I was headed on an epic trip. I was, really. I have driven cross-country more times than I can count, and it is an activity I have much enjoyed in my life, although I know that is mysterious to many - it is an activity many do not enjoy at all. There is a way in which long-distance driving was a kind of emblem of my freedom to move about in the world - it was part of how I defined myself. I at times fantasized about being a long-haul trucker (but never all that seriously.)
I have, for the last year and a half, struggled with a chronic illness (chronic pancreatitis) that is not life-threatening, but has been very life-altering for me. I've had to reduce the hours I work, greatly change my diet and activites. I've become an avid fan of community acupuncture, because it gives me treatment I need that I can afford. I've learned a lot about antioxidants. Western medicine has nothing to offer me for this condition - it's not one that it can treat at all. I have been doing quite well with the modified life, and I assumed that planning a six-week cross country trip to visit friends and family, and go to Wiscon, would be within my abilities. I was wrong.
Two days into the trip, while driving through Death Valley, I got pretty sick, and had to turn back. Besides being sad and disappointed at mssing the trip I'd been carefully planning for weeks and weeks, I've had to go through a lot relating to how I think of myself - my own self concept. What's true is that I've struggled with this particular conundrum for a lot longer than this. I also have a "hidden" disability - a very arthritic hip, that limits my ability to do a lot of things - and that's been true for years, but somehow, losing this ability - the ability to drive wherever I want whenever I want to, has made me stare this in the face.
Of course, many people deal with this all the time - I've had it relatively easy in life. I can walk around, dress myself easily, do modest exercise, and make my way around the world in such a way as most people have no idea of what I struggle with. But as I get older, I'm learning that I can no longer equate mobility with freedom.
What is freedom, after all? Many of us think of freedom as the ability to do what we want when we want it - but that's a false sort of idea - because by that measure, none of us is truly free. Real freedom is an inner state - a state of being fully at peace with what is. We are free from aversion, or craving, or hatred - we are free from what binds us to suffering. We are free to live out, and manifest our best nature. That is the freedom I long for.
Losing mobility is a fact of life, whether it happens to us sooner or later. But freedom is always available to us.