true choice is the ability to select an option that resonates with the intelligence of your body no matter the risk or cost.
by Matt Kahn
for twenty-six years i played it safe. then, for the next six years, i faced my unwelcome fears.
first, for 2.5 years, i traveled with money. then, for the next 3 years, i traveled with no money. fearless, then fearful i did what only few have ever done in the western world.
5.5 years. 33 countries. 4 continents. some language skills. hundreds of helpers. 10’000 km on a bicycle. and as a hopeful human, 36 months moneyless through 27 countries.
all of this in the name to make sense of the senseless world.
i see now. in the movie of my life, for thirty-two years, location independent, fears made choices on my behalf. not all choices. but majority of them.
in 2019, here’s how i would sum up three decades of my life – i stood at a crossroad, fuck i don’t know what to choose.
before travels, all choices ever made had to please my mom. i hated and admired her skilful manipulation, her wants and needs and desires that got glued onto me. between the age of 8 to 21 i obeyed to her rules in the breathless space of codependent patterns.
she said, “come home after school.” which read, i wasn’t allowed to spend time with friends. and it didn’t feel good.
she said, “you have to go.” which read, i had to go to an art school for seven years a row from which the last 5-years i hated going. but she kept paying and saying that i have to go. and it didn’t feel good.
she said, “she didn’t invite you. you can’t invite her.” which read, i had to remove names from my birthday list until i hated birthdays and stopped celebrating them overall. and it didn’t feel good.
she said, “make me a card. you know how to draw.” which read, i had to craft whatever cards for whoever for years at end to the point of hating art. and it didn’t feel good.
she said, “watch how you talk around people. it’s terrible. you’re such a tomboy.” which read, she protected her name for whatever cost. and it didn’t feel good.
she said, “i like this. try it on.” which read, i had to wear clothes and shoes that were the ugliest i had ever seen wherein with the same amount of money i could’ve had quality stuff i actually liked. and it didn’t feel good.
she said, “why do you have to go outside, again? can’t you stay at home?” which read, i had to be at the house during school holidays for no reason at all. and it didn’t feel good.
she said, “when you go to high school you don’t get my financial support.” which read, i had to go to a secondary school and pick a profession from the choice of terrible. and it didn’t feel good.
she said, “leave me alone.” and then snapped, “don’t ask so much.” which read, i had to throw away my words and questions of why. and it didn’t feel good.
she said, “stop being stupid.” which read, i had to silence my laughter and hide my feelings whenever they escaped my self-made prison. and it didn’t feel good.
i earned points doing what i was told. doing things i disagreed with. i was never asked what i like. what i love. when i voiced my wants and needs and desires she said, “you’re just a child. what do you know?” or even better, “it’s my money, i do what i want with it.”
with her, nothing felt good.
even my friends were afraid of my mom. they kept their distance. and when cornered to talked they were polite and straightforward and short in answers.
well, you get the point.
but i was stubborn. i bent some rules and i lashed out.
still, whatever i did, i was her push n’ play doll of earthly obedience. and in that space, i sabotaged my wants and needs and desire because i couldn’t have her mad at me.
but outside the home i was tough.
i made sure people know my wants and needs and desires. i was honest and brave and happy and funny. i also blew up in a snap and i slammed doors nonstop. at least that’s the impression everyone got while inside, i drowned in doubt with thoughts, “no one likes me,” or “i have to be funnier to be included,” or “i am not pretty enough,” or “i am not smart enough.”
all my choices at all times came from here — what will they say when i do this? or what will they do? or what will they think? and how will they see me? am i going to get more of what i want — feel good — or i am going to get what i don’t want — not feel good, be scared and confused?
i found it impossible to make choices in endless options.
i played gazillion scenarios in my head. i whipped together my limited ideas to get more of what i want and less of what i don’t want. but it never worked. and it never felt good. whatever my choice, i swam in the turbulence of human interaction.
then i finished school. that felt good.
i finally went to live on my own. well, not quite. my worries traveled with me. but i felt a victory to eventually win the game to get less of what i hate and more of what i love.
but that freedom had a price. half of my salary washed down with monthly expenses. the rest was spent on stuff. i had always something to buy. like technology. or sporting goods. the list was long. it never died. and before i noticed i shopped daily. not just stuff but people, places, things.
nothing felt good.
i had friends. i had simple luxuries with toys i wanted. but love was foreign. and connection with people, places, things felt non-existing.
then adventure came along. that felt good.
but still, i felt empty. life felt empty.
