Foundations of freedom – freedom from constraints

 

ID-100150920.Toa55 I embarked on a series of posts on foundations of comfort and in my last post ended up with freedom. The change was more than a subtle change in my thought process. It was profound. In thinking through what I require for security, I realized how much security constrains my freedom. Then I learned that freedom is not a thought process. It is a feeling. I know because that wondrous feeling swept over me when I was not expecting it and yet I recognized it as my long-lost friend and welcomed it in as part of my being.

There are three aspects to my freedom: freedom from constraints; freedom to act; and freedom of capacity. Think of me as a bird in a cage. In order to fly I need to be let out of the cage, I need to want to fly and I need to have the capacity or ability to fly. Without those three things, I cannot fly. I cannot be completely free. Today I will discuss the first aspect.

Freedom from constraints

To be free to fulfill my purposeful life I need the absence of constraints imposed upon me. Those of captivity; coercion; obligations; moral codes; guilt; mental turmoil; fear of danger, harm or pain; financial impediments; influence of other people; rules; restricted access; and attachments.

Some things on this list are not imposed upon me, they are imposed by me. I impose some of my own restraints. As long as I impose them myself, I can also remove them. I cannot enslave myself. The issue comes down to my ability to remove them. That ties in with the freedom of capacity which I will deal with in another post. For now, I will put aside impediments to my freedom imposed by guilt, mental turmoil, financial capacity and some of my own moral codes, and look only at restraints imposed by others or by my situation.

To be free, I need the absence from

I need to be free from fear of danger or harm. I am fortunate to live in Australia, a nation free from slavery, tyranny and oppression. Putting aside the political argument that for some that may not be completely true, I myself feel relatively safe.

I need to be free from pain. In order to be truly free I need the absence of this divorce process (my captivity), the business (my obligation) and the moral code of doing the right thing by others ahead of myself. These are factors blocking my total freedom at the moment. I am working on them.

I need to be free from the restriction of my own requirement for certainty. Only then will I be free to find my new creative self.

On the other hand, now being single, I am enjoying freedoms that I never had before, because –

I am now free from

I am free from the coercion to do things I do not really want to do. Previously I would not have called it coercion, I would have called it compromise. Whatever it is called, that obligation to fit in with another person all the time is now gone.

I am free from the influence of others blocking my ideas, opinions and beliefs.

I am as free as I can be from the control by others.

I am free from restrictions in the use of my space. I have free access to the whole house whereas previously other members of the family claimed that space as their own.

I am free from imposed limits on my free time. (Except when I impose them myself, which does not count because I can lift those limits if I want to. Note to self: stop restricting your own free time by finding more ‘must do’ duties.)

I am free from attachments. Now here is the turnaround. The first twelve months after separation I was grieving the loss of my relationship, my most precious attachment. Now I can see that the absence from that attachment will allow me the freedom to become my authentic me.

That is truly liberating.

 

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Image courtesy:[Toa55]:FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Where am I? (or the remarkable discoveries I made looking through my photo albums)

ID-10066725With my husband now settled into a relatively permanent fixed abode, the photographs need dividing into his and mine (albeit we have agreed to scan digital copies to share). With the albums in my possession, and with a lump in my throat, l started to sift through the albums and choose how they should be split.

Since our separation, looking at our photographs has been painfully sad, especially looking at any of us as a happy smiling couple united as one. Initially I was not able to look at them at all. In time, after a heavy down-on-the-floor weekend playing the Beatles Let-It-Be over and over, I was able to go through them and pick out some happy memories (all of the children) that I then displayed proudly. The ‘couple’ photos remained untouched and locked away…. until now.

This time it was different. As I looked at the photographs I made some remarkable discoveries.

1.There were lots of photos of the children, their achievements and us as a family. This was no surprise. Family meant everything.

2. There were photos of the two of us. Having spent the best part of two years reflecting on my life as it was and within that reflection detaching emotionally from him, as I now looked at the photos of us, I no longer saw an entwined couple but rather two people as separate individuals. This was a weird feeling and something I had not expected to see.

3. There were the photos of my (now-ex) husband running, bush-walking, skiing, winning soccer awards, dancing, entertaining, laughing, singing, joking, talking, and as a leader in the community and work. This also was no surprise. He led a full life.

