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Freedom is a Choice

As I work on creating my dream of going on an extended adventure in an RV, I often hear people say to me, ‘You are so lucky.” This was a common remark during my 38-year career as a special education teacher. Many said to me, “You have the summer’s off, you are so lucky.” My response then as it is now, “Luck has nothing to do with it.” We all make choices in our lives, yet to own them as ours is powerful and creates freedom.

The purpose statement of the first Men’s Weekend I participated in 1984 was, “…to experience total freedom as only a man can, and with that freedom, be the man you always wanted to be.” Freedom is a deep calling for many men, yet how many of us live our lives as free? Freedom is defined as: Power of self-determination, free will. The etymology comes from an old German word meaning- peace.

I, like many men, began working at age 16 until retirement 3 years ago. During my long marriage and family life, I was the primary “bread winner”. Although I chose to follow my calling to be a teacher, the burden of providing for my family and my internal shadow voice of scarcity, I struggled to feel free. I think for many, situational and comparison thinking creates the belief, similar to, “I’ll be happy when_____. “When I look at the affluence around me at what others have, and get caught up in the messages from our materialistic culture where, more is better and he who dies with the most toys wins, I feel anything but free. Not much power in this way of thinking! However, freedom is a choice. When I own my life as a choice I am powerful and free. I must constantly battle the internal victim voice that wants to; blame, feel at the effect of life’s circumstances, and certainly not take responsibility for my reaction to whatever comes my way. Growing myself up as a mature conscious man, is at the very core of my personal growth work and men’s work in general. Freedom is a choice.

I am at the stage of life where, my kids are grown, I’m single, and retired, yet I could easily feel at the effect of, fear of the unknown, financial challenges, and talk myself out of this adventure. Am I luckier than you? Again, I suggest that luck is a disempowering way to view life. My circumstances may be different than yours, yet we are both equally free to choose responsibility or be a victim of life’s circumstances and our choices. Many times, I felt stuck and scared developing my career and raising a family, and struggled to own my choices? I felt neither lucky nor powerful. Often the very men who said I was lucky, would later reveal feeling trapped by the burden and responsibility providing for their families or in marriages that had lost passion and purpose. Rather than creating freedom in their lives, they blame life or their situation which disempowered themselves. I suspect this is what Thoreau meant when he said, “The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.” Freedom is a choice.

I have heard many men blame their wives, their boss, life, their kids for why they felt a certain way or couldn’t do what they wanted. This lack of taking responsibility causes these men to say “no” I can’t because my; wife, boss, …would say or feel...which is an abdication of responsibility and power. These men often feel stressed out and experience little peace. Robert Bly wrote about this dynamic in his book, The Sibling Society, where many people remain in a perpetual adolescence, rebelling and blaming authority, while looking at their peers for modeling, rather than mentors who embody maturity. I often work with men using the Jungian archetypes: King, Warrior, Lover, Magician. The warrior archetype in it’s healthy manifestation, in part, is around accountability and responsibility. A warrior owns his fate, gets the job done, and is responsible for his feelings and actions, thus manifesting a powerful and free persona. Freedom is a choice.

I often to say to men in my practice, it is not what happens to you, it is how you react to any given event or interaction. What is life calling you to? Do you feel passionate, alive, free? What internal voice or emotion gets activated when you compare yourself with what you see others have? When you get tripped up during life’s journey, dig there. May you create peace and freedom in your lives. Freedom is a choice.

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