How do you peel our cultures film from your eyes so that you can see what’s really there for you?
What waits beneath the expectations…..the communities that dictate what color you can paint your house, the schools that consider pink-haired children “dangerous”?
How do we prevent civilization from falling into chaos without making our ideals into idols?
Isabella almost missed her calling in the midst of tea tables and big-skirted expectations in 1800’s Britain. It took poor health to shake her out of being the lady the Victorian age demanded of her.
Plagued by back aches, headaches and what we know now as depression, Isabella was miserable. At sixteen, doctors found a fibroid tumor near her spine. The pain was so great that she agreed to surgery despite the fact that anesthesia was not yet available and the risk of death from infection was very high.
She survived and recovered, although pain was with her daily.
“Take a sea voyage for a change of air”, was the advice of her Dr. Her supportive father handed her a bag of money and with his blessing sent her off.
She was never the same again.
On that first voyage to Maine, the boat was met by a gale, which nearly tore it to pieces. Isabella was knocked out when thrown against a beam by a wave.
She loved it.
While everyone else was terrified for their lives, Isabella found incredible freedom as that wave knocked the confinements out of her life.
The aches and pains disappeared as Isabella found life outside of the norm. At home, where women were expected to knit their lives away, Isabella found herself an outsider; it made her literally ill. But in adventure, she found her freedom.
When Isabella came back from her travels, she started writing about them. She found success with this until she became ill again after losing her mother.
Back on the boat she went, and thrived as she saw the world. Hawaii, the Colorado Rockies, China, Japan and so on. Each time she returned home, she wrote about her journeys, turning articles into books and gaining respect for her accuracy and bravery. She traveled into remote areas that many well-known explorers had failed to reach. In one of her letters to her sister, Henrietta, she finds the authentic:
“In a land where there are no carpets, no fires, no dust, no hot water needed, no windows open and shut, people live more happily than any I have seen elsewhere. It is pleasant to be among people whose faces are not soured by the east wind, or wrinkled by the worrying effort to ‘keep up appearances’; who have no formal visiting, but real sociability; who regard the light manual labor of domestic life as a pleasure, not a thing to be ashamed of.”
Isabella married Dr. John Bishop in 1881 and settled in Edinburgh. They weren’t married long before he succumbed to illness. In his memory, she set up mission hospitals in India, and then continued traveling into the mountains of Tibet.
She made her last journey in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco in her early 70’s.
True freedom is found in digging out from under expectations and into the design of God.
How do you see boundaries today? We don’t want to see Lord of the Flies happen, of course, but maybe you have been able recognize restrictions that have no purpose other than to please society? Have a story? Please share it in the comments.