What is Freedom if We Don't Give Ourselves the Freedom to BE?!

The holiday season, Christmas in particular, is an interesting time of year for many of us. In my case, beyond the emotional history, it also brings to mind the idea of giving and receiving. As I posted on Instagram yesterday, we all know what it means to give and generally do, to the best of our ability. It's in the receiving that tends to trip us up ...

As I write this, I stop and pause because I am very present to the judgments we have around everything, including the acts of giving and receiving. We have more qualifications and justifications than I can possibly list or account for. I remember my 2nd grade Christmas party, which was a very long time ago, and the class was exchanging gifts. The rules were boys brought gifts for a boy and girls brought something for a girl. So excited to be getting a present, we eagerly gathered in a circle to unwrap the magic. When it was time for me to 'show and tell', it was everything I could do to hold my gift up, let alone speak. You see, my package contained a wind-up toy radio meant to be hung in a crip. The giving girl was from a large family that apparently didn’t have a lot of money; so, her only option was to select something her baby sister wouldn't miss very much, if at all. I'll never forget that moment .... I had to announce who the gift was from as well as say a little 'thank you'. ALL I could feel was a HUGE knot in my stomach and remember feeling sorry for Jessica; although, not because she couldn't afford to buy a new gift. I was worried about her feeling embarrassed. Essentially, I was an emotional train wreck and made everything all about her .... even up until this last day or so.

In that brief 2-minute window, I felt EVERYTHING and didn't know what to do with any of it. So, I hid in order to protect both of us. As I revisit that moment in time, I wonder what it would have been like if I had been allowed to show my upset ... with effective guidance, of course. Or, how things would have unfolded for Jessica if she had known it was safe to come forward about her hardship? I'm not looking at this as bad or wrong ... just a point of inquiry for the sake of learning. As it was in my little mind, the interpretations were all I had to go by; so, I pretended to be grateful for the gift while in class, and then, it was gone. I have no recollection as to whatever happened to the toy. Yet, as I think back, it seems the bigger gift was truly the upset because it continues to give to this day. I guess this is what’s meant when ‘they’ say, we’ll keep having similar experiences until we finally get the lesson …. and so it goes, I’ve experienced countless let-downs over the years..

Boy, was this a juicy moment in time …… not only did I feel for the other little girl, I judged her AND the gift. Other kids were getting some really cool things … hair bows, books, marbles (I played marbles back then), and more. Me? I got the stupid baby toy. What’s worse, I had to make like I liked it?! You know what’s interesting? So many people do this to this very day; NOT just me. Not only do we judge whether something is good enough or not, we mask what we really think and feel. Just last week, someone said to me: ‘It’s not possible to be in a business meeting or public group setting and express emotions. Things would get sidetracked and messy.’  I totally understood that thought and at the same time disagreed because there is a way to insert emotions into a conversation without serious repercussions. That said, it does require inner safety and peace in order to be thoughtful with the delivery. Sadly, this was not something I learned right away. It took many ups and downs in my life before I ‘got the message’.

My life has been nothing but conditional; meaning, I refused to settle for anything other than what I expected. Money was going to come from THESE sources. Job offers were coming from THERE. Love was supposed to look like THIS and be from THEM. I believe some people might say I was ‘being a snob’. Heck, I’ve been known to jokingly call myself one because I was proud of how picky and particular I’ve been. At least I knew what I wanted … right? Yet, as I look back I wonder how much of THAT was me actually interfering with possibility? Without question, there’s always something beyond our field of vision. Our capacity to conceive is limited to that of our belief system and let’s be honest, each one of us has ‘one’ that we live by whether we know it or not. To disagree is silly because our belief systems are what we rely on to navigate life. ‘Is this going to get me what I want or need? Is this a good thing? Do I deserve this?’ … and so on. If we were to take a little time to think about all the things we believe about life as well as ourselves, we would quickly begin to see just how influential these thoughts and ideas really are. What’s more, we’d notice the way they are shaped by our emotions. We all define our life with both understood and underlying beliefs; it’s the foundation of the human ego. This is what I refer to as knowledge … information we’ve accumulated throughout life. Whereas wisdom is something we feel in our gut without any supportive evidence. The task, at least to me, is to distinguish and choose between the two; otherwise, life continues to be limited. Which is the point to all of this …..

