The 4th of July is a really special holiday for so many reasons. First of all, there is the obvious celebration of America and all that she is founded on. The older I get and the more I teach Social Studies, the more I truly appreciate the holiday. The colonists had so much pride in what they believed in and made a conscious decision to say no to a way of life that was no longer serving them. They were outnumbered but they had their pride and their conviction--and their story is enough to empower anyone to fight for what they truly believe in and that which sets them free.
Then, I think about my personal ancestors. They fought so hard and struggled so much just so we can have this life of freedom and empowerment. My maternal great grandmother came from Russia at 13 by herself--searching for her sister; my paternal grandparents came with 3 young boys in tow (including my father who was 40 days old at the time). My Nonna still tells me about the days she cried being so lonely in this country where she didn’t know anyone and didn’t know the language. They all did that so that we could have a better life and a better opportunity.
And when I think about these things I am reminded of Mary Oliver’s question “So what are you going to do with this one wild and precious life?” Because it is wild. And is is precious. And so many people fought for us to have this opportunity--to be free. But what does freedom really mean?
Perhaps coincidentally (but probably not as there are truly no coincidences) our nation’s Independence day has started to symbolize my own spiritual and personal revolution. Last year I was home alone with my daughter as my husband was working a 24 hour shift, and somehow I got the inspiration to create a vision book alongside my girl. I wrote myself a note in the book about how this space is to represent my own freedom to create and envision the life which I desire. A year later it is amazing to me how many of those things have come to fruition.
This year, I started a sort of empowerment journey on July 1st. Every month I try to set an intention word and the word empower really came to me. I had planned on doing a yoga challenge with one of my kindred spirit friends and then I happened upon a 10 day smoothie cleanse book while at my parent’s house and decided to tack that on to my journey. And then I thought why not--let’s add 30 days of meditation? And in the 4 days that I started detoxing my life, I started to feel called to let go of that which wasn’t serving me. I started to feel really empowered and free. I started to realize how often food has become more of an obligation than a choice in my own life. I am visiting my aunt and she makes good brownies, so I have to have one. It is someone’s birthday, so I have to have cake, etc.
Then yesterday I made a really conscious decision to unplug all day. It has been something I have wanted to do for a while--just unplug more--be more present. I left my phone at home and spent the entire day with my family. I went up to see the fireworks and was really observant of how many people spent time on their phones and not engaging in conversations with each other. I observed people more obsessed with the picture they were capturing to put on Instagram than actually engaging in the beauty and joy of the celebration. And I realized how too often I have been there--more often than I would like to admit. I like the think i have a hold on my technology use but I realize how truly addicted I really am. And so yesterday while I was unplugged instead of checking social media, I journaled. I read a book. I paid attention to my family. I had real, fully engaged and present conversations with my husband. I actually played with my daughter. I didn’t feel distracted. I didn’t feel crazy. I actually felt free.
I know this sounds really simple and pretty obvious but for me it was liberating. I think sometimes we all think we are a little more important than we really are. Today when I allotted myself a little time to check my phone, I had like 4 text messages that were not crucial by any means and 10 notifications on social media. That’s it. Nothing was urgent. Nothing was life altering. Nothing was more important than the time I spent.
Time is our most valuable asset, and we always complain about not having enough. And so I am making a very conscious and empowered decision along this empowerment journey where I am cutting out distractions, tuning out the noise, and truly practicing self care, to also unplug. Free myself of distractions. And empower myself to live life on my terms. And not for the next Facebook like. Or the piece of cake I feel obligated to eat. But for the things that light me up and empower me. For the things that allow me to feel free and light.
Empowered and Free--that’s how I want to live my life. Let me ask again, “what are you going to do with this one wild and precious life?”