(I’m recording positives rather than what made me feel non-free.)
With a father and a grandmother who were both gods in their own homes, my freedom grew to be interior and alone, what I did not say at home or in crowded areas. I had my own bedroom only for one summer and for my senior year of high school and then I had room-mates all the way through college. So freedom was within me and away from TVs and radios and gatherings. I must have been 35 or older before I realized that a childhood of being outdoors in gardens and woods was what started to form my free spirit and imagination. My teachers and my mom loved my imagination from the get go, but I felt freer in non-scrutinized, non-critical space. I repressed my own imagination. Mom knew I was going to be a writer, and I suppressed that too.
In college, I felt powerful fighting for peace and education and free love, so I didn’t often give myself up to experiencing the freedoms that could be in dance and writing and lovemaking and being alone. I dived into all three when I made time, but I believe now that I was afraid of not having a God around like dad or grandmother or even mom. Then in rapid succession came a marriage, divorce, car and meetings with incredible women. Freedom came over me and the spirit entered.
I began to learn Judaism—which was familiar from dad’s family—but now its amazing history, poetry and ritual were reshaped in women’s hands. Then I experienced being outdoors again, but nude! I found witches and a coven. Weight fell away from me. I became taller standing on mother earth. I was a Jewish Pagan until I met Quakers in the peace movement and learned how to be free from struggle in the midst of struggle (as long as I stayed far away from the complications of family).
By writing this freely, I am beginning to see that I feel free when I can get elemental and open like a day lily—yes, like an artichoke. I found a little freedom on each spiritual and physical unfolding. Spirituality and sensuality have been elemental twin openings that I can’t describe without poetry and metaphor. Imagine me on the seashore digging my feet in, letting my feet be enveloped by wet sand and me be sucked out of myself. Right at land and sea where no expectations exist, equality abounds. There where I cannot get pulled into working on equality like I need to do in social settings. At the seashore all is equal. Or hugging a tree like I did the other day in Avis’s cemetery. And driving, sometimes driving with music.
I’m feeling freer and freer as the surgical work on my body slowly takes effect and I have much less pain than I can remember. Also, for once, I have a little more money than I need to live on as Nancy continues to pay rent for downstairs. And I have mobility.
With this freedom, I begin to feel I can be naked again in front of my Jewish-Pagan-Christian God. I don’t hold back when God speaks and moves through me. I am free to be in the world but not of it. I have weights still, but I find that they are also blessings:
1. mom and dad and family and friends 2. books and poems to finish and publish 3. worlds to bring equality to 4. environments to better
I don’t want to lose these weights. I like them. They are privileges and they set me free. I won’t give them up unless they no longer exist.
Am I telling the truth?
I got irritable at a friend this week for not using the plates I asked her to use and because she took my salad off the table to make room for her soup. Why so irritated? Do I want to be free from my friends and worship groups and free from potlucks forever? No. I am free amid these to travel paths I’ve never traveled before and to accompany incredible people.
Do I not want to be free?
My students used to call out “freedom of speech!” when I called them on obscenity and hate speech, but I said, no, there’s no freedom of speech in school. And then we debated. Proposition: No one wants absolute freedom for themselves or for others. My point: Wouldn’t you prefer having the freedom to choose limits to freedom you agree with in order to have the society around you in which you feel free?
I want freedom of movement, freedom from all consuming health concerns. I want to give myself more freedom to walk and see friends and art and the ocean by setting a schedule and making sure these are in it and equal to other events on it. I want to be free from my book by finishing it. I want to build life as a retreat where I am free to indulge in my spiritual and sensual life—just like I’m trying to do during this Pendle Hill year.
I don’t mind working for freedom. I love feeling capable of doing that. I am feel freer now than I ever have before in my life. I’ve found me and I am with a God that I have not made in my own image.