Do you ever feel trapped? Held back? Caught in a time or place that affords no space to be who you long to be?
Freedom is an elusive state, most of the time not being appreciated until it is stolen or eroded. But for as long as time, people have in one way or another sought freedom. As citizens, we’re taught about the freedoms our ancestors fought for and the Constitutional freedoms that form the foundation of our national culture. As humanity, we continue to struggle for political and social freedoms afforded to some but not to all.
But as individuals, what does it mean to have limitless freedom?
It means we thrive in the world from an unshackled space where our hearts welcome unconditional love, our minds bend with magnificent curiosity, and our spirits see nothing but outrageous and bold hope.
It feels boundless and pure, the weight of its significance juxtaposed only by the weightlessness of one eternal truth…
…we are all here to experience limitless freedom.
Each and every one of us.
But how do we get there? How do we feel free to be nothing less than you? Than me? Uniquely talented and oddly beautiful? Audaciously compassionate and universally wise? For some it’s harder than others. There’s more hindrance, more disbelief in the nature of why we’re here on Earth.
That’s what happened to me.
From the age of twelve to well into adulthood, there were huge parts of me that felt trapped, held back, less than. Growing up in a dysfunctional home with hitters and screamers, I survived by handing over my childhood. I gave up being a carefree youngster riding my bike joyously through the neighborhood. Instead, I rode my bike to the neighbor’s, asked for whatever money they could spare, and bought food for my siblings and me. I spent the years meant for nurturing self-esteem and learning healthy boundaries, unsuccessfully dodging insult and injury. Where there was supposed to be space, I was force fed limitation. And when I was finally released from my makeshift home, I took with me a sense of abandonment and shame so great that it stole my desire to dance, love, and laugh.
It stole my freedom.
While my parents did build the foundation of my emotional prison, it was I who did the rest. I built the walls around my heart. I put my voice in a box. I shackled my soul. I didn’t fully understand the limits that’d been placed on my personal freedom until many years later. When my unhappiness became so palpable that everything made me feel raw, I had no option but to change my perspective. Life was closing in around me at lightning speed. I felt anxious and panicked. I couldn’t sleep.
Through years of various therapies, and the love of a good dog, I found my freedom. It took others, with and without fur, to shine a light on me before I really saw myself. I was not the battered, young girl riding a bike on cold Ohio streets. I was a brilliant, limitless soul who kept pedaling through the dark of night because I knew there was something better for me out there beyond my limited emotional geography.
I know from experience that we’ll never find limitless personal freedom churning over the same sad stories in our heads and victimizing ourselves. We will, however, find it by sharing our stories with others as lessons, as life rafts hurled out into the dark emotional abyss some people are drowning in.
In honor of this weekend when we celebrate freedom, I’m sharing my story in service and love to those who need to know that while our circumstances may be different, our journeys through trauma and abandonment and shame are the same. We are one. We are here to love one another and lift each other up so that over the mountain tops of difficulties we can see the limitless freedom that awaits us.
Each and every one of us.