Free to be FREE!

I remember all the words everyone said trying to console us. “I’m sorry, man, you guys didn’t deserve this,” was the invariably repeated theme. It’s what you tell someone when you don’t know what else to say.- when an injustice has been served with no explanation. After twenty-one years of exemplary service, my husband was let go from military service. No, he was not honorably or dishonorably discharged. He was passed over for promotion- TWICE- when all of his friends and peers were not.

We couldn’t understand it. The Marine Corps had invested (literally) $Millions of dollars into training him to fly fighter jets. He was well established in his command, loved by his fellow Marines, his record was as clean and his career as distinguished as any man’s could be. Nobody could figure it out. It made no sense.

It was utterly, grievously, and unforgivably unfair.

SO there we were. Packing a million boxes, with no particular order, saying goodbye to everything we loved. Our precious house. Our wonderful neighbors.  In one fell swoop we lost our church, our community, and our friends. My husband lost his brotherhood-in-arms. We had been living an enchanted life in Iwakuni, and I knew I would never see my beloved Japanese Mama-sans again.

To say we were crushed doesn’t even begin to describe it- broken, shattered, inconsolable might possibly come close.

Of course, every group had their platitudes. From the Christian circles, they all uttered meaningless phrases like, ” This wasn’t a surprise to God,” or “Everything happens for a reason!” as if that would make things better.  From our peers, we heard such banalities as, “I’m sorry to see you go,” or “it couldn’t have happened to a better Marine.” Theirs was better than the churchy response, but still cliche. But it was our friends, the ones who truly loved us (and saw us as being lucky to escape the Green Machine,) who said, “Now you are FREE to do whatever you want!”

Ahhhhhhh- freedom. At least there was a glimmer of hope in that!

*****

Three long, lonely years later, I think we have finally caught a glimpse of what freedom means- all thanks to Young Living, but that’s a story for another day.

What we came to realize is this: Freedom is both electrifying and terrifying at the same time. Freedom is the willingness to walk out on the tightrope without a net. Freedom means steering your own course in life, even if it makes no sense. It means making illogical choices, walking in faith, and believing that there is more than what you can see, touch and feel. It means taking a risk, because the old adage really is true:

FREEDOM ISN’T FREE

You see, when you lose your job unexpectedly, you are not free from your financial responsibilities. When you are living on an overseas military base, you are not free to stay in your home, or even in the host country. You are not free to use your savings account however you like, because you are forced to spend every dime getting back “home.” Of course, once you wash up on American shores, you are not free to move wherever you like, because someone charitable has to take you in. When someone charitable takes you in, you are not free to live how you normally would- your dog cannot pee on the grass, your car can not park in the drive, your children should be seen and not heard. In all your interviewing, you are not free to accept jobs that don’t offer enough pay to get you back on your feet. And when, eight months later, (after your welcome is way past worn out) a job offer finally comes, you are not free to say no. Even if it means spending six months in a Las Vegas trailer with no running water.

And then the paychecks started coming in. And then we bought a house- a really beautiful one, too! The job never got old, but it also never changed. The house never got decorated, but I never truly cared. The kids and I never made friends, so we never plugged in. We never had to mow. We never had to cook. We never spent time in the same room because our house was so big we didn’t have to. We never thought life “on the outside” of the military could be so dull. And we never felt, not for a moment, that we were truly FREE.

*****

My husband and I wrestled extensively with this painfully elusive idea. We could not fathom the lunacy of our well-wishing friends, who truly believed we would be free outside the Marine Corps. To us, we certainly had not arrived at this mythical state- we were living an isolated urban existence in a city we didn’t like, far away from family and friends. Our beautiful home devoured the lion’s share of his income, so we couldn’t really afford to furnish it, or do all those DIY  projects we dreamed of. Although his job was a blessing, the weekends were not long enough to travel, so we spent our Saturdays doing what all weekend warriors do- cleaning the house, doing the laundry and gathering groceries. All the while we would ask each other, “Is this the freedom they spoke of?”

*****

Am I speaking anybody’s language here? Did you wake up one day and realize what you thought would be a LIFE turned out to be merely an existence? Then hear me.

What do you DREAM about? What do you REALLY WANT? If you could do anything you imagined, no limitations- what would you do? What would you create? Where would you go? Who would you help?

You see, freedom is little more than a DECISION. TO. DO. THOSE. THINGS. Paint the canvas. Take the trip. Start the business. Write the book… What are you waiting for? Freedom only comes when you CHOOSE to break free! Set your course with intention, hold your dream on the screen of your mind and start believing in it with your whole heart. And then MOVE.

Take one step.

Then take another.

And another.

There is freedom in movement. Look at water as it rushes endlessly down hill. Consider birds as they circle through the air. The running of a Gazelle. The gathering of clouds. The orbiting of the planets. Nothing in nature STANDS STILL. So why are you?

Freedom requires perpetual motion. If you stumble, you must jump back up. If there are obstacles, you must maneuver around them. But through all the struggles and the hardships, you are fueled on by your own desires. Your eyes are fixed on the goal and the reward is in bringing it to bear.

Yes, freedom involves risk. There’s no better example than the Declaration of Independence. That traitorous document could have had many men hanged. But it sparked a tide of revolution that birthed our great nation. I, for one, am grateful that the founding fathers were willing to risk their necks!

*****

So, in honor of all those sacrifices which have given us freedom, from the American Revolution to our friends still serving “on the inside,” we intend to prove that it CAN be done! There IS life outside the Green Machine, and not just the banal existence that most civilians have settled for.  We are not going to let a job dictate our life, but instead, we are going to let out life dictate our job. I can’t tell you what that will look like exactly. I can’t tell you exactly HOW it’s going to happen. But I can tell you that we are moving forward and taking a risk-  and even though from the outside it appears as though nothing has changed, the DECISION has been made, and there is tremendous freedom in THAT!

Ernesto Marine COrps Flag

 

 

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