Why are you not giving yourself permission to live? What is it in you that refuses to pursue your potential? What do you dream of doing that if only________were not in your way, you could?
Recently, I pondered these questions while thinking about someone I care about who is fearful of pursuing her dreams. Her situation reminded me of a time in my life when I choose my own subjugation.
When I was married the first time, I feared breaking free from the control I was so sure my mate had over me. I was convinced the source of the problem existed outside of me, in him. I often felt like a powerless child.
“If only he would allow me to follow my own desires and dreams, I could do something wonderful with my life. If only he didn’t care if I was a choreographer, I would really develop my talent. If only he didn’t control me, I could….”
I fumed and fussed. At my most livid moments, I plotted his imaginary death envisioning an end to my mental imprisonment. What if he died in a car wreck? Or, he could get some deadly disease. I insisted he plugged my bottle of life with the cork of his will.
When I complained to my Twelve-step sponsor, she would ask, “What are you afraid of JoDee? What is your next growth step that obsessing about him keeps you from taking?”
I wanted to obsess about him, but she kept returning the focus to me. I’d get angry thinking What is she talking about? This is so unrelated. Doesn’t she realize he is the very reason I can’t move forward?
“JoDee, let’s talk this through.” She’d say. “What’s the worst that can happen if you take that next step?”
Her words eventually wormed their way through the wooden barrier I constructed around my thoughts to protect me from fear. I learned to wield the sledgehammer of courage to smash holes in the fences I erected.
Together we rehearsed my worse case scenarios until the boogeyman no longer waited for me in the dark shadows of my mind.
When I eventually left him, the oddest thing occurred. New guards took his place, like the changing of the sentries at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Whether it was an unreasonable boss, an abusive friend, or most often my lack of direction, I came to realize my former spouse never really had any power over me. I had created the obstacles in my mind.
I discovered that like the soldier in the tomb, I was a person void of identity and absent of the courage needed to pursue my own dreams. I allowed obstacle after obstacle to keep me from rising up and out of my malaise.
In fact, subjugation formed the only familiar mental territory I could count on. I obsessed all of the ways my former spouse made my life miserable, even though we were apart. But the truth was that I had so many fears.
Fear of failure, “I can’t build a successful business.”
Fear of inadequacy, “Returning to college is too hard for me.”
Fear of being alone, “If someone doesn’t talk to me soon, or love me, or accept me…I’ll go crazy.”
A myriad of excuses riddled my best intentions and formed fences around my hopes. Like a wild stallion pawing the ground of desire, I circled self-constructed enclosures thinking,
If only I were on the other side where the fields of possibility stretch as far as my eyes can see.
Yes, we choose our own subjugation. Whether spouse, friend, family, church, or career, the imprisonments provide excuses for not stepping forward into the scary unknown.
Yet, there are tools we can use for overcoming: processing our fears through journaling, discussing possible action steps with a trusted friend, choosing to move forward one step at a time. We can break free from our mental limitations and inherit the freedom God promises those who believe.
Eventually, I studied my way through to earn a bachelor degree, credential, and masters. The fearful little girl who dreaded failing at school grabbed the tiger by the tail and didn’t let go. I learned web design, explored photography, developed my writing, and reentered the world of international travel.
Now, the pathways of possibility lay unfettered before me, at least in my mind that is, when I choose freedom