Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Delightful Captivity

The past few days I’ve been in captivity. Being the hybrid product of a Mediterranean upbringing and southern life, I can’t drive on snow or ice; even if the main roads are by now fairly passable, my subdivision is still frozen stiff, and the kids and I are stuck at home until the big thaw.

When I first looked at the weather forecast a couple of days ago, the outlook was a dark shade of gray graduating to pitch black – temperatures rising barely above freezing during the day, and down in the teens at night were going to ensure snow on the ground for a while. For once in my life I thought that hibernation sounded mighty good.

Today is day five of my captivity in the prison I share with a few other inmates – my kids and my pets – and I can only say one thing about it all…I’ve had a blast! When I thought about it last night, I feared that cabin fever had fatally led to sheer madness, but when I reflected a little more, I understood the reason why I felt so elated.

Although I can hardly get anything done, and I spend the days either playing Candyland or reading, I can’t be expected to go anywhere, and my load of social demands has been dramatically cut in half. When we ran out of juice yesterday morning, my sons’ typical mantra would have been “Mom, are you going to the store today?” Knowing that I can’t drive anywhere, nobody even asked the question and they happily settled for water to drink. Same with driving kids around all over town; I’m sure that all mothers of teenagers can relate – we spend a great portion of our days running from place to place, from one activity to the next, until the car can almost drive itself if only given a hint of where we are going. But not the past few days…everyone was content just with sitting at home and playing in the snow. What a foreign feeling it has been to face four whole days with no schedule! And what a pleasant one, I might add.

Just the other day I was reading a discussion a few people on a different site were having about freedom. When we speak of freedom, we often focus on the restrictions experienced by individuals and countries alike. We criticize communist countries for the lack of freedom their citizens have to endure; we condemn the oppression some individuals have experienced in the past, and we constantly hear about American freedom versus the sense of freedom which exists in other societies. We can speak our minds, and we can choose our beliefs; we are free to go to school and we are encouraged to protect our civil liberties, but in the greater scheme of things, are we really free?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the following are two definitions of freedom: a : the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action. b : the quality or state of being exempt or released from something onerous.

Certainly, we have the choice of being free at all times, but if one looks closely at the tenets of our western societies, we will realize we are not free at all. We might not have a sword or a gun pointed at us, but more times than none we run around in circles to meet all the demands of our daily lives. And if, Heaven forbid, something can’t fit into the tight space between one demand and the next one, we feel that we have let others and ourselves down. We run and run toward no specific destination, glad to have made it a day and already fretting about the demands of the days ahead. In itself, that’s not freedom.

The solitude and forced captivity of the past few days have taught me something important – we can only fit so much into one day, and what doesn’t get done before nightfall will still be there waiting for us tomorrow. And if for one day we need to let someone down for not meeting THEIR expectation, then oh well…at least we got to play Candyland.

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