discoveries were not without struggle though. My demons showed up time and time again in dark moods, self-doubt, fear, impatience and insomnia. Try to imagine this wonderful farmhouse in rural France in the middle of winter when we have been living in a grey cloud for the past few weeks. There is no dry wood for the fire and the wind is howling through the badly fitting doors and windows. The boiler keeps blowing out so there is no hot water and we are sitting there in the kitchen with our demons wondering how long you can spend in such isolation before going completely insane.
In dialogue with my demons
This part of my journey I was not prepared for. But one by one as the demons showed up at the door, snarling at me in disgust, taunting me with their snide comments of ‘not good enough’, ‘failure’ and other such niceties, I invited them in and I sat with them. Quietly hearing them out until they had no more to say and disappeared off, one by one, back into the mist. I knew they would return but I felt like it would be ok. For the first time in my life I had opened up a dialogue with my own mind and somewhere deep inside I knew this to be a turning point and something to learn from. I am still learning, but I now know that once we let the light in and start to show up every day as our true selves, everything changes.
We never did go back to real life, whatever that is, like we sensibly thought we would after our one year sabbatical, now four years ago. Our savings lasted longer than we thought and it was difficult to say no to other housesits. A winter by the sea looking after a tiny hotel. Another two winters looking after an 18th century château and the resident cat. A summer in a city apartment in Copenhagen.
The way forward
I’m not sure what’s next and I’m not sure it really matters. My life has changed from the inside out and although I know I’m not there yet, I’m certainly on my way to living a much more wholehearted life. Letting go of what no longer serves me and focusing on what lights me up. Most importantly though, I’m enjoying the journey. ♥
About Elizabeth Milligan
Elizabeth is an aromatherapist and quiet creative. She is currently redesigning her life and work around her own wholehearted values of creativity, positive interaction with nature, and slow and simple living. You can find Elizabeth online at www.elizabethmilligan.com or on Instagram and Twitter as @libbylibellule.
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