work-work-work. money-money-money. stuff-stuff-stuff. the endless cycle of soulful death. i had enough of this, so i jumped off the moving wheel. i retreated from structure and became a nomad. i wished to see what happens when spontaneous lifestyle makes choices on my behalf.
then people, places, things whizzed through my life.
i had more freedom in my hands as never before. i worked. i traveled. i connected. and i baked in silence with thoughts like this — why everything feels so meaningless? why can’t i express my emotions? why, why, why? fuck, this world feels senseless.
nature was just nature.
beach was just a beach.
animals were just animals.
all boring. and emotionless.
i was thousands of kilometres away from my mothers grip but i felt her presence everywhere i went. talking with my mom never felt good but i wanted it more than the moon and the sun and the nature of all things. i wanted peace. i wanted connection. i wanted love. and i felt as if she had a role to play in my wants and needs and desires. i hated my conclusions but they felt true me.
as time went by, moments of darkness dropped down on me.
no one but me knew, that on the road, for years, in the tip of the pyramid i had three worst options — (1) go home to estonia, (2) take my life, or (3) continue and survive the outcomes i face.
i loved life. i hated life.
my days were periods of profound expansion and contraction, shifting between extraordinary highs and infinite lows.
at all times, my selection process went like this. i crossed home. i couldn’t face my mom and get stuck in workaholism. it didn’t feel good. i crossed killing myself. i couldn’t escape from life with an easy fix to the misery inside. it didn’t feel good. so i took what was left — i continued to survive. it felt good but in it, i was scared shitless.
as time went by, again and again, i picked the best out of worst.
then moneyless travels came along. that felt good.
i abandoned money to build a foundation of faith and trust to people, places, things. to unlearn and to relearn the ways i had come to see this world. also, the best of the worst hitched a ride with me. i couldn’t shake it off. i had no control.
day by day, i dived deeper into the unknown by being and doing. by observing. but little did i know, with no money to spend, i had to face my unwanted fears. all of them. every-single-one-of-them. one by one. it was the only way i could survive. it meant, i had to open myself up when it didn’t feel safe in order for safety to be discovered.
my first week of moneyless travels revealed to me — asking for help felt good to my heart but scary to my mind. i was not used to be vulnerable in the eyes of another, to admit, i need help.
in the beginning, i filed away unwanted thoughts, you are pathetic, get a job, and stop begging. i got to see that all worry-based thoughts had something in common.
i was afraid to ask for help in the fear of rejection.
i was afraid to ask for food in the fear of rejection.
i was afraid to knock on doors in the fear of rejection.
it sounded familiar. my patterns of home traveled with me.
this was it. i needed a change. and from then on, i knew i need to go where’s fear. and it felt good going there.
but in the process, i got tangled in thoughts, what’s the best way to ask for food? maybe if i phrase it like this — “i am elsa from estonia and i travel moneyless. could you help me with a bit food?” no-no, that’s no good. maybe skip the word moneyless? or leave it in? oh, i know. ask for leftovers. but first say hi. then introduce yourself. then ask. and if they say no, then don’t forget to say thank you. okay, got it? go.
opportunities were everywhere but my ability to ask was paralysed in fear. i justified my action with thoughts like this, no, he’s not gonna help me. he has no leftovers. and, no, she sells some to buy some. and, i look wealthy compared to all of them. how can i approach? i feel i am a cheat.
i thought, how convenient is paying and going.
less connecting. less vulnerability. less of everything.
but i chose my path. i chose moneyless. that was my freedom of choice. live or die, i continued. i was hungry. and i had to eat. so i faced my fears. i focused on what i need — food — and what feels good to me — honesty.
since then i went where’s fear and led with courage. it felt good going there.
i did it with people, places, things.
i allowed others to have their feelings, thoughts, words and actions no matter the risk or cost. no matter if i liked what they said or did or thought. and i allowed it all to change me, shape me and shatter me apart.
my medicine was the polarity of opposites. to guide my fear-based thinking back to love.
i asked myself, does it feel good? is it aligned with my highest values?
when it felt good but my mind was scared, i faced my fears. i just kept on going. no matter the risk or cost. after all, it felt good going there. it felt true.
i welcomed people, places, things. everyone and everything that entered my field. i met whoever i met. i slept wherever i slept. i ate whatever i ate. i had whatever i had. i thought whatever i thought. i felt whatever i felt. and it felt good.
gradually, my imaginary stories of likes and dislikes, good and bad, love and fear, began to release its grip on me. i felt how diversity walked by my side. it pushed me forward to a life of greater meaning. to a life unheard and unseen by me.
