Of all places, I found myself on the ledge of a little mountain/hilltop, stoned out of my mind, one tiny part of me watching the fireworks, which quite frankly, I have always detested, while 200% of my attention was focused in horror on a block of ESCALATING INTERNAL TERROR spreading through my limbs and inhibiting my movement.
How did this happen?
As the fireworks increased in intensity, so did my paranoia, until I became, wedged against the earth, fully frozen with immobility. (Stick with me, loyal readers, there is a point to this).
I can still remember like it was yesterday, clinging to the side of the hill, holding on to tiny tufts of grass for dear life, sweaty in the evening coolness. None of my limbs could move, nor would they ever move again, I was convinced.
I knew that I would never get down, that I would be destined to spend eternity on that mountain/hilltop, holding on for my life, while the rest of you people who had the instruction book for living milled around, having a fine time of it.
However, with embarrassingly blatant need and full-throated vocalization, I grunted and moaned and made my way slowly, inch by inch, with the urging of friends, foot after foot, literally inching my way toward level ground. It never ended, this descent, this return to habitual consciousness.
Eventually, once on level ground, legs shaky, covered with cold sweat, mixing into the flow of citizens who seemed, unlike me, to have enjoyed their experience, I found my way to my car, Trusty Ruby the Volkswagen Bug (the real, old-timey kind), fumbled in my glove compartment, found the next joint, with trembling hands and pounding heart, lit it, and breathed into what I believed was my liberation.
I thought I was liberated from middle America, which I might have spelled, at that point in time, amerika, small ‘a’ intended.
I thought I was freed from heterosexist culture and the greedy jaws of the patriarchy.
I thought I was, unfettered by habitual consciousness, soaring in altered states, one with All. (I’m serious about this one, folks.)
I thought I was finding myself, that I found myself, that living with porch furniture and egg crates as my main décor, that driving a car without a speedometer, that these things freed me from the chains of the dominant culture.
Obviously, I was not free. Shackled to my addiction, without choice, I did the same thing again and again.
I expected different results.
They never happened.
Which brings me to Independence Day, 2018.
I sit today within the flow of my own personal freedom.
I might not always feel it, I certainly might not always act from it, yet I am truly free.
From what am I liberated?
What is the nature of my freedom?
Here are my three freedoms, today, July Fourth, 2018; I declare this, my Declaration of Independence:
- The freedom of Choice
Rather than being locked into a habitual response, I can pause between the stimulation, that which is triggering me, and my response. If I am anxious, I do not have to pour food in my mouth, an ancient and automatic reaction. I can choose my behavior. I can change my brain.
I am choosing my behavior.
I am changing my brain.
- The Freedom of Non-Judgment
Practicing non-judgment allows me to feel the pain of life and gives me the willingness to outlive those feelings, saving me the detour into self-blame. It protects me from the unending suffering of judgment, the cycle of toxicity that prevents integration and healing to unfold.
- The Freedom of Practice
To not have to get it right, to simply lean in the direction of the behavior I am choosing, to live into full permission to be human, to simply begin again, moment after moment—this is my ultimate freedom today.
I am cherishing the gift of practice.
Like riverbanks, I choose to flow within this declaration, not always being inspired, not always remembering, but knowing, so deeply in my belly, that forgetting is as sacred as remembering—that it is all true, it is all sacred, and surely, it is all inevitable.
Dear Readers—happy freedom and glorious independence to you. Consider– What is your declaration of independence? What are your freedoms? As always, please send them on. I am firstname.lastname@example.org.
With all blessings,