Right now freedom feels like a curse.
On a bright, warm morning in late November Ho Chi Minh City, as I use google translate and my limited Vietnamese politesse to order a croissant so far from its French origins that it could be a brioche bun, still it feels like a curse, or worse, that I am cursed. The croissant is warm and doughy and perfect for my stomach which has been slightly unsettled for most of this trip. As usual I turn to sweet food to ease my grief and unease.
I am sitting opposite an Australian man and his Vietnamese/Australian daughter and eavesdropping on their easy relationship and their calls home to connect with family there. As I listen and type, I cry. Their lives, from this distance anyway, look full of laughter, closeness and gentle teasing.
The man reassures his partner who is apologising for not calling, “we still love you, beautiful girl”, I contrast this with the last few messages I have received from my son, where he tells my daughter and I that we are too emotional and says he doesn’t have to listen to our opinions if they cause him stress, where he calls us two-faced for telling his housemates what has happened as we return home without him, where he orders me to leave the nightclub we have just met him at, arm pointed, “just go mum” and I am humiliated and left again in a strange city in a foreign country by people I thought I did not have to be armoured against.
My world, post abuse, post co-dependency, post divorce, post family, post everything that was my normal for the last 27 years, is free, but at times I wonder at the cost and I am afraid. Afraid that this is it, and that actually the problem in all my life has been myself, rather than the situations, the people and the relationships. Afraid that I lack the wherewithall to change. Afraid that I will never get straight again. Afraid that I will die like this, at odds with my family, adrift and alone.
Janis said it like this “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”, and right now it feels that to gain my freedom I had to leave behind pretty much everything. To do that I had to get to the point that it seemed preferable to keeping everything but continuing to live the way I was. As I struck out and left my husband and my home people told me I was brave. I knew I was desperate. That I had reached the point where my back was against the wall and there was no where else to go. I hoped (hope) that I could forge new better relationships with my adult children but it seems that I don’t have the skills. Faced with conflict I still freeze, when I don’t do that I fawn and then it ends in triangulation. I am a wordless wordsmith, unable to forge new pathways and new ways of relating, and mostly not writing. Still recovering, second guessing myself and unable to find an authenticity with my family that I seem to do with ease online.
So, where to from here?
I feel that freedom is a state that has to be lived into, one painful, frightening, and occasionally exhilarating step at a time. Each moment, each decision, each new way of behaving is a delicate bud and not all buds grow to fruition. Most important in this is to approach myself with kindness and to remember to extend this to others when I can. To stay in my feelings as long as I have to, to allow time for processing what has happened. And to remember that not everything people say or do deserves my attention or a response.
My aim is to become self directing, to extend to myself all the care and attention I have, until now, so freely and at times recklessly given to others. To remember that people who want to be in my life are worth more time and attention than those who don’t.
And to remember that music is my balm, my healing, that brings me back to the moment and the pleasure that is there.
“Busted flat in Baton Rouge, waitin’ for a train
And I’s feeling near a faded as my jeans
Bobby thumbs a diesel down, just before it rained
It rode us all the way to New Orleans
I pulled my harpoon out of my dirty red bandanna
I was plain’ soft while Bobby sang the blues, yeah
Windshield wipers slappin’ time, I was holdin’
Bobby’s hand in mine
We sang every song that driver knew
Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose
Nothin’ don’t mean nothin’ hon ‘ if it ain’t free, no no
And, feelin’ good was easy, Lord, when he sang the blues
You know, feelin’ good was good enough for me
Good enough for me and my Bobby McGee
“Me and Bobby McGee” is a song written by American singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson and songwriter Fred Foster, originally performed by Roger Miller.
This post has been written in response to Food 4 Thought Friday’s prompt this week which is ‘Freedom’ See more posts on the subject here