Casting into the Waters: Symbolism, Spiritual Practice and Tashlich

Judaism has interested me for many years, probably due in large part to the fact that I was raised Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) and there’s a correlation between SDAs and Jews in how they observe the Sabbath (Friday sundown to Saturday sundown) and their dietary restrictions (SDAs encourage and promote vegetarianism, but those who do eat meat will typically shun pork and shellfish). When you grow up in a religious tradition that is a bit outside of the box, even among other evangelical Christian groups, it’s nice to feel understood in some small part by another religious group without having to go into long explanations. This is particularly handy when you talk to fellow Gen X’ers about why you are completely unfamiliar with Friday night TV shows and Saturday morning cartoons during the pre-VCR years.

The Chosen, Chaim Potok I also had an English teacher at my SDA high school who was part Jewish and he had us read The Chosen by Chaim Potok, explaining to us about Jewish traditions and holidays. Momcat and I ended up reading all of Potok’s novels and she, too, was very interested in Judaism. Pops had a colleague whose father had been a rabbi, so she would ask him a bunch of questions about what services were like, the reasons for certain traditions (she particularly liked the use of stones on graves as a remembrance).

I think it’s all these things combined that make me very aware when the Jewish high holidays start. Tonight marks the first night of Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish new year. I spent this morning reading about Rosh Hashanah traditions: the blowing of the shofar, eating round challah with honey, eating apples with honey, eating part of a fish or ram’s head. Not sure I would be up for that last one, but I do like the symbolism behind it.

It’s the symbolism behind many Jewish traditions that I find the most fascinating. I don’t recall feeling like it was okay to use or wear symbols of my faith or spirituality while growing up SDA. There were baby dedications in church, and full immersion baptism once you’d studied with your pastor, but iconography and talismans weren’t used or encouraged. I don’t remember any other symbolic gestures or rituals, and in hindsight I think I needed those to help me connect to a higher power.

During this morning’s research on Rosh Hashanah, I learned about Tashlich. The basic premise, as I understand it, is to cast your sins into a body of water. After the Tashlich prayer is recited, you shake your clothes as if to shake off the sins.

Tashlich, Tashlich prayer, Rosh Hashanah

Tashlich prayers (Image courtesy Chabad.org)

But here’s what really spoke to me about this tradition (taken from Chabad.org):

The goal of Tashlich is to cast both our sins and the Heavenly prosecutor (a.k.a. the Satan) into the Heavenly sea. And when we shake our clothes after the Tashlich prayer, this is a tangible act to achieve the spiritual goal of shaking sins from our soul.

Needless to say, the physical motions near the water and fish of Tashlich are not what grant us atonement. But if we pay attention to the symbolism and apply the sincere desire to heal our relationship with G‑d as portrayed in the physical demonstrations of Tashlich, then it serves as a crucial part in the process of repenting and returning to G‑d in purity.

When I lived in Southern California, I often went to the beach to look out at the ocean and have a talk with the universe about what was bothering me. Seeing dark, deep water stretched out in front of me, with no land in sight, was symbolic to me of how vast the soul is, how there is so much going on beneath the surface that I cannot even begin to fathom, but that as I dive down into the depths of my being I can find those parts of myself that need healing, bring them to the surface, then release them back into the water. Going to the beach to process was a huge part of my spiritual growth.

What’s clear to me in this moment is that what I was doing was a form of Tashlich: casting my troubles into the deep sea, letting a higher power help me release them from my soul. I found the symbols I needed and in so doing, I found the spiritual connection and inner peace I craved. And now, every time I go to the ocean, whether the Atlantic or Pacific, I know I can find it again.

Sunset Beach, CA – my favorite place to chat with the universe. (Image courtesy californiasbestbeaches.com)

Shanah Tovah to my Jewish friends, followers and readers.

Of Fire and Hammers*

As I mentioned in the first post of my Gilmore Girls series, I was raised Seventh Day Adventist. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this Christian sect, you can get the basics on what they believe here.

