The secret to happiness is freedom. And the secret to freedom is courage. ~Thucydides
Independence Day in the U.S. seems like a good day to check in about how I’m doing with the guiding word I chose for 2013: Freedom. I’ve been thinking a lot about how much has changed in a year. People in my online community are posting about their preparations for World Domination Summit (WDS), which is this weekend. This event is the one year anniversary of Dexter’s first cancer symptoms, a reverse sneeze and bloody nose. I was at WDS and Eric was at “our house” in Waldport with the dogs. He didn’t tell me what had happened because he knew I’d worry, maybe even want to leave the event early.
His first thought was cancer, he could hardly help it after what happened to our Obi, but Dexter wouldn’t be diagnosed for another month, and even then it was “we aren’t 100% sure, but all the symptoms indicate a fatal nasal tumor.” We were told we’d only have 2-3 months with him, but we had almost a whole year, made it within a week of that anniversary.
My experience of freedom right now is strange, mixed, complicated.
Yes, I am free from Dexter’s cancer (as is he), released from the worry and the anxiety and the caretaking; and yet that freedom also means a direct and powerful relationship with grief, loss, and sadness, which doesn’t exactly feel free. In terms of my disordered eating, I have a kind hearted and experienced therapist to help me work through it, let it go, be free from it, but that’s clearly going to be harder than I thought. I have a list of almost 20 reasons I do what I do, which create a resistance to letting go of the behavior, freeing myself from this way of being.
Another form of freedom I long for is from my paid work, so I can devote myself fully to my heart’s work. One friend, a trained coach, helped me see I’m at a 10 now and that my ideal is a 5, (in terms of what I do, the effort involved), and another helped me to see the easiest and maybe only way for me to get from 10 to 5 would be to give up my paid work. And yet, that’s so difficult, and not an immediate option, so that particular freedom has to wait.
Fear is the cage, love is the key.
When I described how I wanted to experience freedom, I used words like simplicity, space, ease, surrender, clarity, and openness. Some of this is certainly happening, even around the places I feel stuck.
- I’m decluttering my work space, creating a place at home that honors what I am truly doing, simple and clear.
- I’m clear about the next steps in my “escape plan,” what I should be focusing on in my heart’s work. Sometimes this is about having a specific goal and working towards it, and other times it is about surrendering to the process, allowing what shows up, being open to mystery and magic, even mayhem.
- I socialize less and less, and the things I commit to are what truly feed me, providing inspiration and comfort and joy, move me forward or help me “stay in my seat.”
- Even thought I’m stuck in some places, I have so much more clarity about why, can see and understand what I’m really doing, what I’m getting out of it, and I forgive myself.
- Losing Dexter was so hard, but I surrendered to that experience, stayed open and present, still am.
- My body continues to ask for more rest, and I’m doing my best to provide it, to keep a more gentle pace, to seek out ease.
It’s not impermanence per se, or even knowing we’re going to die, that is the cause of our suffering, the Buddha taught. Rather, it’s our resistance to the fundamental uncertainty of our situation. Our discomfort arises from all of our efforts to put ground under our feet, to realize our dream of constant okayness. When we resist change, it’s called suffering. But when we can completely let go and not struggle against it, when we can embrace the groundlessness of our situation and relax into its dynamic quality, that’s called enlightenment, or awakening to our true nature, to our fundamental goodness. Another word for that is freedom—freedom from struggling against the fundamental ambiguity of being human. ~Pema Chödrön