February 21, 2021 marks my first anniversary of blogging! The celebration is without cake and party hats but full of reflection and self-affirmations. One cannot commemorate a milestone without some applause! Think of how we gather around the highchair of our one-year-old singing songs and smiling praise! That is the feeling I have for this endeavor right now…a yay you! moment. It’s been a year of learning in so many areas and ways. But for me, none so much as the education I am (still) receiving in who I am and what I am capable of. Has this past year revealed to you both strengths and weaknesses you did not know you had?
It’s the term Untethered that I am focused on again, as it is the label I chose to represent a life journey without fear. How has this past year moved me toward living more freely? In what areas am I still stuck? What concerns rose to the surface, demanding attention? Which bonds were cut? What progress has been made in expanding my territory?
WHERE HAVE I BEEN?
The hot air balloon was the visualization I paired with the description of what living untethered could look like. It continues to be the representation I use. But the story of how elephants were (maybe still are!) trained for service paints a likeness of what you and I might be working against. Both in how our binds began and the steps to take to move out of them…rather large task.
The method in domesticating such a big creature was to tether a baby elephant, securing it to a strong structure to limit its movement. The animal would struggle against the restraint until it gave up, realizing it was not strong enough to break free. This was daily life, repeated as it grew bigger and stronger. Eventually, the elephant learned that there was no point in pulling against the binds, accustomed the ties, and accepting the boundary of its life. It complies, no longer fighting against them.
Once the elephant has agreed to a fate of captivity, securing the ropes is no longer necessary. The simple fact that there is a rope is enough to keep it submissive. This mammoth beast behaves as if it is still tethered, even when it is not. The heart of the animal has been broken because it believes in its limitations. You hear this term “break the spirit” commonly in training horses too.
To see an elephant in the wild takes my breath away. The way they move their immense bodies with grace and still interact tenderly with their family units is utterly amazing. The majestic nature of the elephant…both in its great physical strength and in its compassionate nature…is an inspiration to me personally. Untethered, “Jumbo” is a thing of beauty!
I am like the circus elephant in many ways. I doubt my freedoms and don’t know my strengths because of that which has held me down in the past. How can I believe myself beautiful and strong with constraints about? And how can I know that the binds are gone unless I begin to push against the boundary?
RELEASED FROM TETHERS
My journey into freedom began with a word of affirmation. Someone had the Love to say, “You are magnificent. You are loved. You can be free from the kingdoms of the world.”
“Absolutely, dearie. Walk this way.”
But I do not have the supersized memory of an elephant. With thick-skulled, monolithic beliefs, I continually need boosting reminders.
“My child, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” -Proverbs 3:1-8
I like refreshments.
One year is a strong milestone. It’s a significant point in development. Like any other one-year-old, I’ve been trying things new to me. As adults I think we forget what it’s like to be doing something different every day. What we expect of a child we vehemently avoid. It’s work! Encouragement goes a long, long way.
The markers proving my forward movement are primarily made up of acceptances. I have come to be okay with myself, stepping over ropes tagged “aging, “beauty” and “success.” I may find that they wind back around, but if I crossed them once, I can again.
Recently I asked my husband, Jeff, his opinion about my hair. I’ve only received one haircut in the last year! I was intentional in growing it out, attempting to make styling easier in a humid climate. Now with tangled locks, I am not sure if there is an easier. Anyway, bless his heart, Jeff replied, “I just want you to be happy. Your beauty to me is not in your hairstyle but is affected by the joy in your heart.”
That isn’t an exact quote, but I heard his word for me. Internal joy is beautiful no matter the color, texture or length of the hair that covers it. Beauty comes from within, right? With those words as a guide, I am free to wear my hair in any style.
Somehow, I feel like there is a parent clapping over my progress.
WHERE AM I GOING?
My untethering process has taken a pattern of questioning, testing and moving. Just like my hairdo. Is this a hard or moral boundary? What if I do something different? Will I still be loved? Can I let go of the words or looks in opposition of mainstream? The questions are as important as the answers, I believe, and they are never in short supply. I want to keep moving untethered by fear, whether that be fear of the question, the answer, the action or the new range it puts me in.
My encouragement to others as they ask (and answer) the hard questions of their life’s limits is it matters who you listen to. It matters who you surround yourself with. And it matters what you fill your mind with. Question, test and move with knowledge and support. If you are in the practice of making changes without input from safe people you admire or if you move first and ask questions second, stuck might just be where you stay.
Celebrate your successes and keep at it! The circus can be left behind. You are strong. We can journey beyond.