Freedom. The definition for me is being without attachment. Sounds simple but, it isn’t. It took me 70 years to get it.
My childhood was very simple. I was a spoiled, an only child. We didn’t have very much, but I was doted on by my parents. I was totally protected, and they loved me very much.
My Father dropped dead of a heart attack when I was 15. I quit school (didn’t like it much) and went out to work in a wonderful job where I was learning all the time. I became a Mother to my Mother, who was diagnosed as a Paranoid Schizophrenic.
I did it all: worked, looked after the house, looked after my Mother who went in and out of mental hospitals,and I still managed to have a social life. I certainly wasn’t free, but at that point in life I had no idea what that word meant.
I met my future husband and it was wonderful—and I was very happy. I became part of a family, or so I thought. But being accepted was a whole other issue. I came from a completely different world: non-Jewish, grade nine drop out, different economic background and with a very sick Mother. I was difficult to explain. My marriage lasted 21 years. I did all the wife and Mother roles, and tried to do them all in the right ways, as best I could; I didn’t really have a role model. I always felt a little on the outside. I seemed to think a little differently. I didn’t like small talk. And I seemed to be interested in the world around me more then other people (whatever that meant). I noticed I felt happiest when I was involved in helping other people and working in the community.
The saddest part of my life was when Terri, my daughter, was born…and died after a year. I was devastated, but I carried on fulfilling all the roles I had, because I had obligations and I was a survivor. I had to be because of my early years. I learnt to hide my hurts, even when I was raped at 13. I made it through because I was popular and no one believed the boys, who were thought to be lying.
Freedom was never a word in my world, as I said I always had responsibility and obligation!
I guess my freedom started with my divorce at 41, and things such as having a Christmas Tree (which I had missed so much during my marriage after converting to Judaism). I had to learn many things such as putting gas in the car—my husband had always done that—and how to enjoy my own company…in essence, how to be alone!! Adventure travel/trekking became part of my life for two years. I was trying to prove something to myself I think. What I was trying to prove— I have no idea!.
Travel became so important to me. Usually alone, I learnt so much about people, places, and just plain life. I had a major curiosity about everything! I loved every minute of this newness in my life…and then India appeared. I was on a whole other path called being Spiritual!
Being able to work at my business and my charity were very exciting. My charitable work taught me humility. What being poor and poverty really means around the world, and beginning to understand how lucky I was to be able to choose my life and make my own decisions in every way…that is freedom.
Back to my decision to divorce…it was an extremely tough decision to leave a marriage and my two kids, but I was suffocating and felt I had no choice. I chose freedom. To this day it has caused a lot of pain and hurt with my children, but at that time I just had no choice. I would have had my own mental breakdown if I had stayed in the marriage. My 23 trips to India have taught me so much, about love, peace, gratitude, generosity, kindness, and tolerance…plus, most importantly, how to be free within myself and get along and understand people and relationships from around the world. When I was divorced I left everything with my husband and started again: where to live, my own furniture. I was always reinventing myself, and I loved doing it. I loved my business and the third world travel I was doing. I feel the word freedom applied to all of my travel. I found I always had just the right amount of money to do what I wanted: never too much…just enough.
When I turned 70, I decided to find the ultimate freedom: getting rid of the apartment, the furniture, the art—and just travelling around the world with no home (homeless by choice). I wasn’t afraid. I was ready!
For the last 10 years I have travelled around the world, meeting fascinating people and learning all the time. It hasn’t been perfect, but I wouldn’t trade a minute of it. If I had stayed in Toronto in my apartment, boredom would have set in, and I am not good at doing bored. Now, I am in Ajijic, Mexico at the age of 79, soon to be 80. I have a wonderful lifestyle with great friends, lots of activities, and feeling very settled!
FREEDOM IS JUST A WORD. YOU HAVE TO FEEL IT IN EVERY PART OF YOUR BODY AND YOUR SOUL WITHOUT FEAR OF THE FUTURE!
Thank you for this beautiful rumination Betty. Your searching curiosity is an inspiration to so many of us. The world is out there. Hope to see you soonest in person wherever may be. Much love,
Betty, I was taken by your definition of freedom:
For me, attachment provides freedom. Being on my own means loneliness and lack of direction and support. Two in harness is more powerful than one trotting on its own.
I just loved this piece, Betty. So very heartfelt, heartbreaking and inspiring. I’m keeping this for future inspiration. Thank you for sharing!
Thank you Betty for your candid and open words. You are a great inspiration…one day I will come to visit you
Betty, an excellent article. Brian
I just think you are a pure inspiration! Sending lots of love to you Betty!
Beautiful and very intimate, enjoyed this post the most out of all your posts. We come into this life with so much to learn, some of us learn the true meanings living and others do not, I suspect many of us have reincarnated many times to learn. Always thinking of you, xoxo Shannon
Thank you for your honesty Betty. You have been an inspiration to many people including me!