1. The state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint: He won his freedom after a retrial.
2. Exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.
3. The power to determine action without restraint.
photo by QXZ via Creative Commons
Along with the major milestone of learning to walk comes a sleep regression – a fact well known to parents of new toddlers. Child development experts say this is due to the mental buzz when a child is on the cusp of a major new skill. There is so much new information to process every night that it interrupts the child’s sleep.
Even when we are grown up, standing on the threshold of life’s milestones can be disturbing. New skills bring us new freedom, but also unknown vistas. Next to the mental effort of processing the change usually sits fear. Fear of failing, of course. But also fear of not being able to find or adjust to new boundaries. Fear of how others will respond. Fear of not knowing what the new thing will be like. Fear of stepping off the edge and trusting yourself to learn to fly.
When I was at my acupuncturist’s office last month, she said she felt stress in my pulse and it took me a minute to dredge up what was weighing on my unconscious mind. It is this: I am at the cusp of making changes in my life that will afford me freedom that I never imagined possible. And though there are really no down sides, the act of committing to the change is making me very uncomfortable.
My Bean is a walker now. She had been taking the occasional step or two for a few months, but one evening, while we sat in the meadow at Strawberry Music Festival in between acts, she simply began. She walked back and forth between her father and I, over and over, falling into our arms. She screeched with joy. She fell and picked herself up. She bounced with excitement.
When we returned home again, she tested out her new skills. Walking barefoot on carpet is different than walking with shoes in the yard. She practiced and improved, and grinned and laughed. She fell, but she picked herself up. Walking up steps is different than walking down. She pointed and showed me what she could do. She took my hand when she needed help, but mostly she just tried over and over again. She slept badly for a couple of weeks while her brain worked out the details each night, but each day she tackled again what was hard the day before and each day it got easier.
I associate the idea of freedom with ease, but in reality there is work to get over the threshold to a freer place. Sometimes the work is painful and scary. Sometimes the path is rending.
But we cannot allow ourselves to stand in the place of fear where we imagine every possible thing that could go wrong. If we do, we will never take that first step, never cross the threshold, and never walk out the other side.
Watching the joy with which my daughter explores the world from her new vertical perspective is intoxicating. She inspires me to gather my courage to let go of my old and take my own wobbly steps into freedom.