Thoughts on freedom
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me. I am a free human being with an independent will.” ~~ Charlotte Bronte
Lots of discussions going on right now about freedom, especially personal freedom. No one likes to be constrained. As the goldfish in this image evidences, the desire to swim free in an endless ocean is preferable, even with its risks, to spending life safe behind walls of glass.
As I think about freedom, I think about it on several levels - internal and external. Internally, expectations form personal blocks to freedom. I have expectations. I have expectations of myself. I have expectations of others. I have expectations of how society should function, and even expectations of what it means to be a spiritually aware person in a not-so-spiritual world. It's a wonder I can get out of bed in the morning, so weighted down am I by expectations!
And yet, I know that the fewer expectations I have, the better able I am to live in the moment and to live in balance. Expectations take me out of the present and into the past and future.
Into the past because many of my expectations formed in childhood in my original family and through the authority figures that influenced my perceptions and understanding of how I "should" be.
Into the future because expectations can paralyze me from moving forward if I am unsure of what it requires for me to be successful - in my creative writing, in love, in my friendships, and even in staying healthy. And it isn't just my creativity that suffers under the weight of my expectations. My authentic soul-self does as well.
I notice my expectations in the oddest of places and at the oddest of times. I'll be standing in the supermarket line and a flotilla of thoughts are running through my mind about how fast (or slow) the cashier is ringing up the items for the customer in front of me. Really? Is that a good use of my mind?
The mind, I have discovered, is a bit like one of those haunted mansions you walk through on Halloween. In this room, is the nun who told me I'd never be as smart as my sister. In that room, is my first boss, who told me that he couldn't give me the raise I deserved because I would probably be getting married and leaving to have a baby. In another room, is an ex-boyfriend, who told me I should let him win at chess because he didn't like being with a woman who was so much smarter than he was (his words). And, yes, I was smart enough to hightail it out of that relationship.
Lately, what's going on in the world has me thinking about freedom on the macro level as well. To understand the deep human desire and need for freedom, we have only to look at the courage of Ukrainian citizens determined to write the script for their own destiny and that of their country. What freedom means on the larger scale is best said, I think, by this quote from Epictetus, former slave and Greek philosopher:
"Is freedom anything else than the right to live as we wish? Nothing else."
I have to agree. The right to love as we wish. The right to worship as we wish, or not. The right to plan our families as we wish. The right to be paid for the work we do equitably. The right to affordable healthcare. The right to dream big dreams. The right to jump into the sea of infinite possibilities and find the path that is expressly ours.
I invite you to think about freedom - about expectations, about the rights you hold dear. Perhaps the most important definition of freedom is the freedom to be who you truly are and to share that with the world without fear.
With love and continuing prayers for Ukraine and all who suffer,
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Cathleen O' Connor
Writer, speaker, teacher, coach and intuitive.