I settled into my chair and set my coffee on the wooden table at Salto Coffee Works. I breathed and reveled in the Americana/Folk music coming out of the speaker above me. I felt the freedom in my bones, the freedom I have worked so hard to attain, have been so brave to pursue.
But freedom from captivity does not fall easily into my lap. I pursue my freedom fiercely, running from captivity- screaming at it, rejecting it, embracing it. I give up and revel in its comfort and safety for a moment. And then, I get up and put on each piece of my armor carefully and intentionally. I prepare for battle. Who are my enemies? The voices, the words, the people that warn me of the dangers and failures of releasing all that I am captive to, the tears and loneliness I may encounter. But still, I cannot live with the alternative- a life of captivity, living a life meant for someone else, not me.
We are all captive to something, a failing relationship, a job, old beliefs, a worn-out identity, our children, our parents, a location or a loss of a loved one. Anytime we feel we are in one place but are drawn to another, we are being held captive and life loses its flow.
Captive to Grief
I didn’t begin to understand captivity until I lost Chloe. But slowly and subtly, it was as if the door to an ornate cage was unlocked and I walked in. I didn’t know I was in there at first, but I needed to be there. I lay on the floor of the cage in deep collapse and wept with little space for breathing. The cage kept me alive and safe. It was strangely comforting. But gradually I lifted my head and looked around. As I gained strength, the comfort faded and I began to feel imprisoned, confined. I shook the cage and screamed to get out, but, instead of being rescued I heard a voice that said, “you have the key.”
As the fog of my grief began lifting, I was feeling the pain, even sharper now. I clutched to “all things Chloe.” Her possessions, her room, pictures, baby clothes and toys. Her books, her clothes, her blanket, the house, her dog, scraps of paper, poorly knitted scarves and pillows with threads hanging out, her journals, hats, her piano, her car. Clutching and gripping as if I were holding her. I rolled her soft gray blanket up as tightly as I could and climbed up on a rock that sat high above the forest. I held that blanket and felt myself holding her. And I wept, and a bird sang beside me.
I sat for days with her journals, moving even closer to her than I had ever been before. Knowing her, who she was, who she is. I started moving toward her and away from her “things.” In my move toward her, where she was and who she was now, I kept getting tripped up by her material possessions, the places she had been, the house that she lived in with us. I realized I was living in captivity, holding on to these things as if they were Chloe herself. I started being aware of myself and the movements of my heart, my feelings and emotions. I learned about the places that held darkness and the places that held light. I knew, in order to release myself into the light, I had to let go of the darkness. I had to stop re-writing history and telling myself that if only I still had her as a child or a teen that life would be better and I would be happy.
And so, we made the decision to give her piano away and move out of the house. A move out of captivity into freedom. But that particular freedom didn’t come without tears and physical exhaustion. But freedom? Oh, it came. I no longer walked into her room and felt the descending dark cloud. Her belongings were packed up and placed in a little room in the garage. I saved a few things to hold, the orange beads she had made, her little posable cat that often mysteriously changed position, a few items of clothing and a few pictures sitting around.
But they are not Chloe, they are just things. I began spending more time pursuing my relationship and love for Chloe. I live in the present with her, not the past. I release her to do her work and I do mine. Sometimes we sit together and I talk to her about the future, my hopes, my dreams. Tears are a natural part of my life but I am no longer captive to my grief. I embrace freedom and allow joy.
If freedom is so desirable, why do we often remain in captivity? Why is movement in a “life-giving” direction so difficult? Two words encompass this entire experience- FEAR and COMFORT. I’m speaking as an expert here. I am the Queen of Fear. Fear, especially rears its head with the thought of moving out of my comfort zone. I resist it as a cat resists a bath. Neale Donald Walsch says, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
The tigers circle around me and voices fill my head,
“that might not be safe”
“you might get lost or sick”
“people won’t agree with you”
“you won’t be the same person you were, your identity will change”
“you’ll have to find a new tribe”
“someone might get hurt”
“your experience is too tragic, you can’t leave this pain behind”
“you won’t have any money”
I have had to confront all of these fears in my life, from releasing a friendship, letting my children go, new jobs, moving on from old beliefs that just didn’t work anymore, and the loneliness that comes with moving and leaving your tribe.
I am quite adept at entertaining thoughts of loss instead of anticipating joy and freedom. It all begins in my mind- the stories I tell myself. That is where the shift into freedom begins. It is necessary to create a new story, a new expectation and vision. My husband often says, “you get what you expect.” It is simple, but powerful and if you are close to him you will hear it often. On different occasions, when my children have left home, I have seen him place his hand on their heart and say, “you have everything you need right inside you.”
In the end, we all know what to do to release ourselves from captivity, we know where our heart is leading. Trust in the divine Spirit that lives in and around you.
“Every day is divine. If you seek the sacred treasure you will find it.”
Lailah Gifty Akita