“In our struggle for freedom, truth is the only weapon we possess.” – The Dalai Lama
It’s amazing that I am posting about finding freedom in the midst of a pandemic. Most people are struggling with the restrictions on daily life that leave them feeling trapped. Under these conditions, freedom feels like a distant memory. Yet, here, at the close of this tumultuous year, I can finally say that I have found freedom and the inherent peace that it brings.
In the past decade, I experienced many hard lessons that broke me open. In that painful space, I learned acceptance, self-love, and self-reliance – three of the pillars of true freedom. I realized that no one was going to save me. I had to save myself. And, save myself I did, over and over again. Here’s what I have learned about freedom in the process.
Our Spirit Wants to be Free
At the end of 2019, I was standing in my front yard contemplating what to do about the empty space under the peak of my ranch home. It had held a large metal star painted my favorite color, bright turquoise blue. In a neighborhood of homes that all looked alike, the star gave my home character. It was bold and made me smile every time I saw it. But, after having it fly off the house twice during wind storms, I had to accept that it wasn’t meant to be.
I had originally planned on putting an eagle at that peak, like the one that had hung on the back of my childhood home. My Dad took great pride in being an American – flying flags and putting eagles in various places throughout our home. He even had an eagle tattoo. At several turning points in my life, over the past few years in particular, I have seen actual eagles and their presence was a dramatic reminder of my freedom.
I had looked for metal eagles online and couldn’t find one that I really liked. Maybe I should just get a smaller star? As I contemplated that thought, I saw a small piece of paper fluttering at the edge of my yard. It was a card with an eagle on it! Like so many other times I had inadvertently put a question out to the Universe, I quickly had my answer. An eagle was the right choice.
After inspecting the card more closely, I realized it was a prayer card for a man who had passed a few weeks earlier. I took the card inside and with reverence put it in the space where I meditate and pray. I would pick it up every so often, and each time a phrase jumped out at me: “I’m Free. Don’t grieve for me, for now I’m free…” This is something we commonly hear in death – that a person’s soul is finally free. As I thought about this, I felt a stirring in me. I don’t want to wait until I’ve passed away to find freedom. I want to be free now.
After a few months of that card sitting in my meditation space (and the eagle waiting in my Amazon wish list,) I picked up the card one day and gave it a closer look. Albert, the man who the card was honoring, shared my birthday, August 2nd. It seemed to be another amazing synchronicity further affirming to me this message that the Universe really wanted me to accept. I am FREE – it is my birthright!
The week before Albert’s and my special day, my boyfriend installed an eagle on the front of my house. It has felt like sacred support ever since.
We Must Give Up the Need for Validation
Five years ago, I had a major turning point in my quest for freedom. I had just turned 41, the same age my mother had been when she gave birth to me. That felt significant. I was a month away from being divorced. It was as though I was being reborn – getting a second chance at life. My mother has always been so strong, fearless, and free. She never seemed to care about what others thought. It felt like I was being called to be more like her.
A short while after, I reconnected with an old friend, who had, of all things, an eagle tattoo. He was spiritual like myself and also believed in guidance from the Universe. He suggested I look into numerology. I signed up for a free reading from numerologist.com and found it so accurate that I ordered a more detailed report. That report spoke of Pinnacle years that ended and began when I turned 41. It was a time to, “free yourself from the dominance or control of others.”
I have since encountered similar messages that said that my life’s greatest challenge would be letting go of what others thought of me. When I was struggling with low self-esteem following my divorce, I repeatedly came across information that stressed that the only way out of that dark place was to go inward and learn to love myself fully.
Self-Love Reclaims Your Power
We give away our power by caring so much about what others think, and frankly, there are far too many people eager to manipulate and abuse us with their cruel, hurtful criticisms. A great many people do not love themselves, and they live their lives with jealousy and bitterness, intentionally cutting down others. We can’t get wrapped up in those petty dramas. We must know our worth and not allow anyone else to take it from us.
