As we enter this holiday weekend full of celebrations of Americana, fireworks, and the best invention ever—grilled food—I pause to look at what it is we’re really celebrating, and what it means. Sadly, many Americans are not fully clear on what this day celebrates, and even sadder, if you Google it the first entry has to do with the movie, and the second with a video game—based on the movie. It’s not until the third entry that you get the Wikipedia entry. Independence Day is a celebration of the thirteen colonies of American declaring their independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776. Many think it was also the kickoff of the Revolutionary War, but that war actually began about 14 months earlier with “The Shot Heard Round The World” on April 19, 1775 (Exactly 201 years before the date of my birth actually).
OK, enough with the history lesson LD, where are you going with this? It’s the word “Independence” that intrigues me today, and what it means. To the country in 1775/6, it meant saying to another country “No, you do not rule us, we rule ourselves.” In essence, that’s the same meaning it has today when we use it to refer to ourselves. Whether the teenager who is asserting their Independence when then get their driver’s license, the young adult in college, the employee standing up to unfair rules in the workplace, et cetera, et cetera.
I can think of a million ways I’ve declared my own Independence in just the last few years, but that’s where it gets tricky. When we are angry at a perceived wrong, the instinct is to lash out at the offending party and say “No! I am my own person and you can’t treat me this way!” But you have to be careful with HOW it is done. The fact of the matter is that after the Revolutionary War, there were bad feelings on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. There were many casualties on both sides, and the financial devastation was huge. Pulling back into my own life, declaring my Independence from a variety of sources could—and in some cases did—have lasting consequences.
During my divorce, there was hostility, anger, hurt. There were things that were said and done on both sides that leave a bitter taste in our mouths to this day. My ex and I, like the US and the UK, are now back to being friends. But there are still some topics that are taboo, and while not likely to bring us back to “war”, would definitely result in high tensions for a period of time if they were brought back up. Those lasting effects could have been somewhat avoided had we been more careful in how we each declared our Independence from the other.
Then there are my parents. Most of you know I simply adore them—sounds like a disclaimer doesn’t it? It’s not. I really do. I am fortunate enough to have a VERY close relationship with them. But when I was 17 years old I have a very clear memory of standing in Reagan Airport, completely pissed at my mom (we’d been fighting on and off for about two years) and she said something that set me off. My gut reaction at the time was to ball up my fist, and I had every intention of punching her square in the face. Fortunately at that moment I saw my 6’2” 200-pound father standing right behind her and realized that he would LITERALLY kill me. I walked away. Crisis averted. My need to get her to see that I wasn’t some *kid* anymore (even though I was) almost lead to disastrous actions. I firmly believe that had I hit her, even if Dad hadn’t actually killed me, we would not have the same relationship we have now. A line would have been crossed that would have been impossible to undo.
In the last few years I’ve also faced standing up for myself at work, at the boys’ school, with friends, and even my siblings—that one probably deserves a story all its own, so I won’t delve into it today. I have, perhaps late in life, found that I really like who I am, and it is important to me that those around me understand that while I love and appreciate them, I am my own person. My challenge is to do so in a way that makes clear the importance I place on myself, while simultaneously ensuring that they know it is not a criticism of them. A tricky tightrope to walk, but I think I’m doing an ok job on my journey to Independence.
Happy Independence Day America!