As it is, we have more labels than we can probably count and because I don’t want to be pigeon-holed, I’ve resisted with identifying with most. That said, our need to classify nearly everything and everyone is damaging; whether we’re talking political, religious, or a health diagnosis, we ‘fence’ people in and while I know it may seem helpful to know where people stand, we’re cutting ourselves off …. affecting the quality of our interactions, restricting options, blindly trusting situations and people, and so forth. Basically, the labels are fooling us into believing we know something to be exact because it’s been defined. Think about the word ‘definition’ for a second …….to define a word, we give it meaning. These words are then used to illustrate points, tell stories or even describe a situation. Isn’t the purpose of a vocabulary test to see if we know the definitions? So it stands to reason that we collectively wrap our heads around the social labels. I mean, let’s face it … green is green, right?!  Yet, there’s more than just one; there’s actually a variety of shades. And that IS my point! Definitions are loose at best.

While a definition offers boundaries, without knowing it, we’ve compartmentalized life by taking these labels at ‘face value’. At the same time, we’re aware that a few questions must be asked before ever selecting such things as a piece of meat, a box of cereal, a sweater, or, or, or. To tell you I was serving fish for dinner doesn’t say much; we’d want to know more for a number of reasons. With this being the case, why aren’t we doing this with life?

Fences and walls are great! They keep the kids and pets safe, define yours and mine as well as block outsiders from ‘seeing everything’; however, that rarely stops our curiosity. We always want to know: ‘What’s going on over there?’ So I ask again, why aren’t we doing this with life? Aren’t we the least bit curious about what’s outside our current perspective? Fear is the fence; although, many times the wall. It seems we get behind it and refuse to venture beyond using the definitions, labels, and judgments as shields of protection. But what are we really protecting ourselves from; ourselves or others? Careful … this is a tricky question….

In my case, I have consistently protected myself and the world from ME. I never knew how to handle my emotions; therefore, regardless of the situation or the individual, if I was not ABSOLUTELY sure about what to do or say, I’d energetically disappear a.k.a. shutdown and let the cards fall wherever they did. Trust me, there were other mental / emotional issues wrapped up in there, as there is with anyone. The point is I did what I had to do to survive which was to live within the beliefs and limitations I had established for myself. This even applies to those with aggressive and volatile behaviors. They’re in protection mode too; it just looks a little different.  We live in a world with SO MANY rules, judgments, labels AND questions about it all; yet, we don’t feel safe enough to BE real about any of it! Why? Because we live under the illusion of control. I controlled my world by being a doormat and mouse. Some people bulldoze while others emotionally manipulate, and God forbid we ask questions. What’s more, we’re hard on ourselves, judging these reactions; therefore, seek ways to feel better. None of this is good, bad, right or wrong .. these behaviors just happen to be the way most of us survive. However, chronic survival is self-destructive. Have you ever wondered why we face SO many issues personally and globally? I don’t know about you, but from where I sit, life and the world seem to be a bit ‘out-of-control’ despite our best efforts. Fight or flight is not an effective way of living. I say this because of my recent discovery around the stress response. Nevertheless, when constantly guarded, we’re on high alert and as I mentioned earlier, these boundaries are killing our relationships and possibilities. Primarily because we’re not receiving the FULL benefit of life; we’re essentially defining the who, what, why, where, when and how. Again, I’m not saying this is bad and wrong; I just think we’re closing the aperture a bit TOO much, reducing the amount of light we receive. Life requires dark and light .. what can you do to open up just a bit more?

If you are someone with an addiction, moving past it is doable. If you are a family member of an afflicted individual, finding inner peace is achievable. If you’re in recovery, inner strength is sustainable. If you happen to be living with another diagnosis or know someone who is, please know life doesn’t stop there. What’s great is we’re surrounded by plenty of inspiration! Give yourself the freedom to BE and allow yourself to receive!