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Ah, Dear Bess! A lovely thing, Freedom -- which is indeed yours, when you discover the paradoxical truth: that it comes with consequences and responsibilities. May you have the joyous Freedom of this discovery all through 2009!
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Saturday, January 03, 2009
It's Resolution time for two thousand and nine.
I should never assume I know myself completely because at that very moment a surprising discovery will completely change my self definition. For something like 46 years – since that is as far back as I can remember making resolutions in January, I have looked forward to, prepared for and savored that first January afternoon when I would sit down and make New Year's Resolutions. Lovely lists of the things I want to do Lists for self improvement. Lists for health. Lists on colored paper to that get cut into strips and pulled out of a jar to inspire creativity.
And here on January third of 2009, I am without a list.
It isn't that I don't have any desire to improve, to experiment, to explore. I am looking forward to the thrilling gift of 365 days with which to play and indulge and soar. Perhaps it is because there is already so much waiting ahead for me in January – and February and, by golly, every single month, week, day, minute of 2009, that there isn't enough paper to put everything down on a list.
So much already lies ahead in 2009 and so much more is bound to develop. It all deserves something better, something more encompassing, than a mere list and while browsing around my favorite blogs in December, I discovered just what I was looking for. M has chosen a Word of the Year for 2009: Dare. Following her links I ran across a full description of the concept here. But to put it succinctly, the idea is to find a word – an ideal, actually, that drives everything else I do throughout the year; a defining word combining spur, definition and goal for everything I do. A word that defines, not what I will do, but what I am.
I grasped the concept instantly. I cast about for a word and the one that instantly came to mind was Freedom, which, given the schedule that was already unfolding before me as early as the first of December, seemed an odd choice. I tried to switch to something better, something easier to apply, but Freedom insisted that it was the word that was going to govern my world this year – and I was going to be glad of it. So I just let Freedom make itself welcome in my daily routine (just in case it got scared by what's already in the daily planner) and trusted that if it hated my life it could go be inspire someone else. And then, yesterday in the shower I realized exactly why the word Freedom has sat down in my lap, taken my face in its hands, stared me in the eyes and insisted I let it be my guide.
And since this is TheQueen and we all know She is a story teller, you, dear readers, will get the back story.
Many years ago – maybe 20 – I was asked by a school committee to give a speech on What Freedom Means To Me. Now, I have always lived in the US. I've always felt that I could do pretty much anything I wanted to do. I had no stirring tales of resisting oppression, protesting the tyrant, fighting for my freedom. Oh, there are certainly enough platitudes about Freedom to fill a dozen forgettable speeches, but I don't like to bee ess little kids. What could I tell them about Freedom that would be compelling but true? And then I remembered.
Ahh yes. I remembered. Drug from the cavern of childhood memories I remembered having to clean my room. My dad was such an drill sergeant about our rooms that he'd even yank open our dresser drawers to see if the socks were lined up straight. Countless Saturdays were sacrificed on the alter of Cleaning My Room and I swore that when I grew up nobody was ever going to make me clean my room again. Yep. When I grew up I would have the Freedom to leave my room any way I wanted.
And I did grow up. The calendar is always the friend of youth if it will be the enemy of age. And I went off to live in the dorms at American University while playing violin in the first season of the Wolf Trap Farms resident orchestra. I was 18. And there was maid service. And nobody to make me clean up my room. And a long-suffering roommate. And so I did not clean my room the entire summer I was there.
Another bit of Freedom I indulged in, though I was living in Washington D.C., was to go shoeless as often as I could – which, with some subterfuge, was most of the time. It was 1971. Even ritzy expensive Georgetown was in dabbling with a little hippie fling. By stooping a little, I managed to walk barefoot on stage at those bi-weekly orchestra performances.
But there came a day when I had to pack up my possessions and that's when I discovered I had lost all my shoes. I don't know what happened to them. I know I'd started the summer with at least a pair of sandals and some sneakers. Where they ended up is anybody's guess. I was headed north to Philadelphia to buy a new violin but the Greyhound Bus service wouldn't let you ride barefoot and I began to have serious doubts about traveling barefoot through a new city. And what if Mr. Keller wouldn't sell me a violin if I was barefoot?
Fortunately I had a sister living in Delaware and I hitchhiked to her house and borrowed a pair of shoes from her, but the rest of that trip I had time to think about all that Freedom stuff. Because I learned that summer that with Freedom comes both responsibilities and consequences. Sure. I can be free to leave a mess around me, but if I do, if I shirk my responsibilities, I better be prepared to walk home barefoot.
It was my first serious step towards growing up. I did plenty of stupid childish things after that summer, but I don't suppose I was ever quite so irresponsible again. As for Freedom being the touchstone, the guiding principle for 2009, I think it's the perfect choice now. I want that Freedom. I want the Freedom that comes from being healthy. I want the Freedom to take up any opportunities I encounter and that only comes from being prepared. I want to be Free to take my work projects as far as they'll go, which means I must stay on task. And I want the Freedom to play when the work day is over, which means I have to focus at work, not fritter or scatter or dither.
Yep. I'm ready for the responsibilities of Freedom, so I can savor those delicious consequences.
May 2009 good things happen to you this year. That is my New Year's Wish for you. posted by Bess | 10:01 PM