Freedom. One word, 7 letters; found in never-ending stories, all of them powerful. Before February 29, 2015, I would have attached this word to the powerful stories I knew from history– slavery, civil rights, the list goes on and on. I learned about the struggle and the bravery that is attached to this word through those stories because I hadn’t known my own, or so I thought. I don’t think I knew of my own need for freedom because I was too busy comparing my struggle to others. I couldn’t possibly validate emotional and mental pain, when there were others suffering far worse around the world. I was both the capturer and the captive. I was mentally enslaved, and let me tell you, it is really difficult to outsmart yourself.
I think Bob Marley said it best in “Redemption Song” when he sang, “emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.” That is one of those deeply honest verses that we all love to hate. We know how true it is, but it is always the last thing we want to hear. Why? Because it is really freakin’ hard! I will follow any “10 steps to Guaranteed Happiness” or pop any miracle pill you tell me to, but don’t you dare tell me to go at it alone; it is way too daunting. I am only willing to wander around in the darkness when I am trying to prove to my husband that my way is better. But with this whole “finding out what freedom feels like”, I’m gonna need to see a map and a blueprint, and I want a guide with me the whole way. Do you want to know how I got around it? By having no idea I was doing it in the first place!
When I posted my first blog entry, I wasn’t posting it for myself and for my own freedom from mental slavery; I was posting it for the rest of the 1 in 4 women who experience this loss. I was posting it to start a conversation that we have been socialized to keep to ourselves. I was posting it so that others didn’t have to feel alone. Even if it was for only the 5 minutes that they spent reading it, they would know there was someone else out there who got it. It wasn’t until I heard from so many other brave women, who shared their stories and recognized my intentions, that I realized I was free. For the first time ever, I allowed a story to bubble up in me; and instead of reliving it, I released it.
I am not going to sit here and lie to you and say that my story will never bubble up again because the truth is, it is a part of me. But it no longer defines me. I am no longer ashamed of my story; I grew stronger because of it. I am proud to stand among the millions of women who have experienced loss, and who continued to live. We may not have signed up for this group voluntarily, but we are survivors and we deserve to have our stories heard.
With that being said, I also know the power that comes with every new interpretation of this long-standing story. Everyone whose lips utter it or whose heart has been touched by it adds a new layer of depth, a new interpretation of truth. A comparison that comes to mind is hearing a song that you have always loved covered by someone new. There is an immediate comfort that comes with that familiar beat and the anticipation of their interpretation. And every once in a while, you will be hit by it. Blown away by the magic that can happen, when the song you have always loved can suddenly mesmerize you, as if you are hearing the words for the first time. The feeling is not something that can easily be put into words, but it is impossible not to feel it when it is happening. All that I can attribute that to is the feeling that you are inside a person’s soul. You are hearing the memories that they have attached to that song, and all of a sudden have a deeper understanding of what that song is actually saying. The words you have been belting out all those years haven’t changed, but you have. The experiences you have gathered since the last time you have played it have altered your perspective.
So I encourage you to be brave enough to step on stage. Trust that your soul will remember the words. And just know if you get stage fright, that 1 in 4 of us will know the words, and we will do our best to help you harmonize.