“Claiming our own lives creates fulfillment and joy. We don’t need to be controlled. We don’t deserve to be repressed or stifled. We don’t have to let anyone convince us that we do. We can trust ourselves. We know what we need, we know what we yearn for — we long to be set free.” Melody Beattie
I started my walkabout 3 months ago with a powerful, but somewhat vague yearning to be free. I wasn’t really sure what freedom would look and feel like. I feared I might just be running away. The ensuing months have convinced me of this one thing:
My walkabout is a proactive act of claiming my life for myself, which is resulting in a slow shedding of my own freedom-repressing patterns. Here’s one that is on its way out:
Striving for happiness.
Most of my life I have striven for one thing or another — hoping to finally be happy. But no matter what I achieved, there was always more striving and more plans for being happy in the future.
A friend called the other day to ask me how I was. I answered “happy.” What a surprise!
But there it was.
I was happy.
I had arrived and didn’t know it.
There wasn’t really anything more I needed to do, be, or acquire to be happy.
Happy didn’t look like I thought it would either. I didn’t have the conventional trappings of happy – a lot of money, a large house, a new car, (or thousands of Facebook fans.) Happy obviously didn’t mean I wouldn’t have problems, worries, fears, or aches and pains (I still do.).
The difference is that anything else I do now or in the future isn’t going to make me any happier than I am now.
There is only doing what I am doing — and then doing the next thing.
I just finished reading the novel “Breaking out of Bedlam”, by Leslie Larson. The main character is an unhappy elderly woman named Cora. Her family puts her in assisted living because she has become a danger to herself. She loses everything familiar and her world comes crashing down.
Her granddaughter gives her a blank journal. Cora considers it useless at first, but in her misery, she decides to do something she has never done before – she begins to write, and what she writes about is her own true story. Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of her journal:
“I’ve got a plan. I’m going to write down everything I ever wanted to say. I’m not holding back and I don’t give a damn what anybody thinks. Most people don’t tell the truth about their lives, including me. I’ve done things I’m not proud of. I lied to keep myself alive because life is hard and there’s things you got to do. But now I got nothing to lose. I’m going to tell the truth, once and for all.”
By the end of the book Cora has filled three blank journals, starts living a full (and rather lively) life in the assisted living home, and transforms herself. She claims her life, gives it a voice through writing and “breaks out of bedlam”, in her own way, to freedom. I won’t reveal the details, but the story has a happy ending!
It might have been nice to have allowed myself to be happy sooner, but even a moment of truly taking in happiness is a gift beyond all others. I have a friend who often says, “I can die happy now.” That’s what I feel too.
And Cora’s story is a reminder that claiming our lives and giving it a voice — at any age and in any circumstances — can be transforming and freeing.
And that it is never too late to be happy.