I believe that I often live someone else’s expectations. True freedom, for me, would be having the courage to follow my true self rather than the demands around me. That is not as easy as it seems because, over time, I have added the burden of values and community standards. You can call that someone else’s expectations or restrictions that I have taken on myself. I have accepted values that say I should do this and not do that. I have moved into communities that have standards that I have accepted. That is only part of the puzzle of freedom. Freedom stands for something greater than just the right to act however I choose.
Being true to yourself starts with knowing who you are and accepting yourself. The problem I found was figuring out who I was. There are a lot of clues out there in the many self-help books I have read. Perhaps I was what I did and accomplished. I was an executive, a parent, a writer, or some other title. None of those ideas seemed to feel right. OK, so maybe I am what I own. I am a homeowner, sailboat owner, or owner of the most expensive car in the neighborhood. No, that did not ring well either. Maybe I am what other people think I am. Not so long ago, I was fearful of walking into a crowded room, thinking that everyone thought I was strange. Perhaps I was, but what I found out is that most of the people had no such thoughts. None of these superficial definitions work for me.
The other implication is that I can be anything I want and ignore people. Well, that does not work, so I’m not saying be any way you want. The world is full of people who do that and don’t care at all about the effect they have on others or the world. I am not one of those people.
I had to stop and think about how I was raised, the culture I was brought up in, and the lessons I have learned. That would suggest that the values and the customs I have accepted have a lot to do with who I am today. Being true to myself means being accountable for my thoughts and actions. Here I am in my late seventies with a lot of obligations and an acquired set of values. All of that will determine how I perceive things.
All of these conflicts are present when a pandemic hits and changes all the rules. I have seen people that are paranoid about the perception of a government that takes away our freedom. I have also seen some that are upset because the government is not doing enough to protect our freedom. There are questions like, does spreading the virus represent a threat to my freedom? How about crashing the stock market or fake news? I have seen people obsessed with proving their perception is correct. Spending hours doing research looking for anything that proves that their position is correct. At some level, this obsession has restricted their freedom more than anything else. I have restricted my freedom with concerns about health, the government, and the economy.
Our world has become complicated, filled with uncertainty. We tend to resist change. When the uncertainty becomes too big of a burden, we give up. We need to gradually get back to our true selves. I was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy that will cause early respiratory failure. That makes this pandemic a significant influence on my perception of things. Others may see certain actions as a threat to their freedom while I may see the same action as a protection of my freedom.
What is real freedom? I watched a TV special that had a song that Garth Brooks sang back in the 90s called “We shall be free.” The lyrics reminded me of what real freedom is. I am still discovering who I am and working at being true to myself. It’s an exhilarating way to live, and I’ve found it’s OK to be me! Maybe when this is all over, we can start to focus on being free. Stop the fake news, the paranoia, and the finger-pointing. Getting back to who we are.