“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” ― George Orwell
Greetings Dear Ones!
Liberty and Justice are hard to find when one is self-employed and trying to keep up with the whims and waistlines of New Englanders embarking on a summer of beaching and barbeques. As a friend likes to joke, “When you work for yourself, you can work any eighty hours a week you like!” Trying to please people who have no idea what they want is its own kind of tyranny—and where is the Justice when bitchy brides like “Brittany” decide to stiff you after more than forty hours of work? (Such are the joys of Capitalism.) Of course true Freedom comes from many things—ironically, the most important ways involve focus, awareness, discipline, and the myriad of tiny, petty, unsexy ways we choose to sacrifice ourselves for others or a Greater Good. Dedicated practicing of any skill leads to freedoms and privileges that Proficiency unlocks. Sacrifice: the Sacred Trade. I know I must Contain Myself but I keep escaping, much to Prudence’s despair.
This week, I am a Bell at Liberty—the shop is closed, as are many of the area businesses, including dry-cleaners whom we service. Most folks are going on some sort of vacation but to me, the real treat is in getting to stay home with my lambs and animals. In the absence of my usual daily and weekly routines, I am pondering freedom and anarchy. To ward off the anarchy of “free” time, and make certain jobs seem more fun, I have given myself a game of “Chore Bingo.” I make a grid and fill in the boxes with things I want to accomplish in this precious week of “spare time”—things like “mow lawn,” “clean attic,” “throw out all the frozen food that is more than two years old so you can fill the freezer with yarn instead” (to protect it from moths), “find out what that dank smell in the basement is…” I can do things in any order and I color each box as I complete the task. I had planned to reward myself for completing each row with unseemly amounts of ice cream but my twenty-one-year-old daughter ruined it all by coming home and announcing that sugar is POISON and that I must support her in a total renunciation of anything refined. As a college student, she’s learned A Thing Or Two… She has compelling Science to prove her points. She is adamant.
So, here I am, unexpectedly attempting to live an UNREFINED life, which puts me in mind of that Gloria Steinem quote: "The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off, " which is pretty much how I feel foregoing having the most amazing, local, farm-stand-fresh-from-the-cows-staring-at-you-over-the-fence, what-New-England-does-Best kind of ice cream for supper for a week. Apparently, I will feel better and radiate a glowing vitality in sixty days or less… How nice for me…. (slump…) Apparently, breaking the chains of my sugar addiction will bring me freedom from all manner of ills, including the aching in my hands, and if I don’t live forever, at least it will feel like that. (How soon is lunch? What?? THREE more hours??) Apparently, the urge to poke this child of mine repeatedly with a sharp fork will pass, along with the cravings…
It’s good to have freedom from the shop…The last few days before the break were fraught with the demands of people who could not contemplate attending Uncle Louie’s holiday barbeque without the appropriate seasonal attire. Chowing charred weiners and warm potato salad in celebration of America’s Independence in a flag-colored mini-skirt that gaps a little over the hip was a fate that did not bear facing. For one, the Pursuit of Happiness involved making a seamstress redo a jacket four times to make it look like his clothing comes in cans. Another woman demanded we make a one-piece pull-over dress that looked like something that should be used in the annual family sack race be “um…you know…tailored to flatter her figure more.” She kept grabbing fistfuls of fabric from around her middle and asking why we couldn’t “do something.” Explaining that we could not take it in as much as she wanted or she would not be able to get it off over her head again was futile. She looked at us as if we were just being difficult. Our Nation has not gone to war, nearly every single generation since 1776 to defend Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Bargains so that she could wait two weeks for this either. She needed it Friday at the latest. I was tempted to stitch her right into it so tight that she could not get out but I knew I would just have to do it over, so I curtailed my freedom of speech and held pins in my mouth to help me be quiet.
All month, people have been exercising their dearly-bought rights to bare arms and belly rings and cleavage and something called the “under-bum” which I had no idea had a name. Prudence views such outfits as a total scandal. She does not think that the farmers of Lexington and Concord took their pitchforks in hand and drove the “lobster-backs” through the streets of Arlington so that future generations could glimpse under-bums. Liberty should not be extended to the fleshy parts of humanity that belong under several layers of knickers, bloomers, and Spanx. For the love of all that is Holy, why can’t we bring back petticoats to the ankle? All men might be created equal but all bums are not. (This, I am certain, is what ultimately caused the Great Depression.)
On July 3,1776, John Adams wrote to Abigail: The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illumination, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.
Ok, so the poor man was off by two days… Still, Two hundred and forty three years later, his visions are mostly correct—if we keep the view very fuzzy and from a great distance. We’ve gone a little scanty on the solemn acts of devotions to God Almighty but we’ve more than made up for it in pomp, parades, and Chinese Firework purchases from roadside stands in New Hampshire, from guys like “Hank” who have spent their dental hygiene budget on tattoos instead (hence the need for beer and potato salad as their main form of nourishment). Who knows? I even believe (in fact, I am quite certain) that the founding teenagers were just as concerned about hem-lengths and displaying a shapely calf as their twenty-first century counterparts.
Thanks to those brave Patriots, sweating it out in the 1776 Continental Congress meeting in July in Philadelphia, we have thrown off the yoke of British Imperialism and are free to consume as many mass-produced, poorly fitting internet purchases from China as we please. As Napoleon Bonepart commented, “Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide." Word. Dude, Totally! I see it in the dressing room every day—women paralyzed by the choices before them: backless or strapless? Spanx or no Spanx? Buy the next size up or wire your jaw shut until the wedding?
And let’s face it, as Patriotic Americans—we have a lot to decide in the hours and months ahead: Burgers or hotdogs? Coke or Pepsi? Current Washington Politics or Sanity? Fish, or cut bait? The Democratic Republic our Founding Parents set up ensures that we get a vote. It’s not necessarily a vote that counts but so what? Vote anyway. A well-functioning democracy means that less than most of us get to be unhappy.
Prudence is of the opinion that in order to enjoy freedom, we really need to control ourselves—the way a well-structured gown is actually easier to move in than a loose-fitting sack that gives no support. If you intend to go strapless, then you will require a lot of boning around your mid-section. You need Stability to go free. Anyone who has had her knees bound together by sagging panty-hose will tell you this. Freedom is not the absence of structure—it’s getting the chance to be who we really are—or never thought we could be because of the fabric of support enveloping us. Freedom is what we continue to co-create from all that has been done for us beforehand, behind the scenes. Whether you are in a mob cap or baseball cap, go forth and exercise Ye Olde inalienable right to be Dowdy or Dazzling, Dapper or Drab! Thanks Be, you are Free to Choose. (But you might not get your orders done until next week!)
Nancy (Liberty) Bell