I've always been an optimist. Not the shiny-happy-people kind of positive attitude, yet the person who can't stay depressed or feeling down for long. So it went for most of my adulthood. Putting effort at gaining ground through building a form of resilience that keeps me interested in a better tomorrow of any particular ditch I'm in. Process what I need to process when I want to process, learn whatever I can learn, or accept it as is, even block it for a while if needed -but always try to get up and keep walking as soon as I can.
Then when heavy adversity hit me few years ago, that optimism was put into a big test. I got to experience loss, three folds in a short span of time. Compartmentalization helped a great deal but so was a new type of hunger.
A hunger to experience more. To live more.
Life being short, a struggle, unfair, a gift or an opportunity or whatever, I choose to experience more of it.
In this and following series of posts, I will explore this quest of deliberate living from different angles, first here is freedom.
How can we be more free?
From a young age, doing anything because it was customary somehow didn't resonate with me. A rebellious kid and later teenager, I remember well how my parents had a tough time dealing with my attitude and behavior around traditions and social norms. Even with the moderate religious upbringing, I always had questions, and surrendering to a teaching or practice without understanding the "why" never sat well with me. I guess at some basic level of thinking back then, having some socially accepted creed to dictate what I can and can't do seemed so ridiculous to me.
As it turned out, those were only the first doors out of the complex cage of conformity.
Conformity is intricate, with many facets. You have norms that become official laws within a community while some joined together can force us to to live with a certain mold. Though I do believe norms were crucial building blocks that we, humans, used to organize ourselves over thousands of years, yet some definitely outlive their initial usefulness and someone somewhere starts breaking them before another and so on.
My favorite example has always been the first woman who dared to wear pants, and the few that followed her before women wearing pants became mainstream everywhere. Similar bold moves on the personal level are everywhere and a lot of us have done some of our own, some freeing their hair, some express with body art, others with the way they dress and so it goes.
Yet still many norms and molds still cage us within them. Those that have a built-in need to engage others to perform them with us, within a familial bond, a friendship, or a relationship and even in a business contract. Within this we find comfort of a known process and a known outcome, it gives us certainty, an illusion of control or a forceful attempt to tame life and its many unknowns.
Beyond right and wrong, does this attitude inact freedom or fear?
Is freedom always at odds with conformity?
Is there a clear line between norms that help us self-organize and those that let us control each other?
Can we seek our individual freedom yet seek not to mess with some of the collective norms that can still be useful to others?
If we are to find our own path of perpetual freedom, how can the conversation be set outside the norms and pre-set molds? The usual dance of what to change and what to extend or fully comply with. Why can't it be an invitation to the now, whatever the moment holds within its wider field and own merit?
To get married or to just cohabitate, to take a job or a timed contract, to start a business or join one, to buy or to rent. Some usual examples, yet in our lives, the molds propagate: within a marriage or a romantic bond there are many crucial details like breadwinning, age difference, distance, kids...etc. Within a job too, even what makes a friendship. Those details do become sub-norms and molds, eventually owning the ability to cage us deeply with their expectations.
Begs one to pause every now and then to ask why.
Whether we feel an itch of discomfort as we are about to experience a norm or an excitement. Try to be a bit more thoughtful of why this or that mold makes sense for us. Maybe reason with it, play around with the some of its uncomfortable details and push ourselves and those around us to redefine it.
Does this thoughtfulness deliver more freedom?
I like to think it does. For me thoughtfulness is the opposite of automatic. Is an attempt to create choice even if choice wasn't clearly given. It's a dialogue we force ourselves into in order to affirm our understanding and context towards a norm before we engage with it or a mold we take as is, eventually escaping a preset cage or designing one of our own.