Thursday, October 16, 2014

Freedom is Useless without Courage

Life is a collection of moments. In some moments we transcend. Our ears hear our daughter's hysterical laughter of childhood, our mouths taste a Chateau Coutet Sauterne for the first time, our eyes see the sky turning blue-pink and we believe in God, if just for a second. These are the moments that make us alive, yet we tend to forget them almost as quickly as we experience them.

There are other moments. In those moments, we are humbled. Our hands wrap Toyotas around telephone poles, our mouths snap an insult at the person across the room, our lizard brains confuse a child who won't put on her flipping socks and shoes already with a cougar about to pounce. In short, we lose control.

Where does true control over the moment, or of life come from?

I think of interview from a few weeks ago. About my father, the person said, "He was honest. He didn't tolerate fools. If he thought you were an idiot, he told you you were an idiot." There's a kind of confidence implied by someone not only unwilling to suffer fools but also willing to tell the fool that they are, in fact, a fool. This is not something I can do, yet. I still have time.

I think the difference was that my father took a leap towards happiness when he met my mother and they started their family. He abandoned the expectations of his family, his church, and himself. He hurt others in the process.

Still, he gave himself the chance for the life he wanted. He chose the life that would make him happy. Once you risk who you and everyone else thinks you are, you begin to let go of what other people think of you. You are free from their expectations (and perhaps your own) to find your own life, in your own way, in your own time.

When I started to write this year, I took a leap towards a life I've always wanted but was simply too afraid to try. Fear governed me.

Back in the corporate world, whenever anyone asked me what I would do when I had enough money, I’d answer, “Move to New Orleans. Buy a B and B in the Garden District and write all afternoon.” Sometimes the B and B was in Quogue, NY. Over the years, I gave up saying that. “I’d be right where I am.” With that one cowardly lie, masquerading as a positive attitude, I reduced myself to living a life I didn't really want to live. The reason I felt like an imposter was not that I believed I was incompetent, it was that I really wanted to be somewhere else entirely.

The girl looking for approval and safety reminded me that I should want to be on that path. For another day, I would wait for that moment when what I want and what I should want become one and the same. And then, I took my own leap toward the life I've always wanted.

Freedom is useless without courage. It took me so long to hear that message, I just wish I'd listened earlier. Then again, the best lessons are often learned the hard way.

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