As I write this, my husband is on the roof, trying to fix a broken piece of siding. I prefer not to look, as the steep slant of the roof lines and the treads on his sneakers may or may not make a great match.
I hear the hammering, and he tells me that the pieces just slide right in. Just like the guy at the shop told him they would.
But the ease of fixing the outside of our house is a little worrisome. Really, it makes me wonder if the illusion of shelter all around us is nothing more than that: illusion. In a severe wind or great storm, might it all come crashing down, like a carefully constructed three-dimensional puzzle?
Today, I took the whole family on a 2-mile hike along my freedom trail, aptly named after the landmark conversation and hike my aunt took down that stretch of hilly dirt road nearly six years ago, after which I mustered the courage to end my marriage and step into a new, better life.
I keep pondering that word, freedom. On Passover, we read about how the Israelites gained freedom from the Egyptian Pharaoh and eventually were led to Mt. Sinai, where they received the commandments and the Torah.
Freedom to follow rules? Freedom to wander in the desert for 40 years? Freedom to abstain from most foods that we enjoy year round?
I heard a rabbi once say that Yom Kippur “frees” us from having to eat and snack so we can truly focus on the issue of atonement, taking personal account of the person we want to be and have been.
Revolutionaries fight for freedom from terror-driven regimes, and with that freedom they want the freedom of choice, exhibited by the ability to honestly vote in leaders and speak their truths without fear of punishment.
What, exactly, is freedom?
The ability to breathe in the humid summer air while stepping one foot in front of the next past tall, tall trees and silent swamps? The ability to climb on the roof and fix a corner of the house left open by the elements, without waiting for some service-person to be free enough to do it for us?
The mere presence of choices: which foods we eat, where we live, the people with whom we spend time, the kind of work that we do.
Some people feel stuck in their lives but not free enough to do something about it. Imprisoned, I would say, by their minds and fears.
For don’t we all have the freedom to step onto the open road and take whatever comes?
When I filed for divorce, I was exhilarated at the possibility of something better. Scared, yes, about leaving the security of a marriage. Terrified to not have my children with me all the time.
But strengthened by the power within me that led me to realize and accept that I would rather be happy alone than miserable in a relationship. That I could show my children a healthier way to live, model the type of adults I’d love for them to become – and surpass.
Freedom is a tricky thing. We have the freedom to imagine our lives as we want them and then the freedom to work hard to turn dreams into reality. We have the freedom to make huge mistakes and suffer the spiraling repercussions of bad decisions.
We have the freedom to start anew every morning, to make different choices and do different work and befriend new people to chart our course on a straighter path – or curvier, if that’s what you want.
It’s nothing to sneeze at. And it’s nothing to take for granted.