On the eve of Independence Day here in the U.S., I am pondering just what it means to enjoy freedom. I could wax philosophical and political about what our Founding Fathers might have been thinking when they signed that iconic document The Declaration of Independence and then went to party at City Tavern in Philly, ( I actually waited tables there in my 20’s and went back to visit it earlier this year. It hadn’t changed much and the spirits that I ‘felt’ while I worked there, were still hovering about.)
The holiday brings with it fond memories of planting little American flags along the edge of our suburban South Jersey garden, going to the parade with my parents and sister; dressed in red, white and blue, excited to hear the drum beat that I could feel reverberating in my chest, that heralded the start of the annual march down Levitt Parkway in Willingboro, of decorating my bike with colorful streamers and of picnic celebrations with my cousins and splashing about in our community pool. Oh, and then there were the fireworks that lit up my heart as well as the star sparkled darkening sky! No matter what culture folks hail from, fireworks always elicit the universal response of “oooohhhhh……..ahhhhh”
All of that aside, I feel drawn to the ideas of personal freedom and what that means to me. For such a long time, I have held myself hostage to antiquated and archaic beliefs about who I think I am and what I imagine my worth to be. I had fancied myself only as valuable as I thought other people thought I was and as cute, precocious, academically gifted as the adults around me told me I was. The major problem with those perceptions is that if I met them, then I expected myself to keep on meeting them. “Little Shirley Temple, tap dancing for attention”, as you may have seen me describe myself here before. Fun for awhile, since it garnered me kudos; oppressive later, since I felt hemmed in when I didn’t always meet my own expectations and I danced even faster to keep up. All these years later, I am still doing that. While it can be fun at times, mostly, it is simply exhausting. I began this article before bed, long about 11:30pm and am now finishing it at 5:29a.m, determined to complete it, not leaving it dangling too long. Meeting personal deadlines is one of my values.
Last night, I was facilitating a women’s support group and we were talking about healthy vs. dysfunctional romantic relationships. The participants were sharing their experiences with accepting less than loving behaviors from current and/or previous partners and I told them my philosophy about teaching people how to treat us, about setting and sustaining boundaries and standing for what we believe in with regard to relationships. “That’s because you have self worth,” one of them chimed in. Sadly shaking my head, I responded that I didn’t always value myself enough to say yes to what I wanted and no to what I didn’t want and stick to it. As a result, I experienced personal interactions that were less than desirable and I gave an example of a relationship that was 4 months in duration which was “Three weeks and three months too long,” since the red flags started waving after the first week, which I chose to ignore in service to avoiding loneliness. When the man’s apartment looks like your teenage son’s bedroom and you don’t want to sit on the couch….run! It was when a dear friend asked where my sparkle and joy went, that I woke up and broke up.
In short order, I began the process of setting myself free from accepting less than what I deserve and desire in all areas of my life. I love ritual and lists and so I offer my Declaration of IN-DEEP-IN-DANCE. I encourage you to write your own break away from tyranny treatise.
I declare in-deep-in-dance from:
Self limiting thoughts and beliefs.
Internal put downs that can become external realities.
Unrealistic expectations and “you should know better” chatter.
Excessive caretaking that tires me and disempowers others.
Denial of pleasure for fear of what others might think.
Piling on too much work that is hard to get out from under.
Dwelling in the past as if by doing so, I will somehow keep certain events from ever having happened.
Anger and resentment that keeps me stuck in the muck and mire.
Judgments of self and others.
Expectations for how I think they and I SHOULD behave.
The insane need to keep proving myself again and again.
I declare in-deep-in-dance to:
Set intention and watch it come to fruition, blossoming brilliantly.
Ask for what I want, regardless of the answer.
Stretch comfort zones at my own pace.
Rest and re-create.
Experience pleasure without guilt.
Be an example to myself, rather than a holier than thou one for others.
Accept myself AS IS, knowing that change will come more gracefully that way.
Be at peace, rather than seeking it outside myself.
Enjoy my sacred sexual self.
Speak from the heart, even if it isn’t pretty flowers, sunshine, unicorns and rainbows.
See and be (see myself doing what I want and then live it, full out)
Trust that all is in Divine order, as an antidote to my lament that things aren’t happening at my desired pace.
Attract love and abundance in all forms.
Let freedom ring!
http://youtu.be/MezUEIBKfyk 4th of July- James Taylor