(no blame attaches to them – the fault and prolixity are mine alone)

Personal Freedom.

An illusion?

I suspect so.

Free will? Of course. But not truly free. All we are today is the result of choices made in the past, be they active or passive. No one determines life for us, but we are bound by all the connections we create, and even by our own existence. Much of this contemplation is a direct result from reading / this blogger /.

I was once told that we all have moods, and we are helpless before them. This is true. All we can do is learn to recognize them, accept their influence, and try not to live according to their dictates. That requires knowing one’s base state.

Is there a base state? A ‘me’ that is free of mood, desire, hope, regret, love, hate, anger, jealousy, revenge, empathy, sympathy, tolerant acceptance… where do I stop the list?

I think there is a basic core. The part of me that creates characters for my stories and imbues them with life, sets them into motion: that part of me must be optimistic, thinking, kindly disposed towards humanity. At least, that’s how my characters all seem to end up. Funny how what makes for nice people makes for a boring story.

What does personal freedom mean? I shall enter the caveat ‘to me’ here: let it be understood to apply throughout. I have at least learned enough to know that she who ‘speaks for humanity’ is a deluded fool.

So, for me, personal freedom means the ability to call my time my own and not to devote myself primarily to care-taking tasks. Of course, if I could learn to confront, to demand the respect of equal responsibility – but one has to accept that other people are not willing to change their patterns, perhaps unable to see the lack of real respect hidden by genuine affection.

That immediately gets back to the choices made.

We are chained by the choices made. And by the dreams outside those chains.

We are also anchored by those choices. They are the foundation of what is: the place we stand. The rest is in relation to where we stand. And understanding (too many ‘stands’ – what to do?) understanding how we got where we are, for good or ill, is the way to understand where we want to be, and why; and, hopefully, how to get there.

Who am I? Interesting how coincidence works. I’d been reflecting on the labels we give ourselves, the odd things we can be proud of.  / This blogger / had a post today that centered on this misplaced devotion to national myths.

I have been known to boast of my family history in an oblique way. Yet I always step back and ask myself why? Why am I boasting of what my ancestors did? What have ‘I’ done? If I’m going to obsess about my family tree, then let me ask, would they boast of having me for a descendant?

Sheer folly. So – toss out all that history. What heritage lies behind me of nation, family, even education – that doesn’t count. All that matters is what I do with it.

Tangent. Reading people who say that as long as they don’t actively discriminate, they are guiltless of discrimination. No. If you perceive a problem, and do nothing to help rectify it, you are guilty of perpetuating. Women in science blogs are an eye-opening and very disheartening read. There are many forms of prejudice in the world, but the only one that spans all cultures, all religions, all institutions is that against women. Blacks in power, Muslims in power, white males in power – all repress women. It makes me angry, and frightened at how easily women could lose the few rights they’ve gained.

Okay… so that anger is part of who I am. What else? Optimism? I’m listening to the / 2011 Eurovision / songs right now. My daughter and I are thinking we should compile a list of all the songs that use variants of ‘dum dum, ah, ah, ah, ooo, yeah, oh oh…. ‘ What delights me about Eurovision is that, beneath all the politicking is an optimistic reality. People of different countries, religions, ages, educations can all enjoy Eurovision. It is something that shows we are all humans together. I love that. (I don’t love some of the songs though. Thank goodness for / Turkey /. And / Cyprus /. And / Belarus /. / Ireland / is a quirky delight, but a pain to watch. But Finland! That a country who sent / Lordi / and / Terasbetoni /, who are having such marvelous fun performing, could chose a ‘dum-dum’ boy! The theme of the song is worthwhile, but, after all, / Romania / does it much better).

End of digression here.

Anger and optimism. Next?

No. A point by point analysis of my personality is irrelevant. What matters is that I understand myself as best as possible.

To ‘know thyself’ is like being a skeptic. Constantly questioning. Yes, there has to be a base, a place to stand. But from that tiny core one must always be willing to adjust as new facts arise. And that is where mood-control comes in. When I crash, as I did today (how much of that is a delayed reaction to the death of / Diana Wynne-Jones /?  I hadn’t realized what an icon she was to me until I learned she was gone) or when I exult, as I do when writing goes well, or new ideas come bursting forth in their technicolor brilliance – those are extremes. Somewhere between then is me.

That ‘me’ is wondering what she wants to do with her life, and why. And whether my connections are chains, or securities that I require.

Emotional chains. People. Obligations of love. Actually, not just people. I have four cats. I cannot hand them off like unwanted parcels. I have a contract of love with them, too.

