The question popped into my head last week and startled me. But I couldn't stop to answer. I was rushing to get to one of the two covered county pools available In Los Angeles. Summer lap swimming hours are limited so I would have to hustle. I’m obsessed with swimming, in case you haven’t noticed.
I arrive at the recreation center waving my card. The woman at the front desk shakes her finger at me. “We’re closed.”
"Really?" I reply. "I called last night to make sure you were open at this hour."
"Well, we just closed five minutes ago.” she glares through the plexiglass divider.
"That’s weird. I called the Van Nuys pool last night and they said they were closed as well. "
“This is a different pool, it’s not the same thing,” and turns off the mic from the other side. I drag my bag out to the car with all my swim paraphernalia, grumbling like Fred Flintstone. I am so pissed at that woman. I call the other pool. I am determined to swim. “We will be open in an hour and half," says the guy on the other end.
"Thank you." So, there are nice people left in the world. I sit in a Whole Foods market café nearby to ponder the question: what does freedom mean?
Googling the definition renders this answer:
"we do have some freedom of choice”
The grayed-out phrase bothers me. Does google now decide my fate? My cursor lingers on hindrance:
a thing that provides resistance, delay, or obstruction to something or someone.
"a hindrance to the development process"
And then I realize: I am in full blown resentment.
"As smoking is to the lungs, so is resentment to the soul; even one puff is bad for you." ---Elizabeth Gilbert
I can’t control what someone says to me, especially in LA. But I can change how I react to to them. I have the freedom to act differently, press the reset button and send the woman at the front desk love. Maybe five people before me asked her the same question and she was tired. Forgiving her impatience, releases me from the prison of animosity that will most certainly cloud my judgement and run my day if I let her behavior affect me. Freedom is a precious commodity; there are so many around the world with a physical lack of it. I can become a prisoner just as easily by letting a stranger live rent free in my mind.
Yesterday I went back to the first pool. While handing over my swim card, I chatted with that same lady at the front desk about the weather and wished her a happy Fourth of July. My swim was glorious and I walked out smiling. That is true freedom.
And just because, here's a Fourth of July song from one of my favorite singers: