My American Dream

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God Bless America

The “American Dream” is not a three bedroom house in the suburbs with a two car garage. It is not about accumulating vast wealth. It is not about achieving goals. And yet, it incorporates those things and much more because it is an idea. It is a very simple and very complex idea. The American dream is based on individual freedom – the most radical basis for a government the world has ever known.

Our Constitution was designed to protect us from government over-reach and tyranny so that we can pursue our individual dreams in peace. Our rights, as stated in the Declaration of Independence seem very simple on their surface – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – but they encompass everything we need to survive or succeed, according to our ambition and ability. Any thinking person understands that we are not equal in intelligence, attractiveness, physical strength, ambition, character or abilities and nothing can make us equal by those measurements. We are all unique individuals and we are equal only in the eyes of God and the rights He has given us, which are protected by our Constitution. Whether you believe in God or not is irrelevant, this is the foundation upon which our country was built. We are equal in rights and opportunity under the law, not in achievement or acquisition or ability. We have the right to succeed and we have the right to fail. We have the right to pursue our happiness as we choose, as long as we don’t infringe upon the rights of others.

The American Dream is what has made this country exceptional. In spite of corrupt, immoral politicians and the army of federal agencies and government bureaucrats that are constantly chipping away at our Constitutional rights with a mountain of regulations, I believe the radical idea of individual freedom is still alive – although currently on life support. These are discouraging times and, although I’m sickened by the presidential campaign, I haven’t given up on the American Dream yet. I’m ashamed that it took me so long to fully appreciate my country and my rights – I really just started paying attention 5 years ago but now I look for and support politicians and organizations who are interested in protecting the Constitution from those who want to undermine or destroy it. Some people who know me think they know my politics but, they really don’t.  In my life I have voted for both Democrats and Republicans; in fact I just voted for a Democrat to be mayor of my town. I have tried to vote for the person I felt was best for the job; however, the Democrat party as a whole has veered way too far left in the past 20 years or so to align with me. 

I’m a Constitutional Conservative (with libertarian leanings), which means I think that conserving the Constitution is of more importance and significance than any one politician or political party. I’ve recently been educating myself about a movement that is growing in strength across the country – Convention of States http://www.cosaction.com/ Whatever your political party, if you’re concerned about the direction in which our country is heading, I urge you to go to their website and learn about their mission. I have signed their petition and I’m considering volunteering in some capacity with my state group. We the people still have rights that are worth fighting for.

The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government – lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.  ~Patrick Henry (patriot, lawyer, and orator)

Ft. DeSoto dog beach 6-15-16

Freedom is a beautiful thing!

See more of my artwork at Lynda Linke Productions

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Small and not so small blessings

Lynda Linke logoJuly 8th will be the fifth anniversary of my “reinvention” journey – the day I retired from the working world and began living life in a different way than I had for the previous 35+ years. Years ago I read somewhere that retirement for “Boomers” is different from their parent’s retirement and that many of us like to think of it more as an opportunity for “reinvention”. That’s a fairly typical Boomer way of looking at things – slightly self-centered and egotistical, goal-oriented, forward thinking, and always striving to be different from previous generations. We’re not going to have our parent’s retirement! Perish the thought!! We might even be the first generation that really didn’t believe we would grow old, or at least the most vocal about it. Remember “don’t trust anyone over 30”? How about The Who talking about “My Generation”? Now that we’re all in our 60’s and 70’s, it’s our turn to confront the challenges of aging and, once again, we are determined to experience it in our own way.

Although I’m sure there are plenty of people in my age group who are happy to spend their retirement playing golf or fishing (nothing wrong with that!), I have read interesting stories about people who are using retirement as a time in their lives when they can create a different lifestyle. Many people have chosen to start a small business after retiring, often completely different from the careers in which they worked for 30 or 40 years. Maybe for the first time in your adult life you’re free to explore interests for which you never had time. You might make a radical lifestyle change – perhaps you always wanted to live on a houseboat or maybe you’re fulfilling the dream you’ve had since you were 18 of traveling the country in an RV. I just read a story about a couple who spent a year visiting all 59 national parks!