I attended Adventist schools from first grade through 12th grade. Most SDA parents were given the hard sell on making the financial investment in sending their kids to Adventist schools. They could get a great education with the added bonus of a Christian environment and instruction in the Adventist faith. They would be surrounded by supportive teachers who were highly skilled and committed to shaping young minds.

What they didn’t tell my parents was that some of those teachers were misogynistic, narcissistic assholes. I still bear the scars of what my fifth grade teacher, a bitter woman who did not like that my school had moved to co-ed instruction for 5th and 6th graders, said and did during the hell year I spent in her classroom. She told us graphic stories about health and nutrition that I later discovered were wild speculation. She yelled at the girls for asking what she considered to be stupid questions about math assignments. It took therapy sessions and private tutors to help me get over my math anxiety – and, truth is, I still have it. Even after getting high grades in college statistics courses. I also don’t like participating in team sports or many physical activities because our P.E. teacher was a bully. He ended up becoming a cop, which fit his personality, got divorced and, rumor has it, was later kicked off the police force.

They also didn’t tell my parents about the birthday paddle that the principal would use on a “lucky” student at the monthly birthday parties. I never got the paddle, fortunately, but I still picture him wielding that thing and how terrified I was.

In high school – or academy, as the SDAs call it – things weren’t necessarily any better. I was fortunate that my school had some stellar teachers in the English and history departments, and my chemistry teacher was excellent, too. What my French teacher lacked in disciplinary skills and classroom management, she made up for in sweetness and compassion. But our religion teachers ranged from anti-choice zealots to Bible-thumping sexist buffoons. I remember how one teacher told us, laughing, “The Bible says when we go to heaven, we will be like the angels, and since angels are sexless, you better get some now while you can.” Those words, among others shared by him and other teachers, still resonate. Whenever week of prayer came around, which involved long presentations in the school’s chapel, I would dread it, as many of the speakers were extremely conservative, preaching of hellfire and devil music, calling us “sheep” if we went along with the crowd. One popular Adventist singer came and told us how he had been approached by Quincy Jones to sing on “We Are the World,” but when he was given the lyrics, which he found blasphemous, he said no. I still have a hard time appreciating the bigger message of that song. The call always came at the end of the week: will you go up and give your life to Jesus? I would watch my classmates walk to the front, noticing how often it was one of the more popular kids who didn’t strike me as being all that god-fearing, and I’d wonder if I should walk up, too. I never did.

Church wasn’t much different. My parents chose a home church that was more liberal than most, with some well educated, thoughtful ministers who preached insightful sermons about Adventist doctrine without heavily relying on Ellen G. White, the prophet responsible for most Adventist teachings and beliefs. Sabbath school, which was the SDA equivalent of Sunday school for the kids, was usually disjointed and full of dogma, run by adults in the church who ranged in age from 30s to 80s. Every year at Easter, one Sabbath school leader would tell her group in graphic detail about the crucifixion, crying as she demonstrated where the nails went into Jesus’s hands and feet. When I reached high school, I often stood in the hallway outside the youth room during services, talking with the other kids who hung back. None of us wanted to be there, but it was uncool to talk about why. Occasionally someone who had their license would sneak off to get snacks at 7-11 down the street.

There were many Saturday mornings I faked sleep so that Pops wouldn’t try to make me go to Sabbath school. Sometimes I convinced him to drive us to another church for the main service. He told me that once I finished academy, he wouldn’t make me go to church anymore. So when that time came, I stopped.

What’s funny, though, is that for as much as I fought the religious dogma, I tried to belong. One Christmas I asked for a small Bible and hymnal set, and I still have it, all zipped into its matching black leather case, the Bible full of paper slips marking verses used in Sabbath school. I was dutiful in my Bible classes at school, and there was a time when my two closest non-SDA friends were fighting and I went and got my Bible.  I wanted to find answers within the church, because I’d been taught from infancy that we were the true religion, that we followed the teachings of the Bible. I believed all SDAs were infallible, and that if someone did commit a sin, they would be washed clean in the blood of Christ.

