The calendar year has once again turned over and I never wrote about my 2016 Word of the Year. Maybe it was too personal. Maybe I felt I needed to explain it too much. Whatever reason it may have been, I wanted to make sure I documented it before I moved on to 2017.
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When my mother-in-law first met me over 18 years ago, she called me a FREE SPIRIT. And I was. I was also fearless, a little reckless, and a lot selfish. But free spirit definitely sounded better.
As life would have it, marriage struggles, finances, cancer, having children, the basics of adulting, made me less free spirited and more heavy-hearted. I walked through death, divorce, and diagnosis with other mothers and saw that my joie de vivre was really just ignorance wrapped up in adrenaline.
And I became hard.
And hardness doesn’t look good on anyone. I needed to be released of this hardness.
So I set out to set myself free. But I found my freedom in the faith that had carried me through the hard. “The joy of the Lord is my strength” resonated with me. God’s strength gives me joy; my joy comes only from God’s strength. He (Jesus) even used MY word! “If you abide in my word you are truly my disciples and you will know the truth and the truth will set you FREE.” (John 8:31-32) And again in John 8:36, he says “If the Son sets you FREE, you are FREE indeed!”
What happened when I became free?
-I began to laugh outloud again. I love to laugh, I love to make people laugh, but I lost my laughter. This year I didn’t suppress it. Working with my students in Special Ed, I watched them feel their feelings. When something is funny, they laugh, loudly and without constraint. I wanted to be more like my students so I followed their lead.
-I danced more. I love to dance. Part of my love of practicing yoga is that I feel like I am dancing when I move from pose to pose. It doesn’t matter that I’m not actually that good at dancing; the freedom comes in releasing the expectations of what it “should” look like. And when your 68-year-old mother asks to go dancing for her birthday at a drag queen street party, you dance.
-I rode a bike. (It had been 20 years since the last time.)
-I rode a camel. I thought I’d do that for the first time in the deserts of the Middle East, but the deserts of Palm Springs sufficed.
-I ran a mud run. And did 25 obstacles throughout it just like ones I did as a kid. It was exhausting and absolutely exhilarating.
-I tried out for things…contests, tickets, brand-enthusiasts, writing awards, even jobs I wasn’t nearly qualified for, and I got passed on most, but some stuck and the fun was in the trying and dreaming.
-I went to the snow, to the desert, to the mountains, to the ocean, to the South, to the woods, to the river, to the City, and to the lake. In other words, I didn’t sit and see the same thing. I was free to explore. I was free to have an adventure.
None of this is to say I am completely released. Everyday is an effort to not live in the bondage of fear or in a world of pseudo control. And some days I don’t have that effort. But I want my kids to know who I once was (minus the selfishness) so I aspire to be sillier, do things that scare me, and remember to smile more.
And in that, I’m FREE.