Let Go. Be Free.

Freedom. Such a powerful word. One I had to reflect on for several days before I could put any thoughts on this page. Is freedom a physical state, or a mental one? Nelson Mandella has taught us it’s both. And you cannot have one without the other. “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”

When I try to come up with a mental image of freedom, I picture my arms outstretched. Head back and eyes closed in blissful acceptance of the moment. There’s a vulnerability in this position. A trust that I can let life wash over me, and I will be okay. I see my children greet the world this way. Open. Unafraid. They are not anticipating what could happen. At least, they don’t let the anticipation stop them from doing anything. They simply accept things as they are.

Their current fascination is rollerblading. The street sweeper has been by, and now the pavement in front of our house has become a roller derby race course. I hold the broom and flick errant stones out of the way as they whip past me, squealing in delight, chasing each other in a blur of pony-tails and pink cotton. “Be careful!” I shout. “Slow down on the corners!” They oblige me for one lap, and then it’s back up to full speed. They are free, and their joy radiates so bright I squint as I watch them. Do they fall down? Heck, yeah. But it doesn’t stop them from drying their tears and re-joining the game. Fully aware of the possibility they will fall again, but willing to accept a certain level of discomfort in order to preserve the sweet sensation of the warm wind and the laughter. To maintain their freedom.

I think a more paralyzing fear of the ‘what-if’s’ starts later in life. As teenagers, we begin to shelter ourselves from potential harm. To crouch down and anticipate. Fear the unknown. Because we have been burned. Bad things have happened that hurt us. Scared us. Things we weren’t anticipating. This fear begins to chip away at our freedom, at our courage to walk through the gate and into the waiting world. In our beautiful country, we have the ability to take any and all risks we want to. But we don’t. We can wear what we want and sing songs that make us happy and leap through the tall grass when we feel like it. Dance when inspiration hits and love whomever we chose. Openly. But sometimes we stop ourselves from being completely vulnerable because we are afraid of what might happen if we do these soul-energizing things. People might react. Notice. Say things that are hurtful or embarrassing. Being free means being exposed, and as we get older, we find this terrifying. And then, something awesome happens.

We turn forty. On my fortieth birthday, a gift presented itself. I don’t know where it came from and I’m not about to ask, but from talking to the amazing women I surround myself with, I’m not alone. There is an awakening. A deep sense of wisdom and quiet confidence that seems to arrive only after we’ve stumbled through our twenties and speed-walked through our thirties. We realize what matters, and who matters. We learn to be accountable to ourselves and to take our happiness from the bottom of the priority pile and move it up, right near the top. It’s not that I don’t still fear things. I do. But they are real things. Not thoughts in other people’s heads. Not things I can’t control. I also understand that worrying about events that haven’t happened, might never happen, is a complete waste of time. If something goes wrong, I’ll react accordingly. But before it does, I will breathe, and put my face to the sun. Feel the gratitude and love all around me. If I fall, I will dry my tears and re-join the game. I will savour the moment with my arms outstretched. Like my girls do. Let go. Be free.