One year ago today, my life exploded. On that day, I didn’t know what to do, where to go, or what would happen next. Friends urged me to look forward without worrying about how I’d get there—to look to the light at the end of the tunnel, not at the road beneath my feet. But I like details. They make me feel safe and in control. So, I concentrated on the details, and bit by bit, I built a new life.

It’s natural, when looking back to an event that changed your life, to say things like, “So much has happened since then.” And if I stopped to add up all those little steps, each tiny triumph or failure, it probably does add up to a lot. But, realistically, the past year has been pretty peaceful.

Of course I did things—things that contributed to rebuilding my life in a more abstract way. I bought and decorated a new apartment, I went to Australia, I went to America, and I threw myself into a new manuscript that, seven months later, is nearing completion. Next month my writers group will publish our fourth anthology, which I have coordinated for the fourth year running. But none of these things are special to this one-year period. All of them could have happened over any arbitrary string of twelve months.

Except, they didn’t. The thing that has changed the most since that day is that I can do all those things now. There is movement in my life now that was completely absent while I was mired in an inert relationship. When I close my eyes and try to imagine a picture that might represent my life today, it is a picture of flowing water. Not rushing, not tumbling over mountains, foaming and gushing, but flowing. In and out of sunlight and shade, it is evenly fluid, meandering over and around stones and fallen branches. It breathes and burbles with life, and it moves forward, enjoying the subtle variations in its path, not really caring where or when it might meet the sea or a lake or merge with another stream.

I once sought peace at any cost, and I believe now that this was what lead to the uncomfortable comfort of my old way of life. But now that I have found a true sense of peace, rooted in doing and being what I want, I know my thinking back then was broken. There is peace and there is peace. One is stifling, like a poisonous gas that tries to convince you not to fight—it’s so much easier if you don’t resist—while it slowly kills you. The other is open-ended, freeing, and it moves with grace.

Sometimes I think of the independence I’ve earned as being fierce and defiant, and I am empowered by that image of myself. But most of the time, it’s so much more subtle. When I choose what to eat, what to wear, how to spend an evening alone, those are the times I feel the most free. I have given myself back the ability to make choices, and no matter how small or insignificant those choices are, every choice is made of the freedom I have given myself.

photo credit: VernsPics Sweet relief via photopin (license)