Tomorrow our country will celebrate Independence Day, paying tribute to our hard-earned freedom made possible by men and women in uniform. Compared to the last two years, we’ll be able to participate in a variety of gatherings without the restrictions we experienced when Covid was a greater concern. But despite the ability to move about, there’s an undercurrent of tension and disappointment; as a collective, we seem to be living in fear because some groups have chosen to use their freedoms to harm others.
What I wish, is that we’d use our freedom responsibly, with love and concern for our fellow man.
Rather than speaking in broad terms about freedom or the problems of groups that bring harm, I choose to focus on the freedom I have the most control of: freedom of myself. The healthier I am in how I exercise my liberty, the better I am in living in community with others; I think that’s true for all of us.
What would it mean to be free to be you and free to be me?
Maybe we could focus on what we need to do individually to be whole–without worry or comparison to some other person or group. What if we considered what it would take for us to cut loose from the things that bind us. Ultimately we’re able to consider that because we live in a country that is free. We’re not dealing with civil war or fighting for basic survival to the extent of less-developed countries. We have the luxury of growing and developing into the best versions of ourselves.
Recently, I’ve started participating in a yoga class. I don’t have the discipline to follow instructions with the online offerings so I go in person to a workout studio for women. The instructor, Donna leads us through the forty-five minute class of postures, breathing exercises, and stretches. She’s cheerful–but not overly, and when she shows us a new move that may be challenging, says, “You do you and I’ll do me.” That reminds me to check my competitive attitude– evaluating how well I’m doing the move compared to the women around me. It prevents injuries due to disregarding my current state and trying to jump ahead before I’m ready.
Each person in the class has a different level of fitness, unique body type, and health issues that only the individual knows. Donna’s words “you do you and I’ll do me” reminds me that too often in life, I’ve been distracted by watching others. I compare my life in myriad ways with my superficial understanding of that other person’s life. If I felt more comfortable and confident in myself, I could use that energy to make needed changes in me.
Being free to be me, means I love myself enough to let go of my hesitance and move toward the desires of my heart. I’m enabled to put aside fear of embarrassment or perceived failure; instead I move forward toward whatever goal I’ve chosen. Hopefully there’s enough support around me to nurture and accept that change. Hopefully, when I take the risk of becoming more of my true self, it doesn’t threaten those around me who aren’t able to take the same kind of risk.
When I allow you to be free to be you, I support your steps toward finding your authentic self. I may need to let go of my preconceived ideas about who you are– that box I’ve placed you in to make me more comfortable. I allow you the time and space to explore new ways of being in your life that feel right for you. Some of those changes may occur because the things that have served us in our younger years, are no longer helpful. We all need the freedom to be seen in the present versus being stuck in our old identity, fixed in bygone years.
There are many times when I write my weekly post, that I’m not really sure why what I’ve written is on my heart; sometimes I discover that later; sometimes your comments help me to understand. Accepting my responsibility for how I use my freedom, allowing you to use that same liberty, is something that is in process at this time in my life. I look back on the last few 4th of Julys; I see the many steps I’ve taken to be free after being released from a forty year marriage. I don’t want every post I have to lead back to that, but that has been my reality.
I wonder, what has been your reality over the last few 4th of Julys? Have you been on a path toward greater freedom to be your true self? Have you released someone else to be more of who they are at this point in time?
My Independence Day prayer for all of us is to consider these most personal questions in a way that helps us to be more healthy. When we’re individually strong and able to be ourselves, we can love and respect our neighbor and live in harmony, deserving our well-earned freedom.