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Freedom Isn’t Free, Simplicity Isn’t Simple, But There's Still Hope

Updated: Oct 20, 2021

I have a confession to make.

In all my journey-thwarted-woe-is-me-sleepless-nights-and-what-do-I-do-now-amygdala-hijack-daze, it was me.

I did this. I sabotaged my own journey.

A professional change agent, I should have known, I do know: the moment you set an audacious goal for yourself, like living a life of simplicity and freedom, you’re going to get just the opposite.

I was reminded of this ironic law of nature by my yogi-musician friend, Richard Miller, and, for the first time in weeks, laughed out loud.

In other words, the moment I set out to swim upstream, I was bound to encounter the oncoming current.

Have you ever swum in a river, for real, testing your power, stroking madly into the white water, yet remaining inert?

The oncoming current was me.

I keep replaying the image from, now, a whole year ago, when I stood at the edge of a meadow in a holler in West Virginia and that auspicious hawk swooped down before me. I heeded the message: to claim her soaring freedom for myself.

I was committed, or so I thought, working painstakingly for eight months to prepare, divesting myself of 24 years of belongings, shoring up and renting out my house, putting financial affairs in order, throwing a final farewell fiesta that would cast me off dancing a samba.

But as I drove away from Park Road in early June, my elation was muted. Staring back at me in the rearview mirror was a mountain of unfinished business – much of which I’d initiated just before I left, stuff I thought I could handle, from a distance, no problem, stuff I thought would give me some security, stuff related to money. Yes, money.

If the hawk was my angel, there were devilish vultures circling overhead too, luring me in the opposite direction.

I’d signed contracts with governments – one with the Feds, the other with DC – one related to my consulting work, the other an historic preservation grant to renovate the rotting porch and weathered façade of my 1910 rowhouse.

How could I turn down such offers? They made complete sense. Both were relatively simple projects I could handle virtually. But more than that: these projects would fill the void I’d created by taking this new road and, in doing so, keep me stuck.

I had no idea, really, how stuck. Yet, of course I knew. In business for myself for 20 years, I know that contracts are binding, and bindings are strings that can and do get tangled. And the more tangled they get, the less chance I have of achieving my dream.

Needless to say, both projects became complicated and fast. Both projects kept me tied to the computer and the phone, in my cabin, in the woods, in a rickety farmhouse chair, the mountains out my window taunting me to come climb them – though I had little time or energy left at the end of the day.

In fact, both projects began to go south, plummeting quickly, keeping me inside by day and up at night. I had repeated house nightmares, images of snakes and eels slithering out the drains and rats inhabiting the plaster walls. In another dream, more of a premonition, the building contractor had replaced my historic porch columns with dead, hollow tree trunks.

I awoke at 3 am in a panic and blinked into the Vermont darkness. “I have to go home,” I whispered, heart pounding. My house was calling me.

I’ve talked about this before: all this gyrating, equivocating, complicating is Resistance with a capital R. Resistance is like the Devil. “Its goal,” says Stephen Pressfield in The War of Art, “is not to wound or disable. Resistance aims to kill. Its target is the epicenter of our being, our genius, our soul.”

Though I wanted to blame them for making my life miserable, for thwarting my cross-country journey, the Devil was not the governments and contractors to which I’d become bound.

Truth be told, the Devil’s inside me. The Devil is concerned about ego and money and reputation and convention, determined to protect me from anything that might threaten those sacred status quo institutions of my being.

The moment I decided to return home to face the reality of what I’d done, I was just beginning to set myself free.

In the cabin that night, I cried some quiet tears of sorrow mixed with relief; then, for the first time in weeks, I slept.

Packing my car and saying goodby to the the red barns and hippy happiness of #IIovermont, I smiled for the selfie.

But I knew I had a hard road ahead.

I knew, to be fully free to continue my creative journey, I had to UNDO my deal with the Devil.

Find out how...


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