But as I grew older, the truth could no longer be hidden. I heard stories of molestation, rape, infidelity, betrayal and manipulation, all at the hands of Adventist church members. I watched my father cry when a family member was hospitalized and held him as he sobbed. I learned the truth of my mother’s barely concealed resentment of certain family members for their acts of selfishness and cruelty. It became clear to me that being a member of the church didn’t make you a better person, nor did it make you immune to suffering or hardship.

So I wrote poems and journal entries about faith and providence, about prayer and suffering. I started asking questions. I investigated other faiths. I attended Catholic masses and Episcopalian services. Once I moved to California, I began reading more New Age and metaphysical books by Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle, Louise Hay, Caroline Myss. I read about astrology, Tarot, numerology, crystals. I found peace and comfort in reading Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi and visiting the gardens at his Self-Realization Fellowship shrine in L.A. Through developing a spiritual practice that was very different from the religious one I was raised in, I finally got myself to a place where I could give and receive love and compassion to all regardless of their faith. I saw the difference that being spiritual made in my life and, occasionally, I would tell people about it.

But I found that the sense of not belonging never leaves you if it’s in the very core of your being. If you never deal with those feelings of low self-worth, they will rise up in forms you don’t expect, in words that wound deeply. Accusations of being spiritually dangerous or “of the devil” will come out of the mouths of people you love and care about. It happened to my father when he decided to pursue law school instead of the seminary, so I shouldn’t have been surprised. But I was still hurt. It didn’t matter how kind or compassionate I was. I would still be judged and found lacking.

I make my living as a writer. I understand the power of words. I have learned, both professionally and personally, the importance of choosing my words well and that there are times when it is best to remain silent. I can think of many times when I should have been silent instead of spewing words that were a hammer, pounding my beliefs and opinions into others. But I can also think of times when my words, carefully chosen, could have been the fire that needed to burn in someone’s heart and help them find peace.

I write all of this now because it is time I spoke my full truth. It is time I admit to being deeply wounded whenever someone tells me my spiritual practice is not in alignment with God’s plan, or that something I have said or done is the devil’s work. As much as I want to speak words of angry fire or pounding hammers whenever I hear these things, I am going to choose love: a pure burning love that strikes softly but leaves a lasting mark. Because choosing hate hurts me just as much, if not more, than having it given to me.

*”Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” Jeremiah 23:29 (NIV)

Five Years Later: What I Learned from Losing Momcat

Earlier this month I read this article on grief and loss, and it made me consider everything I’ve learned since Momcat died five years ago. Today would have been her 72nd birthday.

Here’s what I have learned in the five years since Momcat died:

  • There are a million analogies for grief. All of them apply at one point or another.
  • There comes a point where I feel people should just know that Momcat is gone. Even if I haven’t spoken to them in a long time, there should be something in my voice, in what I talk about that tells them she is gone. Magical thinking at its best.
  • She continues to appear in dreams when I am most in need of guidance, whether I know it or not.
  • There are days when I wake up not sure that she’s really dead. I didn’t see her body, so how do I really know? Having very vivid dreams in which I am with her compounds this feeling.
  • I am easily annoyed by people who bitch and complain about their mothers. I want to yell at them to resolve their issues and get to know their mother as a person, because one day she will be gone.
  • There is still so much I don’t know about Momcat, and every piece of paper I find with her writing on it becomes a clue. Old calendars, day planners, notebooks full of lists offer some insights, but not enough to satisfy my curious mind.
  • There are days when my grief is just beneath my skin, that one small bump or scratch will make me bleed. Other days it is buried deep, a wisp of a seed in my belly. This year I’m aware that my grief manifests itself in overreactions to mildly stressful situations. I resent this sneaky subversion.
  • In moments when things are going really well, I find myself annoyed that I can’t call to tell her my good news and hear her be excited for me, that all I can do is talk to her photo and imagine her response, dig into my memory and hear her voice say, “Hey, that’s great.”
  • I believe there’s an alternate universe in which the events leading up to her death play out every year, and if I could just cross over, I could ask the questions I never got to ask, and tell her once again that I love her.
Momcat holding me outside my grandparents' house.

Momcat holding me outside my grandparents’ house.

Finding Joy => Finding Love, Part 2: Marriage

Here’s another post that originally started in July 2011. It’s undergone some heavy editing, but the core idea of joy and love remains.

A few years ago I had a couple single folks tell me that a divorcé(e) is someone who was once loved enough to have had someone marry them. My mind is still boggled by this logic, because it seems to discount the possibility that love wasn’t even a factor in getting married. Some marriages happen because “we’ve been together for [insert number] years, I guess I owe him/her,” “he/she asked and I didn’t want to hurt their feelings by saying I wasn’t ready,” family pressure/expectations, a pregnancy. In some cases, marriage is used by abusers as a way to gain control over a partner. Those things don’t constitute love. Obligation and fear, yes. Love, no.

Part of the issue here is that society and the media can really screw with our notions of what makes for a healthy relationship, what constitutes a good, loving marriage, and what love is. I know I’ve had some wacky ideas for a number of years about love and relationships. Personally, I blame “Love Boat.” I should have never been allowed to watch that show. The story lines basically went like this:

  • boy and girl meet, flirt, sit at the Captain’s table for dinner
  • boy and girl look at the stars and share a passionate kiss, then end up knockin’ boots in someone’s cabin (which are WAY bigger on the show than actual cruise ships, as I understand it)
  • boy and girl fight on the Lido deck the next morning over some crazy misunderstanding, with the girl stomping off, nearly flattening Jill in the process
  • boy gets sage advice from Isaac the bartender, while girl flirts with Doc and realizes she can do way better with whats-his-name from the night before
  • boy and girl reconcile and leave the ship arm in arm, telling Julie the cruise director and Gopher they’ll be back on their honeymoon

The truth is more like the Supremes’ hit song “You Can’t Hurry Love”, or Frank Sinatra’s “Nice and Easy.” Love needs time to grow roots and blossom. Rushing to get to the good parts rarely leads to a loving, supportive relationship, much less a lasting marriage. You want all of that? You have to work for it – and it starts with working on YOU.

I try to be compassionate to the men & women I know who want to be married, or in a long-term relationship. But so often the conversations descend into whining and bitching over the dating pool and a big honkin’ glass of self-loathing. Sometimes the self-loathing is couched in “I’m totally fine being single” or “I’m happy with my life,” as if that negates all the whining and bitching. Sorry, I’m not buying it.

Because here’s the thing: if you truly are happy, you’re not going to throw any energy at those moments when your phone isn’t blowing up with OKCupid messages or when the person you thought was Mr./Ms. Perfect (and potentially Mr./Ms. Right) turns out to be emotionally unstable, a philandering narcissistic asshole, or worse. If you have faith that, at some point in your life, you’re going to find the perfect partner, those instances of dealing with nitwits will be like a SnapChat image in the big Smartphone of Life: it will (ideally) disappear within seconds.

How do you get to that level of happiness? I recommend a three-step process.

  1. Shut the hell up. Drop the bitterness and the attitude problem. Stop telling the world how upset you are with online dating, with the guys/girls in the town where you live, with navigating relationships. Even if you feel that way, stop talking, tweeting or posting about it, because you’re putting all this negativity out in the world and it’s harshing any possible mellow you could achieve.
  2. Fight your demons from the inside out. Y’all know how I love analogies, so here’s a good one: some of us have nasty demons or dragons inside of us, put there by unfortunate circumstance or choices we’ve made over the years. These creatures demand food and attention, and can be so unruly that often we don’t know how to tame them. Work with a counselor or therapist if necessary to do one or both of the following: a) find your sword that will slay the beasts; b) find compassion to turn those monsters into docile pets.
  3. Open your heart, even if it’s just to the smallest things. Maybe it’s working with those in need, such as shelter animals, disabled veterans or the homeless. Maybe it’s being compassionate to friends and loved ones who are struggling with personal challenges. Whatever it is, opening your heart and filling it with light that comes from being kind to others is the best way I know to show the universe that you’re in a space where joy and love are welcome.

