The ideals of liberty pulsate through my veins and are deeply embedded in my DNA. I am a Daughter of the Revolution. My great-great-great grandfather and every single one of his sons fought in our country’s blood bath in the 1860’s. One of my ancestors was present at the signing of the Magna Carta and many others were instrumental in that significant period of history. I like to think I can’t help but have such a strong desire for the altruistic value of freedom.
My cousins, near and distant, have dedicated decades of their lives to thoroughly researching our family lineage. Wonderful and fascinating stories have been found and retold. As much as they fascinate us, I have to wonder what the reality was truly like for our ancestors.
I doubt the princesses were thrilled at the prospect of being given to distant relatives as rewards for loyalty in battle. I imagine mothers and daughters tearfully saying goodbye as these young women were sent away to another country to be claimed as a prize. It’s hard for me to believe they set their jaws and resolutely trudged off, thrilled to be part of building a bigger empire whose manifest purpose was a free society.
As the mother of five sons and knowing the tender hearts that lie beneath their stern determination, I still cannot fathom an entire family excitedly preparing for war. I’ve dug through old Civil War records and found that one of my uncles, who later died, went AWOL for a few days because he was “home sick.” He was compelled to risk life and limb, traveling through a hostile land, just to see his mother for a day. Though they were committed to their cause, I envision a very somber and sad time leading up to their departures.
We tend to romanticize the past and the sacrifices made, especially when done for a greater good. But, I tend to believe those players in history were wrought with frustration, fear, and indecisiveness.
Just like us.
My desire for personal freedom has sometimes pushed me to do things I didn’t want to do. Things I knew weren’t really right. I’ve waffled back and forth, wrestling over the direction I should take. I’ve been overwhelmed by fears, uncertain my actions and sacrifices would even lead to my desired outcome. I’ve been engulfed by frustration over why it all had to be so difficult and why others involved couldn’t sacrifice a little, too.
The freedom I’ve desired on a personal level mildly compares to the ideals of a free society and a man’s right to live his life in liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I have desired for my children that they be educated, that they have choices in life I never had. I have been driven by a desire to not leave them in debt, for my death to not be a burden to them. I have dreamed of my children living out their days in peace, joy, and prosperity as they seek their purpose in this world and live lives of service to their fellow man while securing a good lifestyle for themselves.
But, at what cost?
When is the price of our ideals too high?
What if we’re only robbing ourselves of joy and peace for something no one else even cares about?
What if those who follow us don’t even appreciate it and throw it all away?
We see it in the world all around us. Free nations crumble. Difficultly earned gains given away. Family savings plundered. I’ll bet our ancestors are rolling over in their graves.
I’ve been extremely selfish, but it was never my intention to live a self-centered life. My heart’s desire was to dedicate my life to the restoration of my family. We have some rich legacies, and I wanted my children to return to those glory days, to rise above the mire of addiction and abuse. One side of the family tree in particular is tainted throughout by this rotten fruit, and I wanted to prune that diseased branch back.
Sometimes in my dogmatism I enslaved myself and my children, the very ones I was trying so desperately to free.
I’m not certain my oldest son will ever understand or appreciate that the number one reason I didn’t leave R when he was arrested was for him. Instead, I sometimes think he is angry I stayed with a man who hit him. I knew though the only way for my son to pursue his well deserved and hard earned shot at college was if I stayed. His work would go down the drain without my ability to pay the very small tuition commitment not covered by his generous scholarships. I did what I felt I had to do to secure his chances for that life filled with choices and opportunities, i.e., freedom. So, I remained in bondage.
Even my marriage to R had been, in the first place, an attempt to gain freedom for my progeny. I believed all of the garbage the church hurled at me about a man being the only way to keep my daughter from promiscuity or for my sons to be “real” men. From the depths of my soul I knew I had to escape the toxicity of living with my mother and brother. So, I took the only route I saw, the only road my mother and brother would condone, and I ran headlong into a bloody battle.
Sometimes we do stupid things, desperate things, when we see no other way out of a bad situation.
I’m reveling right now in freedom that doesn’t feel well earned, and I don’t even care. I’m just completely enjoying the goodness of life. Simple things, like air conditioning and tight steering on my car…..a grape vine found on my new property…..kind neighbors. I am getting very used to things that once scared me.
For so long I fought debt. I wanted to live completely debt free. I didn’t want to be encumbered by it, and I didn’t want to die and leave it to my children who had not acquired it. I desired that freedom. But, that freedom meant I did not have the freedom to even leave town. R made certain I didn’t have a vehicle and when I did it didn’t run well enough for me to flee. I developed a mind set of fear of debt because he overused and abused it, costing us everything and driving us deeply into poverty. His foolishness was the catalyst for my indenturing myself to the bondage of a struggle for a debt free life.
I’ve actually found freedom in a car payment! I have the freedom to go wherever I want whenever I want. It is dependable and comfortable. The seat doesn’t throw my back out. The air conditioning feels wonderful. And, what I save in gas because the engine isn’t worn out makes up for the actual monthly payment.
I’ve also resisted the idea of moving into town. I didn’t want to live on top of other people or have someone in my backyard. I loved the idea of prepping and homesteading. Since R left, I’ve feared the possibility of neighbors who might turn me in for whatever reason, viewing me with suspicion as a home schooler, a single mom, an “abuse victim.” Unable to afford to move, I’ve felt in bondage to this mountain home, exhausted from hour after hour of hard labor keeping pine needles off the roof and wood in the shed. And, I’ve been in bondage to work longer hours to pay the high utility bills and the high gas bill due to living out so far.
But, now, my ultimate freedom is coming from moving into town! The neighbors I’ve met are incredibly kind. There are irrigation rights attached to the property, and remnants of an old garden still grow untended. We’ll live central to everything we need to do. We’ll be able to grow some of our food. Yes, the monthly mortgage will be higher than my rent, but the utility bills will be exponentially lower, offsetting that extra expense completely. It will be comfortable, sound, safe. Are those not the hallmarks of freedom? How can you attain life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness without a measure of security, safety, and some comfort? It is nearly impossible to focus on the higher goals when daily survival is paramount.
I am grieved today as I watch other victims, not yet survivors, remain tethered in bondage to their abusers, believing their freedom comes through staying. My heart is broken as I watch a young mother falsely hope her husband will change as she stays, not trusting her own ability to care for her children’s needs or God to provide for her health care should she leave. I can’t condemn her. I get it. I’ve done it. I’ve been her.
It boggles my mind that I have been in bondage to the idea of freedom. Those very things I thought would grant me freedom were the very things that held me back from it. And, those things I feared were indeed the path to it.