When you’ve dealt with narcissists, as I have, you’re practically guaranteed to be ripped apart by their inability to validate you in any way. Nothing you do will ever be good enough. As I was writing this, I saw Lisa A. Romano posted the following,
“Once you are convinced you are dating the person of your dreams, you will begin to notice signs of instability in the narcissist, but because you have been conditioned to depend on their validation, you may disregard the abuse and fall prey to twisting yourself into a pretzel to gain their attention back. Trauma bonding is all part of how the narcissist is capable of gaining the control they need in relationships.”
If you need external validation in the form of praise or acceptance, that gives a narcissist the power to harm you. You must get clear on who you are so that you don’t ever need to look outside yourself. When you are a kind, honest, caring person, no one can take that away from you. You must fully embrace that at your core you are love.
Self-Love Takes Work
When I was working on raising my self-love, I would write affirmations in a Wonder Woman journal. First thing in the morning, I listed all of the great qualities I possess. I did it daily until I finally believed what I wrote. I just found the following that I had journaled when I was feeling especially fiery:
I don’t owe anyone anything! I don’t need approval. I don’t need validation. I am complete, free, and radiant. I don’t need anyone to tell me that. I feel it. I live it. I know it.
I hope you grow to feel this way too! We are all works in progress. None of us has it all figured out, but living with confidence and clarity around our worth makes us much healthier and happier – that I know for sure.
Freedom is An Inside Job
As I said, this post has been years in the making. I’ve been collecting articles, quotes, and other inspiration on this topic. I just found an article I had saved since March of 2014. In it, Connie Shultz shares her take on freedom in the workplace. I found these quotes especially inspiring:
- “We can’t let others define us. Figuring out who we are has to be an inside job.”
- “We’ve all known someone eager to tell us who we are. The key is to be just as eager to set the record straight.”
- “This is not my job. This is my career. I’m in charge of that.”
Freedom within a work environment has been especially challenging for me. There always seem to be people in power who lack genuine compassion and ethics. We have to be able to recognize those individuals quickly and keep their behavior in perspective. Just because someone is the boss does not give them the right to manipulate or abuse. I have every right to put boundaries around my time and efforts. If I am hired for a specific job, I am not obligated to take on additional work without additional compensation.
I can also work for myself! The pandemic is teaching us that there is no true security in the workforce. We must always stay nimble and ready to make money outside of a traditional job. This is not meant to scare you. It’s actually very empowering.
Freedom is Not Free
“Freedom is a path, it is a process…It is something that we choose over and over again.” – Rachel Naomi Remen
It takes work to be free. You often have to give up the good in order to go for the great. I walked away from a marriage that from the outside many people thought was perfect. I did the same with several jobs. Much of what looks good on the surface is actually deeply flawed.
You must be willing to give up everything – all of the safe, secure, niceties of life – to get to the gritty, raw realities of freedom. It doesn’t feel comfortable. It’s like ripping off a bandage so that a wound can heal. Finding freedom takes unearthing all the hurts that are holding you back and healing them one by one. When all those wounds heal, you are much stronger and more resilient than ever before!
The pandemic has felt like a great reset for me. I lost a lot of money this year, but with it went toxic attachments that needed to go! I have less money and stuff, but so much more joy. The simple, love-filled life I live now is exactly what I’ve always wanted.
Free Yourself from the Past
Again, in looking through my files yesterday, I came across another great source of confirmation. It was a piece from Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays: First Series, Circles.) that is filled with profound wisdom. What struck me most was this passage:
“People say sometimes, ‘See what I have overcome; see how cheerful I am; see how completely I have triumphed over these black events.’ Not if they still remind me of the black event. True conquest is the causing the calamity to fade and disappear, as an early cloud of insignificant result in a history so large and advancing.”
The hardest part of finding freedom for me has been letting go of the past. It’s hard to accept that people I loved hurt me without remorse. But, that is reality. There are people who just don’t care about the feelings of others. I must accept that and learn from it. True freedom only comes from letting go of grief and pain, and finding gratitude for how the hard lessons shaped me into the person I am today.
2020 was traumatic for all of us. We could all benefit from seeking the glimmers of hope and positivity in this difficult year. I’m not suggesting we pretend it didn’t happen or that we live in toxic positivity. I just know that unless we can release and reframe the grief, it will consume us with negative emotions.
