The United States is celebrating it’s birthday, Independence Day. This got me thinking about the concept of personal independence.
What does being independent mean to you?
Does it mean you make your own decisions and take responsibility for them?
Do you frame it in terms of being financially responsible and self-reliant?
There are many ways to define being ‘independent’. You can interpret it to mean having freedom to do or think what you want, being self-sufficient or even being capable or able.
There’s a potential negative aspect to being independent, too.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Like most everything in Life, the downside appears when we take the concept to the extreme. This can even happen if we take our independence a bit t-o-o far.
I’ve always been, as my birth mother christened me, ‘an independent cuss’. I’d like to think she meant it in an encouraging and complimentary way, but we both know better.
Due to a mixture of my personality and my life circumstances, I forged my own path and paved my own way.
Following the classic structure of what I call, ‘psychology pathology’ I went from growing up in a household where I wasn’t nurtured, cared for or accepted into my first marriage where I found even more of the same, albeit it in stronger and more abusive doses.
It was always sink or swim, baby and over the years I became one heck of a strong, endurance swimmer.
The best way to light a fire under my bum was to tell me something couldn’t be done. I was more than happy to prove you wrong by my actions.
At 14, a friend and I created a successful fundraiser for a 16-year-old who became paralyzed in an accident. I started my first business when I was 20 and graduated from a 4-year university in 3 short years.
Don’t get me wrong, this independent streak has served me quite well.
Well, that is until…it didn’t.
Testing Personal Beliefs
Once I left my physically and verbally abusive husband, I had no choice but to rely on others. I couldn’t safely return to our house. Like a stray, I was graciously and very generously taken in by my dear, close friends, Diane and Ken.
Making matters worse, my soon-to-be-ex and I owned multiple businesses together. The intensity and frequency of his verbally abusive tirades directed at me in front of our staff and customers became unbearable.
He lacked the emotional maturity to be civil to me. Even though I was president of the corporation, I found it impossible to work beside him.
I chose to start a new path, walking away from the businesses and our home with no financial compensation.
I reminded myself, ‘You can always make more money, you can’t ever make more time.’
I felt shards of my Soul falling away to die. Leaving with little self-respect was better than leaving with no self-respect at all. I knew there was no turning back.
By initiating the divorce, I was asserting my freedom and liberty. I was quite surprised, therefore, to find myself feeling detached and disconnected.
I felt completely alone.
My self-protection kicked into hyper-drive. The tape playing in my brain ran endlessly, ‘I’ve been down this road before and survived. I didn’t need anyone else in my life. I didn’t want anyone else in my life. I could make it on my own.’
I began building an emotional wall while simultaneously digging a protective moat to keep others out. I vowed there would be three members allowed in my personal kingdom; me, myself and I.
My newfound independence was being overrun by feelings of isolation and separation. Familiar things seemed foreign. I felt like an observer. I wasn’t living my Life; I was watching it drift by like an audience watching a play.
Instead of venturing into an era of new self-discovery, I was isolating myself from others and from whatever lay ahead. I convinced myself I could make it on my own. Sadly, I mistakenly told myself that’s how I preferred to go through the rest of my life.
Thankfully, my dear friends, Ken, Diane and Steven were there to recognize me pulling away. They did what great friends do. They brought me back from the brink, insisting I participate in Life by celebrating events and joining in non-events, like casual dinners, as well.
Brick-by-brick, they dismantled the wall I built to protect and insulate me from the possibility of future hurt. They filled in the moat and crossed over to drag me, ever-so-reluctantly, back towards the beauty and bounty of my future.
My trio of friends helped me see that we aren’t supposed to ‘go it alone’. It’s being ‘engaged in’ and ‘connected to’ that give one’s Life meaning and depth.
Yes, we’re each walking our own path; but hiking is so much more fun when you’ve got someone to share the experience with. In fact, since this happened, one of my favorite mantras has become; ‘Most everything is better when you share; especially love, laughter, food and fun.’
John Donne, the poet and preacher said it best:
‘No man is an island, entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…’
So, as the US celebrates its independence, the birthday of our country, remember you can have too much of a good thing; even if that ‘thing’ is personal independence.
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