Finding freedom in responsibility

Finding freedom in responsibility

The quarantine seems to be over in the Netherlands. Terraces of restaurants and bars are open again and carefully everyone goes back to what it was like before the outbreak. With of course wearing the mandatory mask in public transfer and the occasionally worrisome observation that corona is really not on a holiday and all those people in the crowded shopping streets may not realize that.

I felt pretty euphoric in March, now I have to get used to the idea that everything goes back to how it was. Except for that vacation where I sip a cocktail on a tropical island floating in an inflated flamingo. Because that is not really possible right now. And what about the economic crisis? I hear around me that people are losing their jobs because of reorganizations. The awareness of the long-promised aftermath that is beginning to have impact is creeping in.

In March this year I switched from almost a life on a bicycle to being locked in the living room. I had quit my job and booked a flight to Alaska but reality thought differently. Inspired by the book “Man’s Search for Meaning” I focused on my physical and emotional health by consciously reflecting on how I deal with situations that run differently than I would hope for. If you feel helpless about something because you cannot do anything about it at all, it is easy to adopt a passive attitude. Viktor Frankl taught me in his book that it is precisely a passive attitude that makes you susceptible to depression. With this in my head I created a routine. A fixed time out of bed each morning and regardless of work or leisure, I made a schedule as much as possible that I followed as best I could.

In quarantine, I have become more aware of my personal development. I saw it that way that corona gave me the space to look at myself differently. I started doing yoga sessions in the morning and they didn’t always feel like a success. It did help to connect better with my body and thoughts. I had an injury in the muscles to the left of my hip. The pain intensified when running and cycling. That injury is now almost gone because of the yoga exercises.

I also read a lot of books and write thoughts from them in my diary. I have published a longer article that goes deeper into emotional resilience. I have been busy with this subject for a year and a half now. It’s about how my coping mechanism affects who I am. The way I deal with situations that cause problems and stress. This pandemic is about that for me and that made me reflect on my way of reacting. I have experienced that exposing my coping and fight against it, is very difficult but extremely rewarding on the longer term. I even see this as a necessity. It’s in who I am and it translates into my behavior. I have it by bottling up my emotions. Agree with others to guard the peace. Avoid conflicts. To seek distant when someone else is emotional. Having a retreating attitude and then isolating myself often looking for an escape. Impulsive escapees in which I try to run away from my own mind. 

Emotions are subject to the law of opposites, I have read in the book “The Power of Now”. That means that the short-lived pleasure side in emotions is part of the continuously alternating cycle of pain and pleasure. I see that growth comes from a passive and fragile state to a more proactive, more certain one that arises from a connection with values. That makes the pain and pleasure cycles secondary to something bigger to live for. I find emotional liberation by taking responsibility for these values. I’m not there yet, but I believe that this path of growth is a one worth the effort.

In January I hope to undertake the long planned journey from Alaska to Argentina. I’m actively training for that already because I start cycling in the midst of winter. Cycling in an Alaskan winter will demand a lot from my mental and physical willpower. In 2018 I tasted a bit of that by cycling in Russia and Norway. Cycling in extremely cold conditions is about being in a state of alertness. Alertness in attention, awareness and discipline. And that connects me very powerfully with the now.