I’ve been thinking a lot about freedom recently, what it means to me, and how I can feel more of it in my life. Maybe its the pandemic restricting my movements, not being able to see old friends who live in different towns and cities to me, having extra time with toddler Ted or simply feeling ready to come out of hibernation in time for Spring that’s put it at the forefront of my mind. Maybe its at the forefront of your mind too? I’m sure most of us have a variety of reasons for not having the time we would like, or we do have the time but are restricted with what we can do with it. For good reason I know, but in my mind it’s worth exploring how to maximise our freedom in whatever situation we find ourselves in.
A very rich feeling of freedom came to me recently as we are in the process of selling our house and buying one with a little garden. I’ve never really had more than a yard since leaving home at 18 (or certainly not an appreciation for one) and our hopefully new house has a funny little garden that climbs up the valley and turns into the woods, and a front terrace that looks out into the thick of the trees and holds the sound of the rushing river below. Just typing this fills me with such a sense of freedom, imagining stepping out in the sunshine, feeding the birds, making rose arches and planting bulbs into cold soil in winter with Ted. To have some land to explore, to create on and to care for is deeply freeing to me. Other things that take me away from what can feel like the grind of life are walking in nature, reading alone tucked up in bed, exploring new (to me) outdoor spots/paths not far from home, painting in the evening, planning runs on different routes (and then doing them!) and a fresh dip in a cold river. All these things I came up with when I sat and thought about what makes me feel free. Of course one day I’d love a solo adventure to the Musee d’orsay in Paris or to lie on the warm sand on a Malaysian beach but really what came up for me was simple, ordinary things like walking, reading and painting. If you sit with yourself for a while, or mull it over for a few days, what brings out a feeling of freedom for you? It might be very different to me – maybe cooking, baking, calling a friend, listening to music, dancing, a workout..
So next there’s the fitting it all in thing.. At first I wrote down a schedule for the week – when I could fit in a run, a little yoga, which evening I’d paint, which I’d go for an evening walk, which I’d read in bed. And it worked for about a day and a half. And I realised you can’t over schedule freedom, well I can’t anyway. With much initial resistance to my love of planning (control issues..) now I very much ask my body and mind what it wants on a minute by minute, day by day basis. I don’t know when I’ll next go on a running adventure but I trust my body will tell me when it’s time to feel the freedom of my body moving with the wind, feet thumping on the ground. I don’t know when I’ll next paint but I know my imagination will tell me lets collect some flowers one day and have some fun painting them later. I don’t know when I’ll next read in bed but I know my mind will tell me it’s feeling sponge like and ready to take in something new. I don’t know when I’ll next take an evening wonder but I know my heart will tell me the moonlight is calling. I don’t know when I’ll next go for a walk in nature but I know my eyes will look out the window and tell me the light from the winter sun is calling me out today.
Finding any time for freedom enhancing things of course isn’t always easy when you have other responsibilities and I by no means spend my days frolicking around the woods but I do manage to fit things in when I see how valuable they are to my happiness (and therefore to the happiness of those around me!). And as I focus on them more and more I am increasingly likely to intentionally spend my evening doing something that really fulfils me because I’ve now experienced how that fulfilment carries over to the next hour or the next day. Another big thing that has helped is totally letting expectations go – so if I only have 15 minutes to read while Ted is watching his cartoons then you bet I am gonna sit back with a hot cuppa and enjoy every minute. If I’m mid run and I really want to walk for a while, you bet I will slow down and enjoy the gentle pace. If I want to paint a masterpiece and part way through realise it’s utter shit you bet I will have another go, remembering it’s for fun and the French masters honed their talents for years.
So I hope you will get a chance to think about freedom, what it means to you and how you can feel more of it in your life. I’d love to know what you come up with and how you manage to introduce activities and moments into your life?
And while I’m here – a wonderful book recommendation I’ve almost finished. ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’ by Brene Brown. You may already know of her work into shame and vulnerability and have heard her Ted talk. This book has been a useful guide for wholehearted living for me. And can’t wait to read more of her work. Hope you like it too.
Thanks all for reading,
(This post was written in Winter 2020..)