There’s no guarantee that you’ll end up married if you follow these steps, but at the very least you’ll feel better about yourself. That being said, I’ve seen enough friends find the relationships they were longing for, all because they stopped working against their own best interests and started loving.

Are you ready to try? Isaac thinks so.

Isaac Washington, Ted Lange, bartender, Love Boat, Isaac the bartender

 

 

Finding Your Joy => Finding Love

Note: This morning I discovered I have 24 blog post drafts in various stages of completion. I decided to start going through them and see what was still relevant and interesting enough to me to finish and post during NaBloPoMo. This post is one I started writing in July 2011. Since then, Ms. Chick found her Mr. Right and married him. As for me, well…you’ll just have to stay tuned.

Earlier this year I met local blogger Ms. Chick. She writes some very funny posts about online dating and life in general. But she also writes about her frustration with her search for Mr. Right.

While I’m not focused on finding Mr. Right, or even Mr. Right Now, at this point in my life, I do understand the frustration. I think many women go through phases when it seems as if all their peers are hooking up, shacking up, getting married, engaged or having babies, and they are left holding the Party of One sign. I’ve been there. It’s actually part of the reason why I left SoCal: everyone I knew seemed to be moving on to coupledom and I wasn’t even dating anyone. After one incredibly disastrous relationship and a couple blah ones, I was done with trying to find a good partner. I also believed that if I stayed, I would feel pressured into dating much more quickly than I was ready for, just so I wouldn’t be the odd-woman-out at gatherings with my friends and their significant others.

Spending the summer of 2010 in a small college town didn’t do a hell of a lot for my social life, but it definitely helped me get some perspective on who I am, what I love and what I want. The answer became clear very quickly: I am someone who loves to laugh and entertain, and who loves being laughed at (and with) and entertained by others. I love helping people connect in ways big and small. I want joy and peace of mind, body and soul.

A few months ago I asked Ms. Chick what gives her joy and what makes her laugh, really laugh from the pit of her stomach. Because it’s my belief that it’s when we focus solely on finding our joy, everything else falls into place: relationships, career, home, health. All the wrong drifts away and we’re left with all the right – including finding, dating and coupling up with Mr./Ms. Right.

It’s hard to get to that place, though. We’re all so conditioned for wrongness, whether we are feeling wrong or trying to make others feel wrong, intentionally or not. And looping on our failures can be affirming even when we claim we want things to be different. As this letter from Miss Information at Nerve.com says:

Failure sucks, and is frustrating. But really listen in: even when you’re pissed at yourself, there is often some perverse pleasure in it.

It’s emotional self-flagellation, really: we beat ourselves bloody for our failings and never quite fix them. T-Wizzle calls this “beating yourself with the Wrong Baton.” Because fixing them means honing in on key beliefs and attitudes we have about ourselves, seeing which ones are unhealthy and unhelpful and working hard to replace them with helpful, healthy beliefs.

I’m not suggesting that in order to find love, you need to become Pollyanna and drop the jaded, cynical tones. I’m saying that in those moments when the bitterness and anger is threatening to ruin your day (and maybe your life), acknowledge its presence and agree to disagree. (Yes, I’m anthropomorphizing feelings, deal with it.) Let the angry, cynical ego self be what it is and choose to do something that brings you joy.

sunset, Anna Maria Island, Florida, Gulf of Mexico, beach

What helps me find my joy.

 

Whoze Bettah Than You?

Several years ago I met this guy who I’ll call Billy Moretti. He was a dark-haired, muscular Irish-Italian guy originally from Queens and he was smoking hot. The first time we met, I got this jolt in my stomach – the kind of jolt that’s only happened to me twice so far – and we ended up having a very intense, secret-ish fling.

Billy and I had a few conversations about serious topics, such as spirituality and self-esteem. One thing he said to me was a phrase from his old neighborhood: “Whoze bettah than you?” His New York accent made the words even more affirming to me, and I would always say in response, “Nobody.” Sometimes I attempted a New Yorker accent, sometimes I whispered my answer. But I never changed it. I knew what the answer was.

