Is There Such a Thing as Being Too Free?

In the last few years, I have more freedom than I know what to do with.

It started with the “nest leaving”.  Within just a four year time span,  I experienced more than my fair share of it to include four graduations (2 daughters receiving a Bachelor Degree and a Master Degree each ), the wedding of my older daughter and- sadly – a tragic and premature death of my beloved dog.  It crescendoed with the “career leaving” – then ending after close to thirty years.

What exactly do we mean when we talk about being “free?” anyway as there are a number of nuances to its meaning.  As defined by Webster’s the word “free”  can either be a feeling – “the enjoyment of personal rights or liberty; to be exempt from external authority, interference, restriction etc. on a person’s will, thought, choice, action etc”.  or – it can also mean that something you want costs nothing, that it comes without a price.

The logical conclusion then should be that ‘freedom” by definition should be free, that there is no price to pay for it, that it comes at no cost etc.

But that’s not true is it?

We don’t get freedom for free – conversely, we hold onto to it tightly, die for it, live for it, maybe even compromise for it?

How could any state of being, of existence that is so universally coveted be attained without putting other things at stake, without fighting for it?

I think whoever decided that free also means “costs nothing” made a mistake. I think there was supposed to be a different word for something that costs nothing. Like worthless or valueless or meaningless or something like that.

Because being free definitely has a cost, it is not “free” as I was to learn the freer I became.

The summer that my oldest daughter went off to college and three years before her sister followed her, I was serendipitously led to adopting a sweet and loving little puppy. Aflie, my precious Shitzu became my third child, my constant companion who filled the empty space after my other two “babies” left the nest.

He died  – fairly tragically – four years later, just a week or so before July 4. His death and the way he died catalyzed my departure from my job of twenty years.

Freedom had always been a strong and primary personal value of mine and now here I was perched on it’s precipice, the very thing I had been seeking for so long now within my grasp.

After Alfie died , and I no longer had my job, and with my kids already gone off to school, I suddenly found myself surrounded with so much freedom that I was lost, utterly bewildered by what to do or how to be now that roles, structure and responsibility no longer defined my daily being.

I was free at last.

Free – from daily obligation and responsibility (other than to myself). Free – from titles, status, endless meetings and bosses telling me what to do. Free – from early morning and late night dog walks, from not being able to spontaneously go away. Free – from car pools, and having to leave work early, and from child rearing as a first priority.

Yes, I was “free” from all of that.

But I was also free from the sounds and laughter and hugs of children, my children, from the camaraderie of co-workers, from the financial comfort my paycheck brought, from having a reason to get up and get dressed nice everyday, and from having a nice office to go to and interesting people to interact with.

I was free from the joy my little puppy gave me.

I was so free that I was staring down a wide, open abyss without a clue where to go, what was next or how to get there. In place of the structures and routines I was used to, there was a loneliness I had never known, and an emptiness that left me breathless from the shock of no longer being needed by anyone or anything.

Suddenly, all the things that gave me a reason to get outside of myself were gone. I was left with a daily dose of love to give and no one to pour it on.

After my doggie died so close to the day we celebrate freedom, I found myself pondering “Would I have wished for freedom it if I knew the extent of the loss that accompanied it? If I had understood that it required such painful letting go of that which defined me and gave me something to love and care for?

Be careful what you wish for as they say. Because if you are not careful, the price of freedom could very well be more costly than the very freedom that is being sought.

 Yet, I still simultaneously pursue and resist freedom. And I still want to be both free and safe at the same time. I have no conclusions except that perhaps living in conundrums and questions is precisely what individual freedom is all about. And, if that’s the case, I have more than my fair share of it.

And on that note, Happy Independence Day

With Grace,