This notion of freedom is something that I have not thought about but I guess I can write about it. What is freedom? Growing up in middle America I lived under the protective shadow of my parents, and as a young person I wasn’t so free that I could know the people I wanted to know and have the friends I wanted to have. My parents had their prejudices and issues. So I had to mask reality with a layer of ‘pleasing’ so that I would not rock the proverbial social boat.
The social and family gospel of the times was no blacks, no gays, no opinionated friends and surely not a boy-friend. I kept that model to please my family until I had decided to move out on my own. That was my first taste of freedom, so I thought.
True as it was, I was a slave to the bottle. I was a slave to image, I was a slave to social pressure. So with that I wasn’t really free was I? I was a slave to what I thought was reality, in my warped young mind. I did not have the street smarts to know the difference. I surely did not know what the right path was, because no one pointed it out to me. All the young men I knew were walking one certain path and I was surely following them. Which led to many mistakes, heartaches and problems.
In the 90’s when I met my then partner, and he subsequently committed suicide after learning he was sick, I met a man who began my education on being free. I think this was the first time that I felt totally free. I could explore my sexuality in all its carnality, and I was wrapped in a blanket of safety by my Master at the time.
Living within the community of leather men, I was protected, I was safe and I could ask my questions and get my answers from men who would not lie to me nor abuse me, because my Master deemed me special above the other boys he knew.
When I was diagnosed with AIDS in 1994, I have written about this before, that blanket of protection got a little tighter. Humans became animals, adults became monsters, Christians became sinners to the highest degree. Men were dying, my friends were sick and they too died alone and on the street, left out in the cold by people who were supposed to love them and care for them.
In my little leather world I was free, I put down the bottle for the first time and I started to live. I stopped counting the days until I would eventually die, as I was told, and I lived. I had a life outside my job, and that life was to take care of myself – I had a lot of help, my Master saw to my every need, medical, financial and practical.
I went to work and when I crossed the threshold into the building, which was a bar at that time, I left that world outside, outside. In that womb of safety I did whatever I was told. I did not question any chore I was asked to perform, although I did. I could be whomever I wanted to be, in that sense I was free.
But always, my Master’s eyes were always upon me. I was untouchable and that was the rule of the day. It was the most freeing time of my life, to give my life over to the care of another human being in all senses of the word. I wanted for nothing, I needed nothing, I was loved and protected in ways today do not exist. I gave my trust to one man and his community and they never let me down.
There was sacred life in the community of the profane. There was sacred love in the realm of the profane. To the outsider we were the strange and the demented, we were other and we were strange, they used to say that we were abusive and profane. How could we be human and live the way we were all living. I can tell you that in those years I never felt so free in my life to be who I wanted to be, because nobody told me otherwise. In my Masters house I was free…
When he departed my life, that freedom disappeared. I had to reenter the social world of what they told me was normal. I was sick, I was alone, but I was also sober… I never felt so much pain as I did in those intervening years emotionally, physically and mentally.
That cocoon of protection and freedom was gone, and I had to relearn what it meant to live in the ‘straight world.’ I became a slave to social norms. I was bound to the life I was handed by the community I lived in. All those things I took for granted in that other world were shackles that held me to the ground. I was no longer free…
I moved from one location to another, I fought the system of medical care that only wanted me to die rather than pay out to help care for me as a citizen of the United States, and a resident of where I was living. I was not free, I was chained to a life that did not want me to survive.
I tried a geographic cure to try and settle myself somewhere and I fell into the trap of addiction once again. I was a slave to cannabis, I was a slave to the bottle and I was a slave to whatever drug ended up on the coffee table. Eighteen months later I had been physically beaten up so badly by the one I was with that I was unrecognizable and ended up in a safe house thousands of miles from where I had been, because someone know where I was and he saved me from imminent death.
I was free again…
After a month in that safe house I risked my life by reentering the world, and I returned to the only place I knew life. I returned to that life that had me chained to one spot, playing the system for all that is was worth. I became a cast iron bitch in order to save my life. I did things that I had to do, I was crazy because of the circus of medical care that kept me always on the edge of a nervous breakdown. I was surely not free…
A warning to parents… Never lie to your children, because one day they will seek the truth to those lies. I guess that at some point for some reason I had chatted with someone who got me to ask the right question at the right time. A well spoken and protected lie became the key to real freedom.