The strongest chains are those to children. Having brought them into the world (not to mention that I love them, and truly like and respect them), my life was bound by their needs until they were ready to fly off. I did all I could to give them the tools and opportunities to explore for themselves what life could offer them. Now they only need me as moral support. That solidarity is what family is all about: people who have their own lives, but are always there when need arises – of joy or sorrow, finance or emotion.

If it weren’t for my family my children would have lost many opportunities. I could not have afforded to provide instruments and lessons – my parents stepped in. My sister, living for a few years in Europe, gave us a trip to Budapest to visit them.

Even so, there were seven long years of increasing debt. In one of its less endearing quirks, the Wheel of Fortune did a massive downturn. Highly educated and experienced people, with strong work ethics cannot always get jobs in this country. They are poor and struggling, and struggling all the more for the contempt the republican party throws at them. Not much help for those in need when ‘They’ tank the economy and families suffer. We are finally pulling out, but the debts of necessity after those long years are far too heavy (doctors and dentists are not philanthropists, and growing children need clothes).

Some of that debt is due to the vagaries of our local education. In this town, it is assumed (and I am quoting a school counselor here) all the smart kids come from rich families, who can pay for them to take university classes. Ergo, not many advanced classes offered. Well, our kids needed the advanced classes. Both were out of high school maths by their sophomore year. So, college tuition had to be found. Fun, huh? But that falls into the category of doing whatever I could to ensure they have choices for their futures.

All this leads back to that HUGE chain. Finances.

One has to pay off debt. One has to have money to survive. The ‘how much’ depends on what you can do without. It’s pointless to say you want to be free to be creative if you must work other jobs all the hours you can just to pay the bills. Shared income does go farther. But if shared income means you are not free to do your ‘real’ work?

And let us never forget that in this glorious nation, one has to have either wealth or health insurance (truly, one needs both), or, quite literally, suffer needlessly.

I have a theory that when I start earning money from writing, I will gain insight into what I must do or not do. Hah. How we delude ourselves.

Personal freedom means financial and emotional independence. It also means acceptance of what is, but only until you can change what should be changed.

Which then adds the dilemma of what should be changed, and when. In the last year, I’ve had my life given back to me. Years of lying fallow are replaced with more ideas and dreams than I could ever have imagined having. Obligations honorably discharged (except for that blasted debt), and now I am assessing who and what I am, and who and where I want to be. Daunting.

After all this meandering and maundering, I am no farther in my quest. I am here. Here I stand. I see where I want to be. I see no path between the two. Why? Because I cannot bear to hurt those I love. Because I must act with honor and respect for all those I am connected to. Because I fear to make leaps without knowing what’s on the other side. Chains of my making.

Life is choices. Life is change.

Life is connections. Life is chains.

Life is a quest to understand one’s self.

Life is a balancing act, a struggle to find a spot of stability, reconciling the opposing forces.

Personal Freedom is recognizing our ongoing choices, reconciling them in an attempt to create of ourselves a balanced whole.

Diana Wynne Jones

March 26, 2011

I am bereft. Her books have been a joy to me for so much of my life. I introduced both my children to them, to their delight.

I’ve never understood why Diana Wynne Jones is not acclaimed in Britain and the world as the foremost author for children, young adult, and adult. No two books were the same for her. Her creativity seemed limitless. Fantasy, myth, science fiction: perhaps they all fall into speculative fiction. But though the approach varied, she always created worlds you wanted to live in. She always created characters you wanted to know. You picked up a story of hers and finished it with a bittersweet sigh compounded of sheer contentment and delight mixed with sorrow that it was over.

She is one of the few authors I would buy a book from without stopping to wonder if it would be good. I knew it would. They always were. I reread her books regularly. Not many authors can stand up to that sort of scrutiny, but she never seemed to put a foot wrong. Everything worked. Nothing jarred.

Her book, ‘Sudden Wild Magic’ is the only one labelled adult, but stories such as ‘Deep Secret’ or ‘Dark Lord of Derkholm’ are equally complex. And even the most simple stories held that inimitable charm. Chrestomanci, ‘Dogsbody’, the Dalemark Quartet: they enriched my life. The inimitable ‘Tough Guide to Fantasyland’ is a delight.

Her wealth of ideas, the joy of her style, the warmth and love she brought to each book: no one I’ve read has come close.

And cats. She loved cats.

I shall miss knowing she’s in the world, weaving her spells of joy for me to share.

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