The Keys to Your Freedom

I still see Mel Gibson yelling Freedom at the top of his lungs, blue paint on his face, in his we didn’t know you were crazy and a bigot days. If you don’t know what I’m talking about you haven’t seen Braveheart, and in many ways that’s probably okay.

freedom-handcuffs-hands-247851The moment in the film is one where he’s motivating the troops to face a much larger, better equipped, and infinitely better trained army. ¬†And he calls them to action, to sustained and courageous action in the name of freedom.

It’s been a clarion cry since people were people who organized themselves, since people tried to be in charge of other people, since the draw of other people’s stuff tempted the first guy to go take it with force. Freedom.

And it’s clear from history AND from the silver screen that the call to freedom gets people going.

It gets people motivated.

It gets people marching.

It gets people chanting.

It gets people fighting.

The call for freedom in our shared world is loud, persistent, and the consequences for NOT claiming it are all too often real and brutal.

What I’d like to think about on this independence day in the U.S. is the calls for freedom in our inner worlds, which are so often more subtle and more easily dismissed in favor of more “practical” concerns:

  • the cry for freedom that happens in your head as you drive into a job you can’t stand,
  • the cry for freedom that happens in your head as you tough it out in a relationship that doesn’t nurture you in the slightest,
  • the cry for freedom as you buy things you don’t need to feel better,
  • the cry for freedom as you search around for something to believe in that feels like a home rather than a prolonged punishment,
  • the cry for freedom as you hide pieces of yourself to fit in and please people.

Those are all real cries.

They’re not wearing blue face paint and riding a big stallion, but they will if you ignore them too long.

I used to ignore those cries, and I endured the loss of sleep, the anxiety, the gnawing hunger that came with that choice. I tried to move things around. How about this? How about a little graduate school? No, how about doing the same job in a totally different environment? No? I just kept plugging away in situations that were wrong because I was sure that the things that would make me feel free were not available to ME. Sure, someone else might be able to make that work, but not me. I didn’t even really think about it long enough to have an argument with myself very often. I mean, this was what being an adult was, right? You find something you’re decent at that will get you paid and you DO IT. How it makes you feel is just because it’s a job… “That’s why they call it work.”

I rode those feelings in to a job that was draining me of everything I had until I started to have heart palpitations, and until my doctor told me that there was absolutely no way I would ever get pregnant in that condition. I was 37. I believed I was running out of time – another idea that enslaved me.

I ignored the cries of freedom until I could literally physically not ignore them anymore.

I see people do it all of the time. You see we all have these ideas, ideas about what’s possible and what’s right and who we are. Some of those ideas help us feel free and some of them keep us in prison.

So I ask you on this day of independence in the U.S., are there cries for freedom that you are ignoring? Are there signals you’re getting that tell you something’s not right? How loud will you let them get before you listen?

Sometimes after turning a deaf ear for a long time, we don’t even know how to listen anymore. We don’t recognize the call. We don’t recognize the cry as one we can do anything about. It just turns into a sense of how things are wrong and will always be the way they are. It just turns into a sense of impossibility and stuckness. It turns into hopelessness and repetition, stress eating and drinking, suppressed emotions and weariness.

back-view-blonde-hair-countryside-757056Freedom doesn’t feel like that. And sometimes it involves changing your circumstances, but before any of that happens, it involves finding those chains in your head and your heart so you can see them.

Sometimes all you need to do is see them beloveds because you hold the keys.

I’d love to help you find them.

The Grind

grinder-hitachi-power-tool-flexible-162529I am writing this on a Monday morning and once in a while on Mondays I’ll sort of float the thought: “back to the grind,” in solidarity with everyone returning to work. But I don’t really think that at all and in fact, it is so far off the mark that it often makes me giggle a little. I never feel like I’m going back to the grind on Mondays.

This is not to say that I don’t sometimes find my job exceedingly difficult. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have days that are chock full, one thing to the next, a little frenzied. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have days that are all about massive productivity, sort of grinding things out, but it never feels like a grind and on the surface, I think that’s because I LOVE my work.

I have had many jobs. I come from a crew of multiple career folks; it seems to be in our genes to make major shifts more often than most, and I did my fair share of that. And it is tempting to say that NOW I found it. It certainly feels like that’s true now, and maybe it is true forever. Maybe this job is THE JOB, but I think my happiness with my work is more complicated than that and I think that complication might be useful to those of you for whom Monday really is a grind.

You see I had no intention of choosing this work. When I first began trying to make a decision about what to do for work after my kids went to school, I fully intended to go back to the classroom and things only got difficult when that idea started making me want to throw up. I think that’s a step beyond “the grind,” but maybe I’m just being dramatic.

At any rate, when I was trying to sort out what to do, I just kept looking at my options and their trade-offs and benefits. I kept sorting through the logic of all of it. And I kept bumping up against really old ideas about what I could and should do. “I couldn’t possibly… I HAVE to… What if I fail?” But that bumping was so old and practiced I didn’t even notice it any more. I just hit that imaginary ceiling, my self-imposed limit, and stopped, convinced I had laid all of the options on the table and I now needed to choose the one that was the best of the awful. And that made me want to throw up, as choosing the best of the awful is likely to do.

So I worked at all of that. I figured out where those limits were. I dug down to see what kinds of stories I was telling myself and there were quite a few there. Some of them sounded like my parents (although an old, more stressed out and judgy version of my parents). Some of them sounded like my siblings. And some of them sounded like the meanest version of myself. And I went through the process of unwinding it all.

SAMSUNG CSCAnd when I did that it was like opening a door. No, it was better than that. It was like suddenly removing the top of the building so I could see the sky (in a non-dangerous, totally non-creepy way). It was like looking up and seeing space and openness, limitlessness and freedom rather than seeing all of the reasons I couldn’t change things and THAT, that feeling changed everything.

I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had been able to do that work WHILE I was still in the classroom. It’s not regret or self-abuse; it really is just a wondering. I don’t know that I would have stayed in teaching, but I know I would have felt differently. I know I would have experienced the difficulties of the job differently – and I’d say that about any of the jobs I’ve had. I would have been different in them if I had been able to free myself from the mental baggage that was weighing me down, chaining me to whatever desk I occupied. I would have been free and felt more like I was choosing, and freedom and choosing – they don’t feel the grind the same way. Freedom and choosing find opportunities for growth. Freedom and choosing feel like power. Freedom and choosing are possible, but may require that deep internal work to find. And that deep internal work can work wonders on moving toward freedom and choice in the larger world. Liberation from the grind is a two step process. I suggest you lead with your mind. If you need a guide, I’d love to help. If you’d like to work on changing those thoughts on your own, I’d like to recommend my mini book, How to Rewrite Your Story.

So much love,

julia