Let Freedom Ring
Define Your Time
By Estelle Rodis-Brown
From the page of our nation’s Declaration of Independence to the pages of our lives, nothing’s quite so sweet as the intoxicating ring of freedom — the certain unalienable rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.
Yet, if you really think about it (or read the full Declaration), you must accept freedom from something before you can pursue freedom to something better.
After midlife, we experience a cascade of new freedoms, if we can see change in a positive light. Whether it’s a newly empty nest, the absence of a partner, retirement or downsizing, each change represents a freedom from old obligations and expectations. This opens up new possibilities: freedom.
Suddenly, you find yourself with time and space that you didn’t have before. Don’t fritter them away on daytime TV and falling into the same old ruts left over from that previous life. Instead, satisfy old longings you never gave yourself permission to pursue before. Join that class you were afraid someone else would think was silly. Take that trip you talked yourself out of before. Paint your living room that bold color you always wished you could. Reach out for better relationships. Because guess what? Now you can.
Big Changes, A Life Redefined
Perhaps no one better illustrates the dramatic before-and-after equation of life than Brenda Formberg of Ravenna.
When midlife hit Formberg, so did a slew of unwelcome changes: She divorced. Her daughter left for college. There was a second cancer diagnosis, job loss, and the resulting need to find a new home.
Her outlook seemed hopeless as pieces of her once-stable life fell apart. Eventually, Brenda emerged with renewed vigor for the pursuit of life, liberty and, yes, happiness.
A successful bone marrow transplant from a stranger in Germany started Brenda on a new course. She also met a fellow divorcee who became her husband three years later (and the bone marrow donor, Bernd, attended their wedding as a guest of honor).
She landed a new job, which she loves. Brenda has been declared cancer-free since, and she and husband Michael recently returned from Bernd’s wedding in Germany, where they were guests of honor. They moved into a new house last month.
All that Brenda lost has been returned to her in an overflow of health, happiness and love because she said she was determined to pursue them.
“The pursuit of happiness is just that — whatever it is that makes us happy, whatever it is that fills your heart and soul with happiness,” Brenda says.
“Sometimes I don’t really know what will make me happy, so I take it day by day. Generally, it’s getting together with family and friends with a bottle of wine or riding in the woods on a four-wheeler. It’s really quite simple. I have even learned to appreciate the wind blowing through my hair. I don’t care about it getting messed up anymore. Honesty, I’m just happy to have hair. Messy hair can be sexy anyways.”
Looking back on her past struggles, Brenda now says, “I thought I was being pushed over the edge, but my Mom was right when she said, ‘God won’t give you more than you can handle.’ I hit my all-time low, but it wasn’t more than I could handle.
“Remember, this too shall pass. If you don’t like how things are going, choose to take a new path, accepting the opportunities that present themselves. It’s all about perspective, perception and expectation. Once you lose almost everything, you’re in a position to re-make your life as it ought to be. For me, it was new health, a new job, a new mate, new home, a new me. Life is beyond good,” Brenda says.
July is special for Brenda, not only because of Independence Day. It’s also the month of her birth and the month of her re-birth through the successful bone marrow transplant that saved her life.
As the Declaration proclaims, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Make every day Independence Day.
Estelle Rodis-Brown is a freelance writer and photographer from Northeast Ohio who declares her independence regularly along her journey through life.