4. I could not find any photos of me. There were photos of me beside him cheering him on as his wife. There were photos of me with babes in arms or embracing my children or standing proud celebrating their achievements. There were photos of me in the kitchen (that is where I was when he was entertaining). However, there were no photos of me as ‘me’, separate from my roles as wife and mother. I looked in all the albums and in all the boxes of loose photos. Eventually from nearly one hundred albums and four boxes, I found one photo of me receiving my post-graduate degree in 1991. Other than that, I had to go back to my childhood, my school days and my graduation in 1975, to find some of me.

What does this mean?

The issue here is not about divorce or my own strength or weakness. It is a reflection of what marriage was about to me and I believe to women of my generation, compared to my husband and the men in our generation. Men tend to have clear images of self and wind their wives, family and work around that image as additions to self. Women, on the other hand (or at least I did), live by the image of their role. My role was that of wife and mother. I became the supportive wife and mother. Somehow the self bit of me became lost.

This concept is nothing new and much has been written on it. The dark side of that is, that if you live by your role in life, and you lose that role, you lose everything.

Before, seeing only my role as wife and mother gone forever by the loss of my marriage, I deeply mourned for that role. What was remarkable this time when I was looking through the photos, was that I was looking for myself. I was looking for the me that was separate from those roles. The remarkable thing I discovered was, that my thought processes had changed. I now knew that me as self existed beyond my life roles. While I could not find many photos, I realised that did not mean that the person who was me did not exist. I now knew I had been there all along – that is why I was hunting for photos of me – and it was then I realised there were few photos, because you cannot take photos of what is inside.

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Image courtesy[Twobee]/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My needs # 4. Connections

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“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
― Brené Brown

A need is something we require, yet we only feel its need when it is missing. If there is a need not being filled, we can feel anxious, stressed or depressed.

When my husband first left me, there was a gaping hole of where he used to be in my life. Gone were our daily interactions, our deep soul connection, the sharing of discussions and projects, sharing our past and dreams for the future. Gone was my significant other. It was a huge sense of loss and something I thought could never be replaced.

In my initial loneliness, getting out and trying to mix with people made me worse. I would see other couples doing things that we used to do together that now I was doing alone, albeit with a group, and there would be an ache inside of me. Trying to commit to too many people in an effort to form connections overwhelmed me. After a while I withdrew and became passive. This made me confront my solitude head on. I made friends with myself and became contended with my solitude. From that point I slowly branched out to others.

As time went on I realised my husband had previously provided many types of connections to me not simply that of spouse, and he filled in the gaps during life changes or when others drifted out of my life. It is possible for some of these to be provided by avenues other than a life partner. There has been the gradual connections with others to provide this since he left.The large emptiness that initially existed has gradually been filled by other people in my life, slowly step by step, including:

  1. Social connections.
    I relate to people on a day-to-day basis by interacting at work, talking about what has been happening in my day, and upcoming events. Even small-talk interactions with people who attend to me when shopping etc is filling this need for daily connections.
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  2. Stable connections.
    This is having people I feel ‘home’ with, people who know me, understand me, care for me and accept me for who I am. I have returned to my roots for this connection with my mother, siblings and close friends; as well as with my own children.
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  3. Meaningful Relationships.
    I feel I have been connecting more with people. I am forming deeper bonds, getting to know people deep inside, and having them get to know me. I am interacting more one on one with a few key people, rather than having many friends at a superficial level. This gives me greater satisfaction of forming a meaningful relationship.
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    There are some remaining gaps in my needs.
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  4. Intellectual Connections. My husband was my intellectual equal. We connected strongly on discussions and projects that stimulated and interested me socially, intellectually, and in community involvement. This is currently missing from my life. The intellectual gap has been filled to some degree by my blogging friends, and meaningful discussions with my family.
    For social involvement and interactions, I will in time join a community interest group or become involved in a broader humanitarian project.
    I am also craving support on business and financial issues and am aiming to get assistance on these.
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  5. Significant Other.
    I have lost forever my soul-mate and life partner, that one special person who cared for me and me for him above all others; sharing tender endearments; past history; present moments; and dreams for the future. I do not say I will never find another, however, it could never be the same as sharing forty years. That is gone forever. I accept that. I have grieved for that loss. I have processed this and it is no longer a need.

