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.