July 4th, 1776 — A few, super-rad, old dudes signed off on our freedom. And so it is — ‘Merica.
This year, I watched fireworks explode as little children waved their sparklers high. My neighbors sat in lawn chairs on the curb. American flags waved off the sides of their craftsman homes as a warm breeze swelled and dusk fell over Portland. Believe it or not, I actually spent this 4th of July thinking about independence. My country’s and my own. It was only a few, short years ago, that this day was nothing more than a good reason to drink.
Today, sobriety is my freedom. I’m not afforded it because of my birth place or my passport. It isn’t a matter of country. However, it is about allegiance — to one’s self. It has everything to do with this ground I stand on. Solid. Sure. Terra firma with integrity. It feels like something worth protecting — worth fighting for. That ground is mine. Not my country’s. Not my parent’s. Not my lover’s. Mine. But, still, I often give it away without thinking.
I once thought freedom was something given. Something we have or don’t have — an object. It isn’t. Freedom is a feeling.
I don’t feel free. Fears punctuate my life. Each day is a short. little. sentence. I am meant to be a run-on, of that, I am certain. The kicker is: Fear isn’t real. It’s something we choose to believe. It’s our own, internal government. We choose this dictator because it makes our choices easy. Life becomes black and white. And, in that simplicity, we mistake inaction for liberation.
I’m guarded. Blocked. My armies wait at the ready to fight, or retreat — I’m still not sure. I’ve had this desperate yearning to move: To move on, to move out, to move my physical body. But, instead, I sit still. Feeling powerless and defeated, I did what any woo-woo, Oregonian, half-blooded-hippie would do: I had my tarot cards read.
I met with my card reader for the first time in a booth at an Indian buffet and we didn’t say much. I told her my birthday. That’s it. She read my cards after I gently touched my palm to each of her two decks. I listened eagerly. I was waiting to be told what to do. Guide me. Show me. Tell me. That’s what I wanted. I traded one dictator for another.
Then — The Eight of Swords. My advice card. My reader pointed to the card and said: “The swords are just fear. The Woman doesn’t see it now– not yet — but, eventually, she will realize she can just walk between them and be free.”
Maybe it was the universe’s cosmic pull. Maybe it was the magical woman who hugged me goodbye, warmly, after knowing me only an hour. Maybe it was the cards. Truthfully, I don’t know what it was, but, when I left that restaurant, my clothing spiced with the perfume of India — I didn’t give a fuck about fear.
There is nothing real that stands between us and our freedom. The freedom that exists is the freedom we create. Assign your own limits accordingly.
So, this 4th of July, I declared my own independence. And, as the teenage boys across the street launched their sky rocket above our street, its red plume descending over us like fallen stars, I gripped my flip-flops to the asphalt — my terra firma — and I made a wish.
May we always feel our freedom — and have the courage to dance between our swords.