Although I can’t say I have created a radically different or unique lifestyle in the way some people have, it is certainly different from the one I used to have. For one thing, the reduction in stress and responsibility has allowed me to change in some important ways. One change, which is a small blessing in itself, is a real understanding that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing at this point in my life. I have accepted my current limitations and restrictions and I’m content. That’s a biggie for me because I’ve always been restless and thinking about the next “thing”. I’m not living an exciting, adventurous life but I appreciate the small blessings of being able to immerse myself in a good book, walk with Liberty, have lunch with a friend, take my Mom on a vacation, go to the beach, get away on my own for a few days and a myriad of other simple pleasures.

I started out 5 years ago with a long to-do list, which is still only half completed. It’s been a small blessing to find I don’t care about accomplishing the rest of the goals I set for myself back then! I’ve learned some things about myself and one of them is that I’m not ambitious enough to be a successful artist or author or to start a business, and that’s okay because an important part of my journey has been learning to accept myself. I no longer feel like I have to be accomplishing something important every day. There are places I’d like to visit, things I’d like to experience and a soul mate I hope to meet before I die, but I don’t have the anxious restlessness I once had about those things – and for a former chronic malcontent that’s no small blessing.

We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. ~E.M. Forster

Lake Hall Tallahassee 4-16

Liberty is thankful for the not so small blessing of encountering NO alligators during her recent visit to Lake Hall in Arthur B. Maclay Gardens and State Park in Tallahassee. 

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The Meaning of Life

To thine own self be trueHa, ha! Made ya look! I bet you thought I was going to tell you the meaning of life – the eternally elusive answer to that question we have all asked ourselves at one time or another. Sorry, I can’t tell you because I have no idea what the correct answer is for you. I’ve had enough trouble figuring out what the answer is for me! I finally decided that, religious and philosophical debates aside, the answer for me is truth. I wrote about my basic truths in a simple little book titled Try Lots of Hats. Simple but not easy.

So, what is truth? Keats said “‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’ – that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” Truth is beautiful, painful, frightening, inspiring, uplifting, cruel, enlightening and freeing. The truth really will set you free but sometimes it hurts. Truth is that thing you don’t want to face because it is easier to continue fooling yourself. That reminds me of something else I believe is true – there is no freedom without personal responsibility. Many people believe that there is only one truth but I don’t agree. I think truth is any conviction or belief that feels real – in other words if you feel in your heart and mind, without doubt, that something is true then it is … for you … at that moment in time. The only indisputable, unchangeable truths are found in Natural Law.

Personal truths are a whole different story – there are things I passionately believed to be true 20, 30, 40 years ago that are no longer valid. When I was in my 20’s the meaning of a successful life was love, marriage, and creating a family. That was my truth. I was not an ambitious, career-oriented person. I just wanted to be happy and my idea of happiness at that point was to have a loving husband, a few kids, a nice house and a comfortable lifestyle. My marriage vows were my truth when I was 21 but, by the time I was 30, they were no longer true. By my 30’s I was divorced and the meaning of life became finding a career path and furthering my education so that I could support myself and my child independently. Throughout my 30’s and 40’s I was trying to find true love but that eluded me because I didn’t understand that I had to love and respect myself first. I didn’t realize it at the time but, I was searching for someone to fulfill my emotional needs and make me feel good about myself. During my 50’s I achieved success in my career but, more importantly, I finally learned to love myself. Interestingly, the more loving and accepting I felt toward myself the easier it was to recognize the important truths in my life. When you’re not being honest about who you really are it is easy to be fooled into believing something is true – because you are drifting around without an anchor, searching for meaning, and thinking someone or something can give it to you.

Now I’m in my ‘60’s and, so far, it is my best decade since childhood. Just like everyone else, I’ve been through some challenging and painful experiences in my life but, thankfully, they helped me figure out what my truth is. Do you know what your core truths are? Do you live by guiding principles that you believe in and not just something you accepted from someone else? Wherever you are in your life, regardless of anything you have done in the past, it’s never too late to figure out what your truth is and start aligning your thoughts and actions to it.

