6123880662_4b46b71740_zI’ve lived most of my life like a bird in a cage with the door wide open. At any time, I could have hopped over to the opening and soared to new heights and explored new horizons. All along, I have known how to fly. No one clipped my wings.

So, what kept me in the cage?  My own fear and self-imposed limitations kept me there. I was my own prison guard.

Sure, there may have been poop all over the floor, and I may have gotten insanely tired of numbly existing inside a little, wire box day after day, but at least, there was always food, water, and shelter. Even though it was terribly confining, I knew what to expect and what role I was supposed to perform. I was in my comfort zone even if it was uncomfortable as hell.  The cage provided the safety of the known versus the big, scary unknown.  Even if I was miserable in the known, it was preferable to me than the “who knows what?”

A Nice Cage Is Still a Cage

About a decade ago, I lived in Palm Harbor, Florida. I was in the final stretch of a marriage that lasted 18 years after dating for six years prior to getting married which was basically, my whole adult life and some before. I lived in an elegant home complete with a laundry chute (never used it – although it did make a good slide for Pokemon figurines my sons discovered), a swimming pool, marble countertops, and a Porsche in the three-car garage.  Despite this to-die-for lifestyle, I was extremely unhappy.  It was a cage. A nice one, but a cage nonetheless.

Even with all that, I did not feel joyful or grateful in my soul, and I knew that something was definitely missing and wrong. “There HAS to be more than this,” I thought. Just under the surface, I was always boiling ready to explode because I wasn’t living authentically or meeting my own needs. I wanted out of the cage dammit, but I was too afraid to take the leap and stretch my wings.  Every time I even considered it, my heart pounded all of the way up into my throat, and I got that panicky, bug-eyed feeling.

The Opposite of Fear Is Freedom

Finally, I summoned the courage to step through the door of the cage. While there have been legendary crashes at high speeds and many out-of-control tailspins since then, I’ve also learned to gracefully glide and even soar at other times. I feel so much more alive and like I’m living the life I’m here to live.  It’s taken years and has been a slow-growing and learning process, but I’m finally being honest with myself and others about who I am and not playing the role of who I believe everybody thinks I should be.

While I still feel the suffocating fear of the unknown at times, I forge ahead anyway because I know now that this feeling is part of living fully, and I’ve learned to have trust and have faith in myself and the universe.  Life is exhilarating and sure, there are downs as well as ups interwoven into the rich texture of this thing called life.

Fear is a prison.  It’s a box in which we keep ourselves to avoid failing, to avoid being laughed at or judged, to avoid feeling disappointed or hurt, and to avoid all kinds of things that make us feel uncomfortable. However, if we protect ourselves from these things, we’re also shutting ourselves off from the many possibilities and joys of living to the fullest.

Life’s journey is not to
arrive at the grave safely
in a well-preserved body,
but rather to skid in sideways,
totally worn out, shouting
‘…holy shit …what a ride!’

George Carlin

image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/aussiegall/

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  1. Those feelings you described… ” It was the safety of the known versus the big, dark, scary unknown.” I have felt that too; only I would use the words going to “the dark abyss”.. and once I made it ( yes that is how I felt, like I might actually not make it off that cliff)to the other side I began to use the analogy of being in the big wide ocean,floating with no sight of the shore..bobbing up and down in the crashing waves. Until one day I finally learned to “ride those waves” in all of their glory.. go with the flow. I finally one day had this almost epiphany if you will.. I remembered being a young girl and my brother always “popping” me with the wet towel and how sometimes I would grab that towel and the “tug-of-war” would ensue.. and I remembered the time I just let go of my side of the towel.. and down he went..there was no more fight it was done. This is I beleive the law of gravity..once you no longer pull againest it..life seems so much easier doesnt it? OH and I am definitely gonna go sliding in sideways 🙂

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      What a great analogy with your brother and the towel. I love it. Have to remember that one. An American example of tai chi!

      That is also the philosophy I have learned to follow in life – to just drop the oars and quit paddling upstream against the current. Enjoy the ride. Oh, and I’ll be there sliding in sideways with you, and Chris will be there laughing hysterically at us old farts.

  2. Ande Waggener Reply

    This is a beautiful post, Debbie. And you could be telling my story. I, too, left a pretty cage, about 15 years ago. My last dog led me out of the cage and out onto the beach were I could fly. And like you, I’ve crashed and gone into tail spins, but they’ve been REAL messy experiences not FAKE pretty ones. I have no regrets about leaving my cage at all, and I know that one day, I’ll truly soar.

    I give you an exuberant standing ovation for your courage and for facing your truth and living it. Bravo!

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Andee, thank you so much for your kind words. I love the way you portray it. “…they have been REAL messy experiences not FAKE pretty ones.” That is just it. My life is certainly not tidy with crisp corners now, and it doesn’t look like a page out of a Pottery Barn catalog for sure, but it is authentic. I am being honest with myself and living a life which feels right for me. It may not look like much to anyone else but it is wonderful to the person that matters here…me. Congrats on your courage and forging a new path for yourself!

  3. I love this. It just sings with me today, for some reason.

    Sometimes I sit on top of the cage. Still home, still safe… but there’s a lovely view from up here.

    And I can see you flying, and fluttering off in the distance 🙂

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Love it! Fly out and get a different perspective…..from on top of the cage. Never thought of that…then you can just hop back in. Whatever works!

  4. Hi Debbie,

    Very beautiful post. I’m so glad you found your freedom. This is such a key point: “I have learned to have trust and faith in myself.” Letting go is not easy. It can be a lifelong process. Thanks for taking the lead and showing us the way.

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