With Independence Day coming tomorrow, I am thoughtful –as I am every year — about the freedoms I am grateful to live with every day. I am grateful to have the freedom of speech and to pursue the career of my dreams. I am grateful for freedom from the eating disorder that plagued me for many years. I am grateful to be able to choose where I live and what I eat. When I have a rough day, I try to spend time with my gratitude journal, where I list several things I am grateful for this day.
What I have learned over my years of searching for and embracing the freedoms of my life is that I have to remember where I have come from in order to appreciate where I am today. It’s about perspective. It’s about remembering the losses and the gifts I have endured and been granted. It’s also about remembering that there are many, many people who do not enjoy the same freedoms that I do. It’s about having goals to learn about as many cultures, policies, therapies, ideas, opinions as I can so that I am informed to help my clients and live a mindful life.
As I reflect on FREEDOM, the theme of the 4th of July celebrations, I am also reminded of the significant losses that thousands of people in Colorado have recently suffered because of the wildfires plaguing our state. How does freedom connect to these experiences? How can those of us who are watching these struggles connect with the experiences and lend our support? I have spent much time over the past few weeks reflecting on this juxtaposition.
Here is what I am aware of today:
- The more honest I can be with myself about my struggles, the greater chance I have to get through the mud and onto the shore. The clearer in can be in my own “mud”, the more available I am able to be to give of myself to others. This entails a balance: reminding myself of where I have come from, but not letting myself dwell in that suffering so that I am “stuck” in it. By looking back, I can also look forward and out.
- I am not perfect. Trust me, I never thought I was! — though there were many years that I experienced great pain in attempts to be perfect. Today, I try to embrace my imperfection so that I can move forward and be present in what is REALLY important to me: family, friends, simplicity, connection with the earth, and helping others. Going through my own therapy has allowed me to sit with myself in an accepting and aware way…though this is not always easy!
- FREEDOM has so many different definitions. My definition of freedom may be different than yours. In this way, I try to meet each of my clients with a curious and hopeful approach, so that I can learn what their own unique freedom looks like to them. We are connected in the way that we are all searching for freedom and embracing it when it is ours. I have learned not to impose my definition of freedom on others, but to support others in their own journeys to be released from pain and suffering that holds them back.
- Freedom can be muddy. As in the title of this post, I have learned that freedom is not perfect, clear, clean. Freedom means making mistakes sometimes and moving on. Freedom means having conflict with another person and setting a goal to resolve it in a peaceful and respectful way. Freedom can mean having pain sometimes but still moving towards a valuable goal. Freedom is not perfection.
I work often with those in recovery from eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating, and today I was struck by a quote from St. Frances de Sales that spoke true to me and to those that I support, even more than four hundred years after it was spoken:
“A habitual moderation in eating and drinking is much better than certain rigorous abstinences made from time to time.”
Freedom from food struggles involves balance, moderation, and listening to your inner voice. This, I believe, can be related to so many other areas of our lives. What does freedom mean to you? I encourage you to reflect on this as Independence Day draws near and to share your freedom with others.