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
If it is that important to me, I handle it and move on. I have worked out of my home for years and I want it clean when clients come in so I set my mind to get er done mode without resentment. As far as kids, I had a friend that settled things with her teens by throwing whatever they left around in a clean trash can and making them pay for the return of items. I thought it was brilliant.
A blast from the past sure-fire laugh inducer is Saturday Night Live re-runs; the first few seasons that included Laraine Newman, Garrett Morris, Bill Murray, Dan Akyroyd, John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin and my favorite, the irrepressible Gilda Radner. Her characters Roseanne Rosannadana whose signature line “It’s always something,” became the title of her memoir, Emily Litella whose malapropisms were always followed up with the classic, somewhat whiny “Never mind,” and Baba Wawa who was a parody of Barbara Walters, make me smile all these years later.
In 1986, Gilda Radner was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. With chemotherapy and radiation treatments, the cancer went into remission. But two years after the initial diagnosis, the cancer returned. She passed away in May 1989 at the age of 42, leaving behind a comedic and loving legacy for her family, friends and fans. With that in mind, back in the early 1990’s, I stepped foot behind the ‘red door’ of the non-residential cancer support community known as Gilda’s Club. The organization was founded by Gilda’s husband, comedian Gene Wilder, her brother Michael and her counselor Joanna Bull. It offers free programs, entertainment and support groups to those living with cancer, as well as for their family and friends. I had the joy of doing clowning at events; including the grand opening of the location in Warminster, Pennsylvania. There, with a wire-y haired Gilda look alike, I danced, skipping and flew around with the children. One of my most memorable highlights of the day was that there was a Mummer’s String band contingent and they gave the two of us long white plume feathers from their elaborate costumes. I also facilitated a living with loss group and caring for the caregiver group and recently stood in for the leader of a prostate cancer support group. Another day that remains with me for many reasons was a breast cancer survivors’ conference at which I taught a workshop on intimacy following a diagnosis. The courage of those who enter the building and leave feeling loved, inspire me greatly. Even in the midst of tears, laughter is often a staple.
I enjoyed reading Gilda’s book “It’s Always Something” and watching the made for TV movie of the same name, and this take away concept hit home for me….
“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.” and she added: “The more I protested about this ambiguity, the more Joanna pointed out to me that it was both a terrible and wonderful part of life: terrible because you can’t count on anything for sure–like certain good health and no possibility of cancer; wonderful because no human being knows when another is going to die–no doctor can absolutely predict the outcome of a disease. The only thing that is certain is change. Joanna calls all of this ‘delicious ambiguity.’ ‘Couldn’t there be comfort and freedom in no one knowing the outcome of anything and all things being possible?’ she asked. Was I convinced? Not completely. I still wanted to believe in magic thinking. But I was intrigued.”
June 28th would have been Gilda’s 67th birthday. I chuckle to imagine how the many faces of Gilda might have aged, and how many new characters would have been born in the interceding years.
http://youtu.be/fpG2ArGLRWw Tribute to Gilda
This weekend I spent much needed restorative time immersed in nature. Anticipating it for months, I knew that on the last weekend of June, I would be heading to Happy Tree Farm, which is the home of my friends Stephen and Kathy Redding. Each year, they welcome our far flung tribe of family and friends to their lakeside property (although I imagine they would hesitate to think of it that way, rather they would likely consider themselves honored stewards of the land.) for a Solstice gathering. Music, drumming, dancing, swimming, pot luck food, hugging, fireworks, and a bonfire built from trees that had fallen in Hurricane Sandy, offered us their light and warmth.
Pre-bonfire wood with my friends Susan Duval and Carrie Willette Hipkiss
The Redding family is a unique clan. Stephen has had numerous return-from death experiences (I hesitate to refer to them as near death, since he literally did die and came back with stories about his experiences which he chronicles in his two books, More Or Less and Something More), and he speaks about life, the Universe and everything to gatherings who are amazed by the wisdom he gleaned. The family owns and operates a landscaping and tree-care business. I think of Stephen as The Lorax ‘who speaks for the trees’ and to the trees. He acknowledged having a painful and difficult winter when many trees fell to the whirlwind that was Sandy. He and Kathy and their 4 adult children live there, working together as well. What has always amused me about their interactions is that his kids seem to accept Dad’s unusual activities, while my son thinks of me as his ‘weird hippie Mom’ for talking to trees (among other things).
On Saturday, I walked down the meandering paths, breathing in the fresh air, saying hello to the horses in their pen, the trees and plants that lined the dirt road, and the pond with fish, as I headed to my destination; the lake where people were already splashing about, floating on ‘pool noodles’, canoeing, and diving off the board into the literally healing waters. I have never experienced another body of water quite like it. A combination of minerals in this spring fed lake makes it buoyant and beneficial. A few years ago, I had a weed whacking accident, during which, from lack of attention, I sliced 18 lacerations in my right calf. A week or so later, Stephen invited me to come over for a swim, telling me that I would likely see some healing take place. Just being there was soothing. Within a few weeks, these formerly deep gashes were gone and to this day, you would never know they had ever been there. Needless to say, I was relieved, since I had imagined life long scarring. I joined my friends for some fun and frolic, followed by swinging on a swing-set and glider. As the sky darkened, we were treated to a fire works extravaganza that rivaled any 4th of July show I had ever seen.
Then the fire roared into action, sending sparks that leapt into the sky much in the same manner as the other pyro-technics had dazzled us a short while earlier. It was as if we and the fire spoke and listened, a back and forth dialog of story telling as we sat for hours, perched on boulders, in trees, on chairs and benches, mesmerized by the flames.
The next morning, I participated in a Sunday lakeside service for Circle of Miracles, speaking about the power of intention and the ways in which we can plant seeds for that which we want to attract and sustain. I gave each person a feather as a talisman to remind them of their desire to take wing and fly and then asked them to call out their thoughts, blowing bubbles for each one, sending them into the sky as the sparks and fireworks had done the night before. We were all embraced by the elements on this beautiful second weekend of the Summer of 2013. May we all look back in awe and wonder.