I know for myself that 2020 gave me a much-needed pause. It allowed me to grow deeper in love with my partner and my dearest friends. It gave me time to fully enjoy my cozy home and my sweet little cat. And, it gave me space for the deeply healing reflection that has come through in this blog as of late.
Freedom Requires Truth
As I’ve already relayed, I get lots of amazing signs from spirit – mysterious prayer cards, animals, number patterns, songs. As I was writing this, I came across an unfinished piece I had titled, “Truth Matters.” Just after closing the file, a hawk flew directly at my window followed by two crows. Hawk is a messenger and a sign of validation, so I knew that even though this post has gotten very long, I needed to stress that truth is a big part of freedom.
I love Wonder Woman and I just watched Wonder Woman 84. Truth is a central theme of that movie and one that resonated with me deeply. For the past four years, our country has veered away from honesty and authenticity. It is crucial that we get back on track if we are going to stay a free society.
But, the thing about truth is that in order for it to set us free, we can’t get too attached to how it is received. We must say our truth and then let it go. Anyone who is open and willing to listen will play their part in the conversation by trying to see your point of view. Fighting and getting entrenched in the outcome is just another way to give away your power.
Hope for 2021
Kari Samuels notes that the themes for the coming year are Freedom, Liberation, and Revolution. She reminds us, however, that freedom doesn’t have the same meaning for everyone. You have to know what it means for you.
I challenge you at the end of this rocky year to think about how you can achieve freedom, even in the midst of pandemic restrictions. Ask yourself:
What is really important to me?
What makes me feel the most joy and ease?
Who makes me feel most comfortable and happy?
How can I let go of my past mistakes and challenges?
How can I release myself from self-imposed rules that no longer work for me?
I hope you find the freedom to let go of all that doesn’t serve you in 2020, and welcome in all that is meant for you in 2021. Namaste.
Michelle Gibeault Traub is a health writer, compassionate coach, and the author of Online Dating for Sensitive Women. Her mission is to help women be their best in body, mind & spirit.
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10 thoughts on “Finding Freedom in 2020”
Unbelievably beautiful. Thank you for your deeply moving reflection of your life as we close out a hell of a year! I find it amazing that although we have never met, we’re living similar lives with similar patterns, and I hope to add, similar outcomes; I’m well on my way, thanks to people like you that write so beautifully as well as teachers like, Lisa A Romano.
Happiest of the new year wishes for you and yours.
Thank you Jo! Happy New Year to you! I hope 2021 is good to you.
aaaaaaaaaaallllllll of this!!! welcome to freedom, my friend! 😀
Thanks! It’s a place I’ve visited. Hopefully, I’m here to stay. 😉
I too believe in listening to the Universe and the call of the wild had gotten so much more intense for me during 2020. As I read this article I see a lot of myself in you and we are following similar paths. I look forward to reading more of your articles and will see you around our Facebook forums!
Hi Susan! Thanks for reading. I’m so glad this resonated with you. 2020 was wild, and it did feel like the messages got a lot stronger this year. I’m glad I’m not alone on this path. All my best to you!
Thank you, Michelle, for this beautiful post. I’ve struggled with anxiety in the past and I know how hard it can be to diffuse negative thoughts about yourself from your inner voice. I think if we can learn to come to a place of compassion, forgiveness, and admiration towards ourselves as we do for others, we can find peace. It can be hard as women too, right? We all have so many insecurities drilled into us from society from media images of women to characters on tv portraying the perfect, beautiful, daring women who just have it all together. That’s not real! Anyway thanks for sharing. I have a blog too check it out over at http://www.howsitflowin.com.
Hi Jen, Thanks so much for reading and sharing your experiences. It really can be a challenge to get to a place of peace. I’m glad you’ve found your joy in yoga. It is something that has helped me greatly too. Namaste – Michelle
Just beautiful…your writing, your sentiments, and most importantly YOU! You are a beautiful human being. I am so glad you found your way into my life❤️
You are so kind soul sister! Thank you for always providing such positive support. You are truly beautiful too!