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Contemplating Personal Freedoms

I’m thinking a lot about independence this weekend as the 4th of July approaches. 

But it is a bittersweet weekend.  My Dad is settling into a convalescent hospital as his new home.  My Mom lives next door in the Retirement Center that provides assisted living—until now, Dad has lived there too.  But Dad’s needs have progressed far enough that he needs more care than the retirement center can provide.  He is now being cared for in a good facility with a caring staff, right next door.  He is safe and getting the help he needs, but I’m still sad.  Part of that care means he is being told when and what to eat, what to wear, whether he can try to walk on his own or not, and where he can go.  I expect he is feeling alone, confused, frustrated. 

I understand that his freedoms are being reduced so that he does not hurt himself and so that he will get the care he needs.  But his freedoms are still being reduced.  His loss of personal freedoms on the same weekend we are celebrating American Independence just makes all these changes more poignant, more bittersweet.  This whole focus on personal freedoms got me thinking about the independence of our lives, the daily freedoms or even the independence milestones that we so often take for granted.  Here’s my list of freedoms that I most valued over the years and still value today:

Staying home alone for the first time, scary but fun, still keeping all the lights on to keep the creepy sounds away.

Getting my license so I could come and go a bit more as I pleased, augmented by getting my own car right after high school!

Getting my own apartment, not living with roommates as I did through college, but living alone, so I did not have to share the refrigerator, fight over the thermostat, collaborate over the TV channel.  I could also run up my own debt and had to clean the bathroom AND take care of the yard—hmm.  Freedom creates responsibility. 

Finally making enough money so that I did not have to teach summer school in order to pay my bills.  That meant I had the freedom to take vacations, heading off on my own to visit wherever I liked.  I still went to see family and at times traveled with friends, but my lone expeditions were delightful.  I literally had the day at my command. 

Of course as responsibilities and relationships grow, total freedom becomes moot and compromise and cooperation become the norm. But it is still great to wear what I want even if others say, “You’re going to wear THAT?” or to eat what I want, even realizing the chocolate or wine or ice cream are not really good for me!  It took some time to learn how to say, “No, I do not want to have a relationship with you—you are too negative and controlling.”  I watch lots of TV shows others think are silly—Star Trek, X-Files, even People’s Court—but I can!  It’s my house, my TV, my time, so there!  I even take my car most of the time when I go somewhere—party or other event—because I like to be able to leave when I want! 

I realize that I often overlook these day-to-day freedoms—they are just the fabric of my life.  But when I do stop to contemplate them, I know that these freedoms help balance the commitments of life and keep me sane.  It is the loss of these little freedoms my Dad is facing, so I feel for him and plan to bring him some of his favorite cookies when I visit next week! 

What are the milestones of personal freedom that you value? 

 This is a good weekend to appreciate them! 

This is also a good weekend to contemplate what actions you will take, to decide how you will make use of your freedoms and independence.

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I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle.  I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much.  Mother Teresa

 We do no great things, only small things with great love.  Mother Teresa

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