After filling our basic needs for comfort, stability and security, we all need human connections. These can be provided in many ways. For me, the hole of my missing need for connections is gradually filling. In time, I believe there will be enough over for me to start giving back.
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Image courtesy [Photostock] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Last Child.

My daughter had been travelling Europe for six months. My youngest son and I decided to join her for Christmas and spent some time with her in London and Britain.

Over the course of the two weeks together we spoke of many things and inevitably did get on to speaking about “it” (ie: the break-up). In the beginning after the separation, my children had been tremendous emotional support to me and we had leaned on each other through the pain and shock of the abandonment. Then, as I began to heal, I attempted to shield my two younger children from further negative discussion. As much as I could, I tried to put it all behind me and to be the strong one for them, to behave as I would have behaved had the trauma never occurred. To a certain extent we were living a facade as I was far from complete recovery; and they were still very much in grief.

The separation had been hard on them and it is has been difficult for them to find someone that they can talk to. Who best to talk to, but their mother? So on this holiday, knowing that pain and bewilderment is best addressed, when a few comments came out I encouraged my daughter to talk about what was concerning her. I explained that if not worked through, it could eat at her for years. One has to come to a point of accepting what has happened and then let it go. I spoke of how I understood she could view that the abandonment of me by her father was also abandonment of her. I tried to explain that he had not abandoned her. He was still there for her, but he would just now be showing it in a different way.

‘Mum it is not Dad abandoning me that concerns me, it is me abandoning you that concerns me. I am the last child. I am leaving home, leaving the state and now you will be on your own. I feel as if I am abandoning you’.  

I could not change that I was alone, unpartnered, by myself. No matter how strong I behaved I could not change the fact that if my husband had not left me he would have been there with me, we would be together, we would be the rock of support for our children – not the other way round. My daughter would not feel this guilt she felt of abandoning me and the role that she felt someone should take on – that of looking after me.

Of course, I do not feel I need looking after and I told her so. Yet no words of mine could comfort her.   All I can do is to keep aiming for strength and courage, to become a strong independent woman for her, for all my children, to show them by example that I am OK; and to allow them to spread their wings as they would have done, and to be here for them, if they ever need me.

My beliefs # 2 Freedom

Freedom: The Power to act, speak or think without fear, hindrance or restraint.

When we think of ‘freedom’, we often think of civil liberties such as Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Association and Freedom of Assembly, amongst others. I am a strong believer and defender of those liberties.

Freedom can also be thought of in terms of freedom within relationships, and of one’s own personal freedom.  In these cases, what does freedom mean?

I think there are three parts to being truly free. The first part is to have freedom from restraints or fear. The second part is to have the freedom to act. The third part is to have the freedom of capacity in order to act. It is not enough for a bird to be let out of its cage, it is not enough that it wants to be free, in order to fly it must also have wings.

In the early days post separation friends, acquaintances and divorce advice websites were loud in their message to me ‘now you are free’. Was this true? In my marriage, did I lack freedom? Did I have freedom now?

I believe marriages should be based on mutual trust, care, respect and friendship; one that allows intimacy yet still enables each partner to maintain the freedom of their own individuality; where there are no issues of power or control within the relationship; no engulfment of one by the other; and no constraints imposed on the relationship by problems of alcohol, gambling, abuse, or hang-ups.

Whilst I thought that our marriage was based on those beliefs, in the last few years my husband began viewing his marital union and family responsibilities as a constraint; as a restriction on his freedom. The irony is that his unhappiness at his perceived lack of freedom produced restraints and fears within our relationship that never previously existed.

Yes, in the early days post separation there were times when I celebrated the lifting of those psychological restraints imposed during the dying days of our marriage. In time, I also learned to let go of my self-imposed constraints – commitments, plans and promises – that no longer held relevance. I embraced solitude and enjoyed my new found freedom of time and space.

Is this freedom?

Is true freedom simply being free of restraints?

Is true freedom being able to do whatever we want, whenever we want, with whoever we want, with no responsibility to anyone but ourselves?

Some people see freedom only in terms of restraints. They see any restriction – either imposed by others or by themselves – as a limit on their freedom. They want to be free from restraints, free from responsibility, to only worry about themselves. That to them is freedom.

