None who have always been free can understand the terrible fascinating power of the hope of freedom to those who are not free. ~Pearl S. Buck
If you’ve walked everywhere all your life, you can’t appreciate the longing a person in a wheelchair must have to share in your freedom. If you’ve been able to vote in elections since the day you turned 18, you can’t really understand the desire someone in a country with no right to vote must feel to have your freedom. Pearl Buck got it right: When you’ve been fortunate enough to have freedom, it’s just impossible to understand the depth of hope those who are not free must have.
Freedom in ‘15 has been the focus for all I have written these past twelve months. Not that every article talked about freedom specifically, but my hope was that by the end of the year we might all come away feeling that freedom in our daily lives was a bit more within our grasp, that we would have some important tools. Looking back at what was written, I’ve come away with this:
Freedom is being able to choose a road. Life is a journey full of forks and bends and opportunities. Alice in Wonderland didn’t know where she wanted to go, so she couldn’t know which direction to choose. A map is one of the greatest tools we can have to help us as we consider what we will do at the fork in the road, but we have to know where we want to go..
Freedom is being able to remove the things that hold you back. Pull out the things that have expired, things that are of no use in your life. Have you done it? Have you made room for new recipes, healthy choices, and experiences that would bring joy? Moving forward is difficult to do when we refuse to let go of what is taking up precious space.
Freedom is finding the light in your darkness. Grieve the loss of life, the loss of love, the loss of dreams, but grasp the sliver of light that shines through the smallest crack. Staying in your grief keeps you a prisoner of your sadness in the same way holding to anger imprisons you in your madness.
Freedom is a gift we can give to someone else. When we offer the gift of dignity to allow another person to follow his/her own path, we empower them to find their own freedom of experience instead of holding them captive in hopes of meeting our unattainable expectations.
Freedom is acceptance. Accepting that there will be changing, rearranging, and snarls opens us up to freedom in life. In our rigidity, in our demanding that things must be a certain way, in our not allowing ourselves or others to change views, beliefs or even hairstyles, freedom cannot be found.
Freedom is letting go of regrets. We can’t undo what we’ve said or not said, what we’ve done or not done. We can make amends when possible and stop beating ourselves up immediately. We hold ourselves prisoner when we continue to live in our past mistakes. Let it go.
Freedom is embracing life right here, right now, right where we are. Leaving items on the list for things to do in the future means freedom is always just out of reach. See yourself doing the things you dream of doing, and make a plan to succeed.
Freedom is opening yourself up to learning. The library is full of books, and the internet is full of opportunities to learn in a variety of forums. As Carl Sagan said, “Frederick Douglass taught that literacy is the path from slavery to freedom. There are many kinds of slavery and many kinds of freedom, but reading is still the path.” If you don’t know how to read, there are literacy programs in almost every town. Give yourself the greatest gift of freedom when you discover you can travel the world while sitting on your couch as you read about wonderful places and adventures.
Freedom is being honest with yourself and with others. Living a lie or keeping secrets out of fear of rejection or embarrassment ties you up and keeps you from enjoying the peace that comes with living in truth. If the true you isn’t who others need you to be, maybe those others are the very people who will keep you from your freedom. Love people for who they are, and find people who will honor you in the same way.
Freedom is a right every person has and a luxury many die without knowing. People who live in fear of cruel abusers or self-absorbed rulers do not know freedom. Freedom is so many things, and when you have freedom it is difficult to imagine a life without it.
As 2015 comes to a close, I hope that you will look at your life and recognize the freedom that is within your reach if you will only put forth the effort to grab it. Today, I recognize that too much “stuff” can cause a feeling of suffocation, too many worries about things out of my control can cause panic and anxiety (and health problems), and too little time spent enjoying nature and relationships can leave me empty and malnourished.
Often, things don’t get fixed on our cars or in our homes because we don’t have the proper tools for the job. When the ball drops and the new year is rung in, I will know that if I haven’t made some great strides toward freedom it isn’t because I don’t have the tools. It might not always be pretty, and it might sometimes mean getting dirty, but at the end of the road finding freedom is a reward unlike any other.