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Let your freedom flag fly

Fredom FlagAlthough I haven’t given much thought to freedom for most of my life, it became a topic of great interest about 5 years ago when I began to plan for early retirement. I decided that retirement meant “freedom” to me because my job had become a prison. I looked forward to reinventing my lifestyle. So, after almost 2 years of retirement, does personal freedom have the same definition? One thing I know for sure is that, for me, independence is a big part of personal freedom but there is more to it than that and I’m going to share my definition here.

A new realization is that I can’t even begin to share  my definition of personal freedom without first acknowledging that the foundation of my personal freedom, as well as everyone who lives in the United States of America, rests on the fact that we live in a free democracy. I’m ashamed to admit that most of my life I took for granted the freedom and rights we Americans enjoy. So, part of the definition of my personal freedom has to include the Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence. No other government document on Earth mentions “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as rights endowed on its citizens by their Creator. If you haven’t read those documents in a while, I strongly encourage you to do it – they are inspirational! Recently I heard a Cuban immigrant, who has been a citizen of the US for 40 years, give an impassioned speech about freedom. He said we Americans don’t really understand what freedom means because we have never lost it. Amen.

The second important part of my definition of personal freedom is to be as independent and self-sufficient as possible. For me that means:

  • Be debt free
  • Be prepared for emergencies with food, water, and cash
  • Take good care of my overall health
  • Keep my life and my relationships as simple and uncomplicated as possible
  • Maintain a peaceful, clutter-free living environment (my rule of thumb – is it either beautiful, functional, or of deep sentimental value?)

Last but, certainly not least is emotional/mental freedom. Freedom cannot exist without responsibility. Take responsibility for your life beginning with the way you think. I admit that many times in my life I struggled with negative thoughts that affected my relationships and the choices I made. Dr. Wayne Dyer, echoing Abraham Maslow, said “It is crucial to remain independent of both the positive and negative opinions of other people. Regardless of whether they love or despise us, if we make their assessments more important than our own, we’ll be greatly afflicted.”  The opinions of other people often carried too much weight in my decision making and in how I viewed myself. These days my sense of personal freedom depends on striving to live independent of the opinions of others, eliminate negative thinking and be honest with myself. I’m not always successful but it is always my aim and I believe it is a goal that serves my best interests and higher purpose. I find that the closer I can get to that goal, the better I feel about myself and the relationships I have with other people. Speaking of relationships, this is a good time to repeat something I have stated several times on this blog – as much as possible, eliminate negative people from your life. If it isn’t possible because you have to work with them or because they are a family member, then work on changing how you react to them – don’t give your power away! For those who are in the helping professions or who volunteer for organizations that help others it is especially important to accept that you can only offer tools; you can’t fix somebody else’s life.

 Free yourself from counter-productive thinking:

  • Guilt (regret, misplaced sense of responsibility, doing things only from a feeling of obligation)
  • Anger (resentment, frustration, grudge-holding)
  • Fear (meaning the self-created variety, such as projecting into the future, anxiety, worry)
  • Self criticism (not to be confused with healthy, rational self-assessment)
  • Feelings of lack (focusing on what you don’t have)

 If all your decisions are made from guilt, anger, fear, self-criticism, and lack then I can guarantee that they will not serve your best interests. In fact, they will place you in more situations in which you feel exactly the same. One thing to remember is that most negative thinking comes from what has happened in the past or worrying about what you think might happen in the future. You can’t change what has already happened and the best you can do for the future is to identify your goals, develop a plan and then just take one step at a time – and keep your focus on the step you are on right now. Create thoughts in your present that are as positive as possible because they will lay the groundwork for your future.

Give some thought to your own definition of personal freedom – are you living it? Are there things you could do to get there? Eliminating negative thought patterns is a very freeing experience so that’s a good place to start!

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See more of my artwork and books at www.lyndalinke.com