I see freedom differently.

I choose to live my life free of external restrictions as I set my own rules. I impose my own restraints, my own moral code. As long as I impose these myself, by my own free-will, it is freedom. One cannot enslave oneself. With no external restrictions, only internal ones, I have the freedom to think, speak, and act the way I want.

I have the freedom to choose to be responsible to my family. When I act out of love and devotion, there are no constraints – no matter what the responsibilities require of me.

I have the freedom to do what is right by others and to the community.

These are my choices. They are not restraints. I am not constrained because I do it with my own free will. I am unimpeded by a contrary desire.

I have the freedom to choose my own direction in life and and to fit this in with my life’s purpose which I alone shall choose.

Do I have the capacity, attitude and skills to take up this action?

Yes. I have the freedom of an untouchable power-force within me that no-one can take away no matter what happens to me. The power to choose my attitude. My attitude is to develop a capacity by education, training or resolve to overcome any obstacle or impediment in my way.

That is my one last step to freedom. This will become my ultimate freedom. To be free to choose my own goals by my own free-will and to work towards those goals unimpeded.

My beliefs # 1 Peace

Peace
“A state of harmony characterized by lack of conflict and freedom from fear”
“Freedom from disturbance”
“Quiet and tranquility”
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In reflecting on who I am and what I have always believed in ‘Peace’ is one of the first words that springs to my mind. I have always been a believer in peaceful resolutions of global conflicts. I believed in and indeed have contributed to peaceful solutions to national, community and workplace disagreements. I believed in conflict-free relationships. I believed in striving for my own inner peace.
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Then along came the dreaded ‘D’ pelting me with its intense hurricane force destroying everything in its wake and leaving my previous life in tatters including my former beliefs and attitudes. The beliefs I strongly held for world peace, social justice and community harmony have been shoved aside for someone else to manage. It is enough that I survive  my own personal storm. The storm of the harsh reality of my former life partner being on the other side of dividing lines. A physical dividing line. An emotional dividing line. A financial dividing line by the required splitting of our assets. Always now a dividing line.
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For me there is still intense pain whenever I cast my thoughts to any of these divisions now between us. Here I am a believer in conflict-free relationships, a strong believer in harmony, and of tranquility. Yet, in regard to the one relationship I had formerly considered as the most sacred, I wondered whether there would ever come a time when there could be peace between us again.
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A few weeks ago I read this fantastic poem titled “Peace In The Uncommon Ground”. I think this is a brilliant poem and I have copied it below. The poem describes firstly finding peace within yourself and then for that sereneness to transmit to the other person allowing them to find their own inner peace and then peace between each other happens by finding common ground. Brilliant!
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After reading this poem, I realised that there were internal conflicts I struggled with. Should I have some contact with my husband for the children’s sake, or not see him for the sake of my own peace of mind? Should I stay in our former home with its now bittersweet memories, or go through the hassle of moving? Should I get stuck in and finish some work that needs doing or shall I sit back and enjoy the sunshine? Should I remain the resilient stable dependable one or break away and fly off on some exotic adventure?
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I had always been a contented person yet now I was battling with an inner turmoil that never existed before. I had lost my inner peace.
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I have taken steps over the past 12 months of finding peace. I enjoy living in today. I have embraced solitude. I have let go of the illusion of the happy-ever-after. I have forgiven the betrayal and the abandonment..Whilst all these actions are helpful, to some extent it is a self-protecting method of escapism – a means of avoiding reality. The reality of the full ramifications of the end of our marriage. The reality of the tortuous divorce process. The reality of starting out again – by myself. I had been attempting to place peace on top of chaos.
.In order to find peace with others in my life, I have to first find my own inner peace. In order to find inner peace, I have to first rid myself of the chaos, disorder and confusion that has found a home within me. To rid myself of the confusion, I need to untangle my competing beliefs and discard those aspects of my life that are no longer important to me. This will become the next part of my journey, the path to inner peace.
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Peace In The Uncommon Ground
Louise Gallagher
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In the uncommon ground between us
I must first make peace
with where I stand
to make room
for you to be
at peace
with where ever you are

In finding peace
with where we’re at
the path
to the common ground
appears
for peace to grow
between us.