I feel like I should come with a discretionary warning: Total sweetheart, but takes no sh*t!
I can be the most supportive, affectionate person you’ll ever meet. I am all in when it comes to the relationships in my life. I’m also fairly easy going and flexible, to a point. Bend me to the breaking point, and I will come undone.
I’ve been thinking about this lately in terms of the type of life that I want to lead versus the life I’ve led in the past. There was a certain amount of disrespect and abuse I would take from others prior to my divorce. It often felt easier not to speak up and not to enforce my boundaries in the relationships in my life. After experiencing the dissolution of my marriage and the challenges inherent in being a single mom, I have found that I no longer have to tolerate negativity and disrespect in my life. Not only is it a drain on the energy I need to single-handedly raise my children, it is also an unnecessary source of stress in my life.
I’ve always had a terrible temper, but I’ve spent years exercising admirable control over it. It hasn’t been easy. The most basic part of me would much rather tell people to f*ck off than to speak to them with love and kindness to enforce my own boundaries while having respect for their own. It’s taken consistent effort to keep my temper in check, and it’s often exhausting. But to me, all the work is worth it. I just never wanted to turn into a person who would say something hateful in the heat of the moment and then be sorry later. I just don’t say the thing. I may think the thing—God knows I think it sometimes! But I keep it to myself.
I try to remember, even when angry, that other people have feelings. Unfortunately, I’ve endured a lifetime of people not giving a damn about mine. I’ve had all my fears and failings thrown in my face by people I love. After years of taking so much, I really don’t feel like taking anything else.
I hear the same statement made by other people in my life. We’re tired of being taken advantage of or having our boundaries disrespected. We’re simply tired. We want to claim our lives back, and we know that we need to take the positive steps ahead to do this. We accept that it’s our own actions that teach others how to treat us, and so we strive to learn a new way to live.
So this is our declaration of freedoms…
We declare ourselves free of seeking approval. We don’t need anyone else’s seal of approval. We’re fabulous just the way we are. We can be self-aware enough to recognize our flaws, but also self-aware enough to realize our strengths.
In my own life, I have received criticism for dating as a single mother and also for taking money from my budget to pay for a gym membership that includes childcare. I have come to realize that I don’t need anyone’s approval to do the things I need to do to take care of myself. As a single mother, it is important to take time to care for myself, to maintain relationships in my life and to keep my body healthy. It is a strength to acknowledge our own needs and to do what it takes to care for ourselves so that we are able to care for others.
We declare ourselves free of explaining our actions. We make our choices, and we own them. No explanation is required because we do not have to seek out anyone else’s approval.
We declare ourselves free of expectations. How other people live their lives is not our concern. Their timeline and choices are not ours.
There seems to be an unwritten timeline on getting married, having children and climbing a career ladder. I’ve often been asked when I plan to remarry, and it’s been implied that I am an underachiever because my current employment is not relevant to the Master’s degree that I hold. What I do not have to explain to them—but what I will explain for your understanding—is that I have chosen a career that suits my schedule and allows me to primarily be a stay-at-home mother and a writer. I’m not relentlessly pursuing ambition, and while I do date, I have no timeline in mind about remarrying. I don’t know if I ever will. I’m not living my life by anyone else’s timeline or expectations. I’m enjoying the moments along the way and choosing based on my own priorities.
We declare ourselves free of regret. We’ve made choices in our lives, and we know now that we did the best that we could with the resources we had available at the time. So we’re not perfect. Let’s be okay with that and know that every day gives us the opportunity to make new choices.
I don’t regret the marriage that gave me my two beautiful children. Clearly, it did not last, as I’m divorced now. I no longer make the same dating choices I once did, but I also don’t hold on to feelings of regret. Every day I’m able to make new choices to create new results in my life.
We’re free to embrace all of our faults with kindness and know that we’re wonderful because of them and not despite them. I know that I have a temper, but I also know that I am a loyal person who is fierce in my protection of those I love.
We’re free to use our words to create boundaries with other people so that our relationships are healthy. Doing this will require confrontation at times, which will require enormous reserves of courage. We can accept this challenge, knowing that it serves us but that it also serves others. When others try to use emotional blackmail to impact my life choices, I remind myself that my choices and the boundaries I have set are important. I may have to gently remind others that unsolicited advice is unwelcome.
We’re free to create lives we love, with the people we love cherished within them. We can make time for the relationships that make us feel supported and stop wasting our time on the ones that drain our energy. We can live out our dreams, not because everyone has given us a stamp of approval, but because our dreams are worthy in themselves.
We’re free to laugh and love and reach out a helping hand to others. We can let the way we lead our lives be what defines us, not the jobs we’ve chosen or our social status. We can practice kindness and gratitude, and we can actively go out each day to see what good we can do in the world, no matter how small. We don’t have to live constantly chasing the next step on the career ladder or a certain social standing, but can choose to live a good life in which we help out our fellow human beings because we know that we are all served when we serve others in kindness.
We’re free to be apologetically, authentically ourselves. I know that I am sometimes quirky, often moody and always good for a laugh. Yes, I’m a total sweetheart who takes no sh*t. We all have things about ourselves that others may not understand, and when we finally realize and embrace ourselves exactly as we are, we can begin to live our lives without apology for all of those things. Instead, we begin to seek out our kind of hearts, those that do understand us or the ones that love us without needing to understand at all.
We declare ourselves to be free, and of course we are free! We simply have to stop waiting for everyone else to approve of the lives we’re living. We have to see the value in what we’re doing and simply go out and do it. We have to love, support and deeply believe in ourselves, because if we’re waiting around for someone else to do it for us, it may never happen.
So we’re charged with this: to embrace our own freedom, never to explain or to apologize for being who we are and to live lives filled with love and kindness.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: Flickr/Olga Ferrer Saladié
Editors: Yoli Ramazzina; Catherine Monkman