Saturday, September 10, 2011


Aside from the immaterial irritations of society’s rules, I have really not known restrictions of any unalienable rights. I have not had to experience chronic mental illness, physical pain or disfigurement. I haven’t suffered through civil wars, rape, genocide, or totalitarian injustices, so I wonder if I can authentically express this exalted opinion of individual freedom.  I do know that on this 10th anniversary of 9/11, I am reminded of that day when I was only a few weeks into mourning my own son’s death, and mixed in my sequestered grief for me and all the attention directed to this national tragedy.  To say the least, my mental state was not working toward the good.  Where do we not exercise our greatest freedom?

Customs and social mores fence us in. Society’s laws and red tape freeze us.
We are bound by the fear of failure, pain, reprisals, and rejection.  

Where can we go that we shouldn’t?
What can we do that we shouldn’t?
Who can we see that we shouldn’t?
What can we say that we shouldn’t?

Yes, we have “ties that bind” – by society’s laws or social customs, but as long as we exercise our freedom to have the attitude we want, how can we be enslaved?  If Viktor Frankl was able to withstand every atrocity imaginable during the Holocaust, and still say that no one can take away his attitude, then this has to remain true for me as well.

We are imprisoned by financial woes, children’s choices and consequences, parents aging with dementia, personal health issues to speak of exterior restraints.  There will always be some kind of tether that will keep us from moving the way or the direction that we want.

But a far greater, more horrific prison is that of our own attitude.  If  we put up barriers and walls that only make us look at the past, or “what could have been,” or “what we wish we had,” or that chokingly awful  “if only,” then we suffer a loss of freedom far greater than anything our fellow man with his inhumanity, laws , or customs can inflict on us.  If we have this power, and don’t exercise it, then we become our own jailor.  

The chains of un-forgiveness
The bonds of bitterness, resentment
The shackles of self-centeredness, self-doubt, self-worth
The ropes of regret, un-met expectations,

All of these put us in a solitary confinement. They separate us from unconditional love, unbridled joy, and unfettered acceptance.  These are the freedoms I can’t live without, and I am the only one who has the key to open them in my heart.


  1. Suzanne - Not an original quote: "The soul of man is like a door shut with the only handle on the inside." So often I am the only one who gets in the way of my need for the sunlight of the spirit - The Holy Spirit - the breath of life. This isn't to say others aren't vexing and their motives less than clean. I have known truly evil people up close. Chilling. Free will. How highly the Lord must think of us to trust us with it! I think of another quote: "When the heart speaks the heart listens." I had no idea that the anniversary your son's passing on was around this time. I may have overlooked you sharing this. I'll think of him now. Thank you for sharing from your heart. It is brave. I tell my children that no matter how minimal their troubles may seem compared to others, it makes theirs no bigger, no smaller, no less important. While I sense your sorrow and frustrations at times, I don't sense bitterness. I also enjoy your wit. Your sorrows, your losses are things most will never know - your son, your hearing. You handle loss with grace. Your ability to do this blog proves that. Writing, like so many things, is a God-given gift. You use your gift with generosity and respect. Elise

  2. As I sit here and realize I was too afraid to attend church - one the largest and activist parishes in my city - living downtown, I realize that fear kept me a prisoner on a day of celebration and community. I also belong to a faith that teaches that if we die in church we automatically go to heaven! Perhaps, I might have read your new piece sooner! I am perturbed and sad that I was able to withdraw and be unable to join others without fear and to be a patriot, so much my family heritage since before the Revolutionary War. If the attendees today were anxious and uncomfortable, I need to remember that courage wouldn't be courage if it were easy. I'm frankly ashamed of myself - not in a punitive way - but in a way that can provide growth. There may even be someone who needs my example of a changed attitude. Thank you so much for this entry.

  3. Here we are again on September 11. Each year I fear this day less and less and life goes on. I see Americans become stronger and see our differences fall away when we band together on a day like today. Of course our country has divisions but we prevail. We vote, we complain, we vote again. Such a deal. When people like you have the ability to write such inspirational things, once again, we can feel part of life around us. It is so often that women like you who experience profound loss are the very ones who can find the words to help others get through hardships. Think of Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Helen Keller. Joan Didion. Some have it and some don't have the ability. They did and so do you. Maybe words that the younger generation may have thought were trite in their history classes became wisdom when they became the 9/11 generation, as Joe Biden said this morning. "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."

  4. Hearing Paul Simon sing "Sounds of Silence" at Ground Zero and then reading your blog made me think of several comparisons. His lyrics speak to people who give in to the crowd and apathy and no longer think for themselves. They feel that their choices have been taken away. They no longer express an opinion or attitude. This blog addresses for me the realization of something wrong and still the choices to affect change. Most of the time we can't do it alone. The sounds of silence are loud if we're living in our heads and being afraid of people, places and things. The solitary confinement you seem to talk about is a self-inflicted wound and sometimes, hard to heal. Changing one's attitude about people can open doors for the bitter and frightened. This entry from you is full of wisdom and challenges the reader into introspection and then, action. It's so easy to see the glass half empty and forget we aren't powerless.

  5. Un-forgiveness and regret. These are my downfalls. Change must begin in my own heart.

  6. All of this is so true. Health issues seem to get me down the most. I often try to keep it all in perspective and think: "An attitude of gratitude." Better yet, "Give thanks in all circumstances." - 1 Thessalonians 5:18 Thank you for all of your entries.

  7. Suzanne, I've always had this quote on my refrigerator. Your piece talks all about choices and taking the high road for ourselves and others we may touch along the way. Of course, our Viktor Frankl - what fine choices he made. "Some people think only intellect counts: knowing how to get by, knowing how to identify an advantage and seize it. But the many functions of intellect are insufficient without courage, love, friendship, compassion and empathy. We care. It is our curse. It is our blessing. - Dean R. Koontz - Elise


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