When the Hollaback street harassment video went viral recently, I thought about my experiences in New York and other big cities of walking down the street and having random men make comments or try to engage me. I learned pretty quickly that my tendency to be engaging and kind with people is not a good idea when hoofing it in Times Square, DC or downtown L.A. There are a lot of freaky folks out there. However, I have to admit that the attention was always a little bit flattering. It meant I wasn’t as invisible as I often felt. It suggested that maybe I was doing something right with the way I was dressing or carrying myself if some stranger catcalled me.

I’m not the only woman who’s felt this way. “Sidewalk” is a fantastic animated short by Celia Bullwinkel that chronicles a woman’s life as she walks down the street.

 

Sidewalk, Celia Bullwinkel, animation, animated, cartoon, women, street harassment, self image, female empowerment

GIFs from Celia Bullwinkel’s animated short “Sidewalk.”

In an interview she did with Jessica Goldstein over at ThinkProgress, Bullwinkel talks about what motivated her to make the film. Conversations with her mother about appreciating catcalls “because when you get older, it goes away” and reading Nora Ephron’s essays on aging proved to be a perfect starting place.

I started to really think about how I could make a film that dealt with body acceptance, and how life is more than just how you look or how you feel about yourself being young. Who cares if you get older? Everyone ages at the same rate. We all do it, so why not celebrate it?

 

It’s Bullwinkel’s comment later in the interview that reminded me of Billy’s saying, and how it made me feel back when he was saying it to me.

I wanted to show that, even if it takes you until the end of your life to change your outlook, change your mindset, about who you are, it’s never too late. You can learn to love yourself at any age in your life.

Lately I’ve been on a positive reinforcement and self-improvement kick. I’m wearing mascara and lip gloss most days, even if I don’t go anywhere, because it makes me feel good (thanks to reading an interview with Betty Halbreich, the legendary Bergdorf Goodman personal shopper). I’m talking myself out of negative thoughts about my weight, my looks, all of it. And it’s been working. I feel really good and I feel people are responding to me differently. I’m not getting catcalls, nor do I want them at this point in my life, because I’m finally validating myself in ways I haven’t before.

But I do hear Billy’s voice in my head, and my own voice, too, asking, “Whoze bettah than you?” And my answer is, as always, “Nobody.”

My Declaration of Independence: the 2013 Edition

Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington

What writing declarations of independence look like when done by committee.

It’s Independence Day here in the U.S. of A., so long-time readers of GWM know what that means: time for Moxie to do her annual declaration of independence. Because like our Founding Fathers, sometimes it’s necessary to say what you won’t stand for any longer, and give the reasons why.

This year I’m feeling reflective. I’ve been thinking about the declarations of previous years and whether or not I actually managed to maintain my independence.

2012 – I gave up gluten for health reasons, but over the last month I experimented with having small amounts of gluten to see what would happen. Result: Everything that was going on before came back, but not on an extreme scale, fortunately. I’m back on the gluten-free wagon today.

2011 – I still have a tendency to chase checks, and freak out about money, but more and more I’m finding that if I relax, and repeat aloud “Everything I need shall be provided today”, things work out in ways I do not expect or anticipate.

2010 – I think I’m doing pretty good at being my best self in every moment, letting go, and learning to live in abundance. I occasionally have moments when I feel bad for not working full-time at an office job, but those moments pass quickly when I realize that in most instances full-time employment would require me to be someplace for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. *shudder*

What’s been coming up for me a lot lately has to do with being vulnerable. I hate feeling vulnerable. I will go out of my way to avoid that feeling. I will tell myself and others that I’m okay with whatever bullshit situation has come up because I am so unwilling to admit to being hurt, angry, upset, you name it. My unwillingness to show my vulnerability frequently comes up with my relationships with other people.