I got sober again, I put down the drugs, the bottle and the life that chained me to the ground and I began to be free, again…
I got on a plane and sought sanctuary. I paid the price I had to pay in order to make it all right and above board. I left all that I knew, for a land that promised me freedom beyond anything that I had ever experienced. I got off the plane and entered a life that was miles from where I had been, and I began to learn what it meant to be free.
I found a place to live, I found a meeting to attend and to root to. I met people who would help me build a home, find medical care and I entered a social system of well placed people in all the right places.
Sobriety is a freeing experience. I put down all those ways that I had always clung to. I turned my back on the life I hated. I worked the program because they told me that if i truly wanted to be free, I had to get rid of the wreckage of my past, give freely of what I had and I had to suit up and show up every day of my life. I started to learn how to be totally free and a year would pass before I learned how to stay in my day…
I met a boy, I fell in love, and I started building a home for both of us. Surely two sober people walking the same path could not go wrong, right???
A year into my sobriety, I started a university career at age 34. What did I know about going back to school? I was much older than the other students. But they told me that I would always have help. I met a man who became my mentor, my father, my friend and closest adviser.
Two years into my new life, I was learning what it meant to be really free. The war in Iraq was looming and people were marching in the streets. Sew Canadian flags to your backpacks and never mention that you were an American. I followed that direction. I marched like everyone else marched against the war. I was free…
I hit a wall during that time, because I did not know where I was socially and politically. I had one foot still planted there and one foot firmly planted here. I was divided and conflicted. I sat with my mentor one afternoon and I told him that I did not know how to feel, what to think or where to go next.
Wiser advice was never so important to me than what he told me. He said “if you don’t know where you are going, stop and sit down where you are, look around for the signs, get comfortable with your feelings and learn about them. Find comfort in what you are feeling until it feels natural and free. Because if you don’t learn about what you are feeling how can you move forward? When you are ready, consult your map, ask your questions and then take a few steps, one after the other, and soon you will be on your way.”
I chose the Maple leaf, I walked away from my paternal heritage and history. I embraced my maternal heritage and I never looked back. I will tell you that I never felt such freedom in my life. From that day forward I lived to be free, I lived to be me.
The days, months and years that would follow that decision posed very harsh and painful experiences. Life became tragically painful as my then boyfriend was diagnosed Bi-Polar and he fell into the pit of hell and sat there for ten months and I had to care for both of us.
There was a cost that came with my freedom, because I chose to settle down with my partner and we were building a life together and I was the sole care taker for our home. I made my choice, now I had to learn how to grow up. Not that I wasn’t grown up, but I learned a very valuable lesson in maturity. I put the needs of my partner before my own and learned how to truly care for another because it was the right thing to do, and as God as my witness, I never felt so much freedom in my life, although I would not see that until I sit here and write out the words.
Thank god for my sober community and the advisers who helped me and the doctors who cared for my partner, and the system that made it possible for us to live. The longer I stayed sober, the freer I became. Sobriety frees one of the past, and gives one the ability to move forward in life.
In the society that I live in today we are free. If I don’t agree with political leaders I can protest. If I don’t agree with my government I can vote and make a difference. With an education I can do anything, with a degree I have knowledge, and with specialization I can do what I love to do.
Living abroad, watching the world from above the Northern border, I have perspective. And I can tell you that living in the United States was a lesson in following the leader. We were taught certain lessons, we were told certain truths, my father beat into me love for the flag and my country, he taught me never to question the leaders of government and God forbid never question the wisdom of the president.
Keep your mouth shut and do as you are told. Learn the history as it was written and follow the example set out by your parents, and never ever question your place in the grand scheme of things…
I watched the pre-war riots in the streets of my city. I watched protesters march day after day after day. I got angry and I started to disagree with all that I had known. I had “spit in the face of my father” by leaving the country because I wanted to be free…
I say to my friends and people who live below the Northern Border,
“You want to be free, pack up your family, and leave the comfort of your lazy boys and your beer and sofas, and live somewhere else for one year, and watch the world go by from another location, other than the one you look at it go by in today, see how the world looks from where we are and think hard upon the ways you know, because after that year abroad you will never see your world quite the same way ever again…”
You will never feel as free as I feel free today…
Freedom is a choice… I choose to be free… I am free …