This word means different things to different people but ultimately, in my eyes, it is the most powerful state of being that any human can attain in the quest to living a life full of peace and contentment. It is the ultimate factor to dictate our lives and it is one of the hardest to attain.
When we hear the word it often brings to mind the opposite. Jail. Slavery. Something many live with in this world. Depending on where you live and the human right conditions even those two things are radically different. I wouldn’t want to go to jail in Canada where I live but the thought of jail in a foreign country scares the crap out of me. Slavery still exists. Not just in a historical connotation where people own other people. Every time you buy a cheap article of clothing produced in countries with few or no labour laws, you contribute to the slavery of workers who have no choice but to work long hard hours for little money. To others the word freedom represents independence or lack of restrictions. As we saw all across the world during the lockdowns due to the rising rates of Covid-19, people eventually fought back. They want the right to chose. No matter where we live or how we are raised, as people age they find an increased longing for freedom. The reality is no matter how much freedom we have, we think we need more.
The first time you are allowed to walk somewhere alone. Learning to ride a bike and then having the permission to ride to a friends. These were great things in my childhood where I felt free. On my own. Making decisions for myself. So much of our childhood is restricted. While we feel safe under the protection of our elders, there is always the longing to break free. Being given responsibility when I was younger also brought great freedom in my own decision making. Along with that also came the fact that I had to accept the consequences of my actions, good or bad. That was the hardest lesson to learn on my journey into independence. I find it interesting as a woman into my seventh decade, how many people I know who have yet to figure that part out. Every action has a consequence. We have to take responsibility for them all. Not just the one’s with a good outcome.
The hardest part of being a parent is finding the boundary between raising and teaching a child and keeping them safe and the more damaging role of control and manipulation. These little people are not our possessions. They are people. Because they trust us purely and blindly sometimes we can cross the line. Because we feel the power we have over them. It takes a strong person to love a child so much that they give and give and give knowing this child will never love them as much in return. We raise them to leave us. To go and live their lives independently. That is the greatest gift you can give a child. I loved my parents very much even when they made me nuts. But after I held my first child, I knew the difference. That bond is so strong. It is overwhelming. But if we don’t let them live their own lives and make their own mistakes, we deprive them of their own freedom. Along with that, we stop them from growing into strong adults. Strong parents. Because we keep them as children in big bodies. They have to fake it because they just aren’t sure how to be an adult. All for the sake of our own ego. Or perhaps our fear of having to live life on our own. You know. Take responsibility for just ourselves. I have a child who hasn’t liked me for twenty seven years. I will always love her. Even if it means I have to let her walk away. That is freedom for us both.
It is tough to move through the stages of life. And it certainly hard to give up control. When I was first married I struggled with my in-laws. Whose kidding who. I always struggled with them. My husband always felt pulled two ways between his role of oldest son and that of husband and father. I tried very hard in the beginning to be the “go along gal.” It was tough. The more I gave in, the more it seemed I was expected to give in. In time I felt I had very little control over my own life. As a very independent child and teen I found my adult life very stifling. It was my own fault though. I truly thought that if I changed what the in-laws didn’t like it would make life easier. At least on my husband. Then maybe he would like me more. Because as the years passed I became more and more unhappy. He was more and more angry. Life sucked man in those early years. We were drifting apart. Until I decided to leave. Our family lawyer had other ideas though. He suggested counselling. I went alone many times throughout my marriage but it was very empowering. But it was the first time that gave me a great deal of insight into what I was dealing with. You see, knowledge is power. My in-laws lived with alcoholism. Who they were and how they acted had absolutely nothing to do with me. It saved me and it saved my marriage. I was free to be me. Go back to who I was. It was a little hard on my husband but over the years it only helped us. We gave each other the space and freedom to be who we needed to be. We lived honestly. It wasn’t until my husband became terminally ill that he truly let me into the deep part of his life. His childhood. The secrets he carried for sixty three years. The things he was afraid to deal with. He learned a great lesson. Nothing really matters.
I have known a great number of people who have compromised themselves for others. Women do it a lot. Stay in a marriage that is controlling or abusive because they afraid to make it on their own. My daughter Drew said something interesting the other day. She sent me a screenshot of an acquaintance with the caption “Anything for the gram”. I had no idea what she meant. Turns out gram is instagram Who knew? Probably everyone but me. Yet she was right. Some people do all they can to give the illusion of a perfect life. Sometimes people are like birds in a cage. In some cases the cages are pretty nice. Lavish and beautiful. No expense spared. Only the biggest and best cage for them. But in the end, its still a cage. Isn’t it.
Breaking the bonds in life is hard. But if you really think about it it is harder to live a lie. With slavery a persons body is owned. I don’t know how I would survive but there are those who do. Because they don’t allow their minds to be broken. Their thoughts are free. Even if they have to pretend. Sadly there are people whose bodies are free and yet they are living a life in a jail. Too often the jail is of their own making. They give up their independent thoughts and throw away their autonomy. They accept the decisions of others without even thinking about what they really want in life. They go along. Thinking it will be easier. But in the end it isn’t easy. Because the resentment grows or perhaps the unhappiness builds. I don’t know about you but I don’t think we were put on this earth to go through the motions. To become almost like robots. Slog along in a job we hate. Stay in a marriage with an abuser. Tip toe around a narcissist because we are afraid of yet more payback. More abuse. Or just pretend that everything is okay. When it isn’t. Hide the hurt. Hide the pain. Put on a smile. And then what? Well you die hopefully with lots of people saying nice things. I don’t think that’s how I want to go out.
Life is work, but only if you make it that way. I have lived alone for 29 months now. First time in my life. Each day is a surprise. Sometimes there are appointments. Doctor. Dentist. Tee time. Personal trainer. People whose lives revolve around a clock. For the most part life has very little structure for me. It was like that for many years with my husband. We did our own thing but so much was impromptu. Walks. Motorbike rides. Movies. Eating out. One of us would decide to do something and the other would say okay. I’ll come. It was good. It was peaceful and our lives were content. What has changed is that now I do it alone. In fact, although I golfed in two ladies groups for the last two summers, this year I have been booking in as a single. Yesterday I golfed alone. It was glorious. It was a little chilly and windy so only the diehards were out. Singles everywhere. This is what freedom means to me. So many people talk about getting back to normal. After Covid. Was it really that great before? There are things I miss. Because I am not vaccinated I can’t cross the border into the States. I love road trips down the California coast. Watching the Blue Jays play in Seattle. But I also love chilling on the deck in my back yard. Reading a book. As for normal, time doesn’t stand still. You can’t go back. You can only go forward. If you want things to stay the same you will be disappointed. The world goes on with or without you.
My advice is this. Take a good hard look at your life. Do you love it? Would you change it if all of the obstacles and fears were removed and there was no chance of failure or repercussions? Would it be better? Hard to answer because it can never happen that way. That is the way things go with the hypothetical But you can take a leap. Anytime in your life you can take a leap. You really have a lot of control over your own life. The biggest obstacle in our lives is ourselves. Not others. Freedom of mind is a choice. Our power comes from that freedom to think it can be better. To dream of the future and how we can make our lives truly wonderful. It starts by taking back control. Take a picture of something in your life. Not of you or anyone else. Something you print out and frame and keep in your home to look at every day. Something that makes you happy. You don’t share it. You don’t post it on social media. You don’t have to talk about it. It just makes you happy every time you walk by. You do it for you and not anyone else. Not for likes. Not for follows. Just because it brings joy. That my friend is freedom.