In the spirit of Family Day on Feb 16th, (Feb 9th in BC), we’re exploring the theme of family this month. This is a personal piece on how I found true freedom by letting go of my notion of independence and embracing the bounds of family life.
Despite my parents instilling a strong sense of family in me as a child, all I ever dreamed of growing up was venturing out to live my rock star life. Transitioning the last few years to being an island-dwelling wife, mother, and artist hasn’t always been easy. It’s only recently, as I’ve started coming to terms with my new path, that I’ve realized my youthful attachment to being “independent” might have actually been isolating me from the world rather than connecting me to it.
Before marriage and kids, all I had to my name was my beloved music career and my two hallmark possessions – my piano and my car. These were my trusty partners in my elaborate journey of self-exploration, the piano my creative expression, and my car was my tour van and surrogate house. It was my dream, my way, my style and I revelled in the feeling of never being beholden to anyone. I needed to be available, just in case some mystical moment might happen upon me.
And maybe it was just me being young and naive, but I feel like I was also the product of a culture and generation that placed heavy value on independence and seeking your fortune away from your family. From my 20-something perspective, getting out of the house and leaving your family behind seemed like a perfectly normal thing to do. Keeping up with them was secondary. That’s a pretty major contrast to the Balinese family I blogged about last week where multi-generations stay together and stay put for decades. No need to travel or explore beyond their circles and villages. Neither approach is right or wrong of course, just two very different ways of looking at life.
The irony is that for all those years I spent roaming about, daydreaming, and searching for the elusive answer to my spiritual puzzle, I never found it. Mostly I just felt an immense loneliness. For years I chalked it up to never having quite reached my lofty “career goals”.
I always knew I wanted to get married and have kids, but I was equally nervous about the level of commitment it imparted. Truthfully, I had no idea how I would reconcile the two sides of myself but I was determined to jump in. Once the reality of motherhood hit – and by reality I mean the complete assault on my privacy and prized independence – I hit a major spiritual wall in coping with the loss of my freedom and the person I’d always identified as.
And despite having the luxury of family around to help, my few hours alone every week never refilled my independence tank. There were days when being with my son felt like the weight of the world on me. I could hardly bear being asked about my plans for my prized free afternoon. “IT’S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!!” I felt like shouting at the world. The thought of having to account for my every move, the guilt of leaving my son behind, and the pressure to make something worthwhile of my time alone was all too much.
To rub it in, my husband seemed to have no issues whatsoever in being forthright and clear with his needs and plans. “I need two hours for poker on Saturday, 30 minutes for morning meditation, and three hours for men’s group on Wednesdays.” There was never a trace of guilt or apprehension in his voice. Not to mention that he always seemed perfectly happy to hang out with our son when it was his “turn”.
It plagued me endlessly this tug-of-war between my new and former selves. I realized that I had willingly signed up for these responsibilities so why couldn’t I simply enjoy them? It wasn’t until I began deconstructing the past that I realized perhaps the independence I hankered for had led me down the wrong track right from the start. I began to remember the loneliness, the uncertainty, the poverty, and started to realize that this notion of independence was really just an illusion. All along, I wanted an escape from my life but that dangling carrot of “independence” was tricking me into thinking that my freedom lay outside of myself. What I really needed was to embrace. Embrace the choices I had made, embrace the person I was, and embrace my family.
This slowly began to change my perspective and my ways. I got super clear about my priorities and then started opening up and being honest about the help I needed to bring them to life. I started being more patient with my family and doing a better job of being there for them instead of always the other way around. In short, I needed to grow up and realize that we are in a collaboration that goes beyond blood. We’re going through life together and there’s no need to run away from that. In fact, in embracing all this connection, I have never felt so free.