I once used the word ‘sovereignty’ to describe the sense of ownership and autonomy that I was experiencing in my life. I offered this as response to someone asking a question about how my consulting practice was going. I said: “For the first time in my life I feel a sense of sovereignty over my labor and how I direct my life’s energy.”
Like so many other words, this one also requires some understanding of context, history and intended use. The definition I intend here is “freedom from external control.” I am understanding that ‘control’ can often be a figment of my imagination, and that my trying to control aspects of my life (or the behaviors/reactions of others) has often been a source of frustration, resentment and disappointment.
This, however, is about external control, control exerted by a boss man or boss woman who can at any point decide that I am disposable, that I am not pleasing them, and could choose to sever my employment, which for many equals their livelihood. In general, private‐sector employment in North Carolina is ‘at will.’ Meaning that an employer is free to fire an employee for any reason or no reason at all. Thereby reinforcing this sense of external control over our lives.
When I chose to leave my last full-time position, with it’s false sense of security, seductive high annual salary and benefits, I did so fully understanding the risks involved. I did so in response to a deeper calling. Perhaps it was my inner teacher, encouraging me to move more boldly towards freedom, to untether my sense of worth from that of professional position, organizational affiliation or title.
I recognize the tremendous amount of privilege I hold to even be able to consider this possibility. That the capitalist society we function in, with it’s scarcity-promoting modus operandi, inculcates fear and encourages compliance as a prerequisite for ‘success’. I get to redefine what success means to me, and this itself is a tremendous gift, an exercise in power moving me closer to sovereignty.
And so I did. I stepped away and towards a life that feels more like my own.
In some ways it would be easier if it were just external controls that I had to grapple with. After relinquishing my job (and the condescending white boss lady that went with it) my days became much more spacious. I now get to choose the groups and organizations I work with, and I am able to have some degree of financial stability (thank goodness for longer-term clients). But unfortunately these were not the only constraints on my creativity and my spirit.
Now I have to contend with my own inner critic, the incessant mental chatter and the rumination that zaps me of my energy and my ability to create. I can’t blame anyone else for this (though I have definitely tried). This moves me from the sphere of professional work into the sphere of spiritual work (not that those are actually separate). To deepen my own understanding of how my mind works and to choose to create the essential space for the healing practices that enable me to stay grounded and reflect beauty and light. I know this is as valuable, if not more valuable, than any paying gig I take on, or any major deliverable that is due.
I have the great gift, privilege, honor, opportunity to design my life just as I want to. Now I just have to move out of the complain, whine, sulk, blame, shame loops to allow my spirit the space it needs to do what it wants to do: to be creative and to be free.
[Picture taken by my daughter in the woods of Earthseed Land Collective]