The symbolic power of Independence Day: how freedom can liberate us from everyday struggles

Monday is Independence Day in the United States.  As we think back to the reasons that we celebrate this holiday each year, I wanted to reflect on the fragility and sacredness of freedom, the effort required to obtain it, and how freedom can be taken away in a second.  The United States has claimed victory over being controlled by another country and there are countless stories of people’s struggles for freedom all over the world.

What in your everyday life would you like to free yourself from?  Have you freed yourself from something that you feel like celebrating?  I personally have recovered from an eating disorder that was so controlling, so damaging, and so hate-filled that I try to celebrate everyday the freedom I have attained.  Trying to notice this consciously takes effort.  We can forget to create rituals or patterns in our lives that memorialize or highlight victories we have accomplished – however small or large they are.  Many of us continue to struggle with feeling trapped and powerless against a greater force:  an addiction, a traumatic memory, an abusive relationship, an out-of-control situation.  We can spend lots of our money, time, and energy focusing on these things — for good reason, as no one deserves to live in pain and it takes tremendous effort to absolve ourselves of it.  But what else could happen if we focused on what independence we have already achieved?  And what more we can obtain?

I was consulting with a friend over this idea of asserting freedom and independence over our everyday struggles.  My friend told me that she carries with her a mantra:  “I release myself of guilt and worry”.  She hears this affirmation repeatedly throughout her days as she encounters challenges and tries to release herself of the absorbing feelings of guilt, shame, and worry.  This friend has recovered from multiple losses and traumas and has empowered herself to create boundaries between herself and others in a way that is enlightened and confident.  On the subject of freedom she related to me: “Freedom is something we must strive for and create for ourselves; often times due to life’s complicated struggles, freedom is not automatic and we must tend to it like a budding flower or else it will wilt.”

This concept really struck a chord with me.  On my own journey, I must continually remain aware of stressors and triggers that once contributed to the development of my eating disorder.  I now celebrate freedom from this disorder, but the independence is not absolute — it has a strength within its core but needs nurturance and attention to maintain this power.  Can you relate to this?  How have you obtained independence and freedom in your life, and what do you do daily to maintain that breath of fresh air?  What else can you do?

To finish off the metaphor, I must comment on the concept of fireworks.  Fireworks represent celebration and joy.  They also are a bit dangerous and we must be careful with how and where we use them.  If not used correctly, they could set off a huge, deadly fire and trigger more pain and hardship.  This aligns with my vision of freedom and independence in daily struggles:  we should and we do celebrate our victories from devastating addictions or traumas.  We have overcome and we deserve to acknowledge the joy in this feat.  We also must be careful to remain aware of our recovery and not let our grasp of freedom slip away unawares.  Do not allow one addiction to slip into another.  Maintenance of freedom is hard work; it can often be a life-long task in some form.  However, the sweet taste of release and peace is worth all of the effort.  It is what makes us human.

Happy Independence Day to all!!