my blind spots were shattered. more light washed in. i wonder now, how could’ve i known that to face my fears would open up the world in view?
nothing was easy. but it felt good going there.
i bowed to fear, to it’s power. i said my thanks while i grew in respect toward it.
then cycling came along. that felt good.
before i jumped on the bike, i saw my mom from a different light. she wanted more of what she loves and less of what she hates. just like me. no difference at all. she made choices on my behalf as if she was living in my skin. but my body was mine with my wants and my needs and my desires. as hers, was hers. that’s the beauty of diversity in godly play.
i remember, at all times, my moms choices activated fear within me. i didn’t feel relaxed. never. ever. in her presence i never felt heard. i never felt seen. and it didn’t feel good.
but in the directionless perfection of my highest destiny they gave me the tools i use today. tools that are my breath and air. tools that help me to feel more relaxed at anytime, at anywhere. tools that help me to open up to the world in view.
for me, choosing love is rooted in a simple question — how does it make me feel? does it make me feel fearful or relaxed? does it open me up or shut me down?
when i feel fearful, it’s not my choice. it’s not my truth. because it doesn’t feel good going there.
instead, i choose what feels good or i go without.
i have noticed, choice only lives in the present moment. what feels good today might not feel good tomorrow. so i can’t predict what’s up ahead.
in my case, i have often gone where’s fear. not choosing fear but going where’s fear. choosing whatever feels good going for, either with or without the voice of worry barking in my head.
if worry is there, i give a voice to the voiceless parts within. first, i allow it to be heard. i allow it to be seen. then, i admit my truth. this hurts. or, i don’t like it. i am honest with what i think and how i feel. and i voice it out. i treat my fear like a 5-year-old child crying in pain. i nurture it. and i talk with it.
throughout years i’ve learned, it matters what i say to myself when worry visits me. and i say, i love you. i hear you. lets take one step at at time. together we can do it.
this has helped me to unravel the ego in the choices i make.
sometimes what’s meant to be may not be what i want but it’s always what i need for my highest evolution in human form.
my heart says, “whatever choice i make it’s the highest option for everyone’s healing journey.” i’ve noticed, many don’t like the choices i make but it’s courage to stay true to my values. i feel alive in this. not suicidal, not anymore. and it feels good.
i’ve hated inconveniences, frustrations, loss and change but it’s only here to make me better as never before. they are gifts that keep on giving. the generosity of the world showed me that. my mom showed me that.
but all that said, there’s polarity alive in me. and i am okay with that. i welcome it with openness. when my body says, it feels good, and my mind says, i am afraid, i listen to both but i choose the compass of my body. meaning, i go where’s fear and lead with courage.
i’ve noticed, when something has unravelled within then something else appears in view. every-single-time. its as if a runner is passing a baton to another runner in a relay race with words, “its your turn now. make her better as never before.” but here’s a difference, it’s is not a race against time. instead, it’s learning to be patient with myself in loving-kindness.
nowadays i talk with myself. i say, “thank you for not giving me what i want. for blowing apart my expectations. for you are only momentarily disappointing me to expand my horizons because you have something bigger and more miraculous for me to receive. thank you universe. i will surrender to the bigness of this gift. please blow my mind. and thank you for choosing me for this mission.”
i welcome it all — thoughts, emotions, feelings, people, places, things — no matter the risk or cost.
it’s closing the circle. it’s coming home to myself.
i see now. any worry is perpetuating fear. and fear, it can learn to love. with one choice at a time i see the evolutionary gifts of fear. fear and i, we’ve become friends. and here i give credit to fear and to myself. my ups and downs have balanced. i swim in greater moments of relaxation. and i feel safe in my skin as never before. with one heartfelt choice at a time i help fear enter into the light where it belongs.
in the aftermath of my nomadic travels i wrote a reminder to myself.
i sliced words — choice and decision — into separate links to make sense of it all.
choice is a high quality option at any given moment based on what feels good to one’s heart, no matter what others might feel, think, say or do.
decision is a worry based option at any given moment where one makes a choice based on what others might feel, think, say or do.
i choose my battles. my responses. i own my choice.
i keep going and asking — does it feel good?
if it doesn’t feel good, it’s not my current truth. it’s not my choice.
if i’m unclear, i go without.
if it feels good, it’s my current truth. and it’s my choice.
here’s an advice i give to myself.
be kind to yourself — choose good. choose love. or choose the best out of worst. go where’s fear and lead with courage, no matter the risk or cost. you can’t go wrong.
and here’s today’s question to your heart.