Free from staying small.
Free to shine.
"… is there a place where a heart can find shelter, a place where you learn how to heal?"
My definition of freedom has evolved over time. Behind the fence, my perception of freedom was more or less tied to the physical transition. I believed that anywhere on the other side would be freedom. I believed that the air would be cleaner, fresher and no matter what, I would be happy. Somehow walking out would be a rebirth, a reset…at last, I would feel like I was good enough!
The day I was released, the parole officer drove me to “my” apartment. With a weapon strapped on her side, she escorted me to the door, did a cursory walk through, wished me luck, and offered a warning about associating with known offenders. Then she left. Although I didn’t offer this response to her warning, my thought was … I have been in prison for 20 years and all of my associates are offenders. All of my friends are criminals, and I just left them in that place.
The apartment was amazing! It was beautiful, quaint, and adorned with most of my mother’s furnishings. She no longer needed them because she died 80 days before I got out. There I was right smack dab in the middle of my magical moment – alone in my greatly anticipated freedom. The silence was so loud! And even though my physical location had changed, I still felt lost.
From that day to this, I have experienced great highs and epic lows. I learned how to be “free” in this world. I began to stretch and push out my free walls just enough to be comfortable. And, I worked diligently to stay small so that no one could see – I still wasn’t good enough. For the longest time, I felt as though people everywhere could just tell that I had been in prison – like there was a big, bold tattoo on my forehead … INMATE!
I have come to understand that the feeling of not being good enough was a prison that I lived in long before I made it to the penitentiary. I was cloaked in self-hate and a people pleaser. I would manipulate, lie, cheat, or be in relationships with anyone or anything including alcohol or any other mind altering substance in order to feel better, to belong and to control the world’s perception of me – to change my perception of me.
While I certainly wish that my epiphany would have occurred much sooner, clarity did not come for me until I was more than 10 years beyond the gate. Undoubtedly, I had accomplished so much … blessed with a beautiful home, a dependable automobile, a great career, great friends, and an amazing family. And yet, I found myself sinking hopelessly into despair with constant thoughts of suicide. Somewhere in that haze I found the answer to the question I posed in my own song ... is there a place where a heart can find sheter, a place where you learn how to heal?
My options were clear – I was either going to get up or stay down. By way of surrendering, acknowledging and accepting who I am and who I am not, I have come to understand and experience real freedom. Today, I experience freedom as the gift of waking up each morning KNOWING that God is not lost and neither am I. Freedom is beginning each day with a grateful heart and being present in each moment that comes. Freedom is knowing what is right and doing what is right – even when it’s hard. Freedom is having true friends and two amazing dogs – being loved and being able to love and accept myself and others. Freedom is not trying to control – everything! And of course there are physical delights for me – walking to my mailbox, riding on my lawnmower, and backing into my garage. At the very core of it all, freedom is the ability to live comfortably inside my own skin. I finally made it to the free world – a place where I am enough!
*Is there a place where a heart can find shelter…
A place where you learn how to heal –
Where the past does not haunt me,
Memories do not taunt me,
And my mistakes are forgiven in time?
Because I need to get there and bathe in this somewhere
Before I give up on myself.
Walk away from the pain – learn to smile again
And for once, chase after my dream.
What do you see when you first look at me?
Do you think you’ll remember my name?
There’s so much I could show you,
So many things that I’ve gone through,
And you might find that in ways we’re the same.
Tell me are you afraid of the mistakes that I’ve made?
Do you think there’s no chance I could change?
Look beyond what you fear, there’s a light shining here
Give me a moment to help you believe.
I just wanna shine
Find my way out of darkness
Wipe away all the tears
Move beyond all my fears
That just hold me down
I just wanna dance
Feel the music inside me
Do the best that I can
Learn to love who I am
I just wanna shine
*Music and lyrics written by Kimberly Stone