Meaning of Independence

"Freedom is about being vulnerable to one another, realizing that
our ability to connect is more important than feeling secure, in control
and alone."

[by Eve Ensler, from my July
4, 2007 post


I come from several generations of independent women.

My great grand mother, who was with us for 100 years, saw all kinds of things happening in her life time. Horse carriages becoming steam cars, and so on, from long gowns to shorter and shorter skirts and pants for women.

She buried the family china during two World Wars — it surprisingly survived to shatter in thousands of pieces when a faulty cabinet came down crashing half a century later. She died of old age, after taking care of her estranged husband, who came back home in his late years, to die among familiar faces. She was as sharp and witty as she had been in youth, to her last breath.

My grandmother is still with us. 94 years later, bent physically, yet hardly any worse for wear spiritually. You can see it in her eyes. She is curious and incredibly articulate, despite not having taken higher education. A seamstress, she still leans on the details of life, patiently stitching the stories with us.

Back in the day, you would promptly label her a real beauty. Today, you see it in her eyes, her smile, her patient nod — I see you, it says, I'm grateful for having had so much time with you all. Last Christmas, I brought my mother over to visit, and upon taking leave, as I leaned over to kiss her goodbye, she whispered "thank you for bringing her to me".

Those are the kinds of conversations you never forget. Would I be so graceful, immobilized on a chair? I have a couple of sepia photos where she's wearing her brother's suit, complete with hat in one and cape in the other — a fun thing to do in front of a camera. She never wondered what if? She was.

My mother has always valued her independence. With the optimism of someone who lets life use them wholly, she raised her children, earned a few degrees, worked in five careers over her lifetime, and taught herself to read philosophy and poetry.

We crossed paths and exchanged views at so many phases of her growth, and mine, that it almost feels as if we met each other over and over, just like in The Time Traveler's Wife (Amazon affiliate link). I didn't inherit her purple blue eyes and her thirst for adventure. I have learned a lot more from her than from many a professor in University.

Which brings us to me. I pretty much did the opposite of what I was supposed to do — classical studies, instead of getting a "useful" degree, Liberal Arts and linguistics in University, and an open ticket to the US as soon as I had enough savings to make it a go.

I worked insane hours for a few dollars, endured long commutes that would make me barely enough to pay the bills, to go after the work I knew would give me a good grounding, and the people I looked up to as mentors. I signed up for more hours, programs, learning, and doing than anyone else — taking degrees in every industry I've worked in, and continuing to see every opportunity as a perfect setting to push through my perceived limitations without fear of failing.

My friends call me a visionary and a flyer (more on that at some point soon). I'm a marathoner who can sprint when you least expect it, because it's in my heart and my head to want to do it.

I've been thinking about what has made us, what we have in common, four generations who lived under such different circumstances and times.

I've been thinking about the meaning of independence for us. And it is this:

  • the ability to touch and be touched
  • the desire to learn
  • the wonder for life and its adventures
  • the gratefulness for who we are
  • the magic of connection with people
  • the poetry in the mundane
  • the curiosity for novelty
  • the self deprecating humor
  • the service to others
  • the need to be, first and foremost, who we are
  • the agility of thought
  • the freedom we feel, straight from the gut

To be who we are, without apology and without pretense. With the knowledge that we have but one piece of the story of what makes us, and the joy of inhabiting that piece. That, to me, is the meaning of independence.

Happy Independence Day.

[image by d4rr3ll's]

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0 responses to “Meaning of Independence”

  1. Beautiful post Valeria. Your great energy and spirit always comes through in your inspiring stories. Happy Independence Day and to others like you who have the vision to pursue their own path.

  2. @RaynaNyc – thank you. I was inspired by a feature article in an Italian paper a few weeks back that talked about the role of women in uniting the Republic over there, and none of them made it in the history books.
    @Julie – you’re very kind. My eyes were welling up as I was writing it. Such fantastic women. Their spirit is what inspired me to do more.

  3. I love this post Valeria, thanks for sharing this story, it made me think about my Mother and Grandmother, about the fact that they always try to have the kindest smile for people around them no matter what : )
    Happy Independence Day to you, hugs.

  4. @Diego – I do wonder if we’ve gotten too spoiled compared to previous generations. Or maybe it’s lack of values, following the crowd and watching what the Jones’ are doing? Glad you enjoyed the post, and hugs back to you and your family.
    @Tim – I’m so jealous! Hope you’re having a good time and staying cool. Although it seems that the prize for highest temperatures this year goes to Philadelphia. We already at 100 degrees!

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this. Spent time with kids and grandkids over the weekend so just look at this now. Every family and person has a story to tell. You’ve told a little of yours beautifully.

  6. Freedom is not feeling vulnerable to each other. Freedom is feeling secure from harm. Freedom is being able to be who you are, without feeling judged, or fearful because you don’t conform, or do.
    Freedom is controlling your own destiny, and it’s not about feeling secure or not alone. Freedom makes no guarantee about that. What it does guarantee is that we can say what we want, to whom, and not fear violent repercussion. The vulnerable aren’t free – they’re too frightened to be free. The vulnerable will never be free – they fear too much to understand what freedom is. They are the naysayers in the land of the one-eyed man. They prefer their blind crowds, because within their connections, they have a sense of safety. Freedom is terrifying; as it, probably, should be. Because the person whom is not frightened of freedom truly does not understand what it means; the fearful, those who express vulnerability, have no capacity to revel in freedoms glories, either.
    I have no fear of freedom. I fear those who exclaim their vulnerability. I fear they will limit my freedom, so they don’t have to follow that one eyed man.
    Carolyn Ann

  7. @Bruce – thank you for stopping by and for spending time with family. One thing I can do only after a couple of days of travel.
    @Carolyn Ann – I interpreted the author’s sentiment as feeling comfortable with people you trust. Certainly, you never feel safe just with anyone.
    @Pamela – thank you for stopping by.

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