In the last couple of months I took a long, hard, painful look at my relationship with Giles. While he has been a great friend and very supportive of me on many levels, the truth was that I had never really dealt with my hurt and anger over the fact that the brief romance we had soon after we first met ended so abruptly and for no reason that I could understand or accept. I had never allowed myself to feel all those feelings down to their roots, and I had never told him how much it hurt to be rejected like that. I had simply moved into the friend zone and told myself it was okay.

But as most people who have been relegated to the friend zone will tell you, it’s not okay. My feelings of hurt and anger were demanding to be addressed. And while it was very difficult to reach that place where I was willing to be vulnerable and share my truth – we’re talking many nights of tears, and many mornings staring at swollen eyelids in the bathroom mirror – I did it. And that moment when I was honest with him about everything and about my need to create distance and stronger boundaries was an incredibly powerful, cathartic moment. I had been afraid I would be crying the whole time I spoke to him, but I didn’t cry once. Because I had allowed myself to deeply feel each feeling beforehand – something T-Wizzle had once told me was the key to moving away from the crying jags and into acceptance – I was able to speak my truth with a strong, clear voice. It was an amazing experience.

So that leads to my personal declaration of independence for 2013: I will stop being afraid to show my vulnerability in my relationships with other people. Be they romantic or platonic, familial or friendly, I will get to my truth when it means I will create a stronger connection – not only with the other person, but with myself. I will stop discounting my feelings; instead, I will examine them carefully, and when I am ready, I will share those feelings with the person whom I believe needs to hear them.

I don’t anticipate this will be an easy declaration to keep, seeing as I have a long history of avoidance when it comes to vulnerability. But I will do my very best to hold myself accountable and find that space where I accept myself and my feelings, no matter what shape they take.

What’s your personal declaration of independence this year?

Declaring My Independence: The 2010 Edition

Writing a personal declaration of independence all started with my high school English teacher, Mr. Greenman. He had us write our own version of the infamous 1776 letter in which we say we are free of something. When I wrote mine, I wrote about freedom from spending holidays with dysfunctional relatives. I think I chose the topic after dealing with a particularly difficult holiday season, but I really don’t remember now. The class voted on the best Declaration and mine ended up winning. Guess I wasn’t the only one with family issues.

Since then, I’ve taken the time on July 4 to declare my own personal independence from something. I haven’t done it every year, and I don’t always remember to write them down, but more and more I’m realizing the significance of keeping a record of these declarations. Like our Founding Fathers, we need to have a tangible reminder of what we are saying we will no longer tolerate, whether it’s in our leaders or ourselves.

So, as I did in 2007, I’ve taken the original text from the Declaration of Independence and modified or paraphrased it to suit my purposes.

There are moments, in the course of human events, when it becomes necessary for a person to dissolve the real and imagined bonds tying them down. In an attempt to recognize and allow for the opinions of others, a person should declare the reasons why they need to break these ties.

Some truths are self-evident: everyone is created equal, and everyone has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We set up governments to secure these rights, but there comes a point where government can only do so much. This doesn’t mean we should suffer in silence; rather, it is our right and duty to create and provide new ways of self-governing. Ultimately, it’s up to the individual how to live his or her life and make the best of their time in this world.

Such has been the case for me, Corinne, and such is now the necessity which requires me to alter my behavior and ways of thinking. To prove this, I submit these facts to the World Wide Web.

  • I have behaved as if the answers lie somewhere other than within myself, when I know, and have had shown to me time and again, that I have all the answers I need if I am only willing to be still and listen.
  • I have gotten caught up in memories of the past and fantasies of the future and forgotten to just be present.
  • I have made myself wrong and the victim of self-inflicted emotional and mental violence for my state of paid employment or lack thereof.

Therefore, I, Corinne, solemnly publish and declare, that I am and of right ought to be the best version of myself in every moment; that I am absolved from all allegiance to the past or the unknown future, and that all connection between my self-worth and the state of my employment ought to be totally dissolved; and that as a free and independent woman, I have full power to be at peace, find my inner truth, live in abundance, and to do all other acts and things which anyone can do.

And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, I pledge to myself and the world my renewed commitment to be the best me that I can possibly be.

Signed,

Corinne

What are you declaring your independence from this year?