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  • Janyne McConnaughey, PhD

The Battle Was Worth It

As we celebrate the freedoms we cherish in our country, it causes me to reflect on the many forms of freedom in our lives. The Constitution explains the purpose of freedom this way: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The pursuit of happiness is an interesting thought. Last night as I walked around the RV park where I live, it seemed everyone was definitely understanding this pursuit. It is rather pleasant to live where people come to relax and enjoy life. Of course we all interpret happiness differently. In 1776 it is probable that the word happiness meant something more along the lines of prosperity, thriving, and wellbeing (thank you Wikipedia). I find the last two words fascinating because they reflect more about what is going on inside of us than outside.

Four years ago, the pursuit of happiness was something I seriously desired. All was great on the outside, but the inside of me was a different story—not that I had any clue why—it was just how I had always felt. I left no stone unturned in trying to have a more positive outlook on my truly wonderful life, but the gnawing never left.

I have a document I wrote during that time period. It is an interesting piece about how the disciples were told to stop staring at the sky and do what Jesus said—wait in Jerusalem. Oddly, at the very end, I wrote the following:

And Jesus said to me, “Wait for it Janyne, wait for it. You are staying in Colorado Springs because this is your ten days of waiting . . . Everything is aligning, but you can only see the first step. Do not lose hope. Your future is coming with power.”

Yes, God often talks to me through my writing—and in cars. I have never doubted this message. I was desperate for hope that particular day. It amuses me that I thought maybe it would be a few months at the most and my future would just somehow appear like magic. Never in my wildest imagination did I think I would spend three years in therapy, retire way before I planned, and end up living in an RV (which is the best part of that list). I think the ‘do not lose hope’ part was something I didn’t want to think about, but spent many days needing.

As I look back, I wonder what it was I wanted? When I filled out my intake form the first day of therapy, it asked that exact question. I wrote, “Peace and freedom.” The peace was what I wanted inside, the freedom was what I wanted outside. I didn’t understand that finding freedom inside would bring peace outwardly. All the things that trapped me inside prevented me from living my life out in the peaceful ways my soul desired.

I think about how our forefathers desired freedom and how much they were willing to sacrifice to access it. It took eight years, eight months, and twenty-six days (thank you Siri). My three years and the price I paid for my inner freedom seems so minimal in comparison. Yet, if someone had told me, “You will need to spend three years in therapy, two of those years will be intensive, and there will be days and weeks when you will physically be unable to get out of bed,” I would have said, “Oh no, that is just not part of my life plan.” That is why I needed to only see the first step.

Those who sacrificed so much for our country felt freedom was worth any price they might pay. They believed their mission was more important than the sacrifices. Some never saw the fruition of their efforts, but hundreds of years later, we are still reaping the rewards. That is truly the essence of human triumph. It is up to each human to find the battle worth fighting.

I visited Mt. Vernon a few years ago—before my battle began. I thought about how George Washington must have felt in his latter years sitting on that seemingly endless piazza overlooking the Potomac. The scope of what I have done, and the mission on which I have embarked seems so minimal in comparison, but the sense of satisfaction must be similar. He led a country to freedom; I led my soul to freedom. In both cases, the battles were fierce but the triumphs were rewarding.

I am sure President Washington never wanted anyone to ever experience the horrors of war like those necessary to win his country’s freedom. I feel the same. I never want anyone to suffer in silence with mental health issues caused by childhood abuse. He fought for freedom, but then he continued to work to build a nation that would hopefully never have to fight to gain freedom again. In my case, I don’t know if I can change the painful and isolating silence around mental health, but if it will help even a few it is worth trying. To help others find peace and freedom from inner turmoil is worth the work that lies ahead.

It is part of the human story to find the one thing, the one purpose, the one way it just might be possible to bring hope to the world. To find that purpose sometimes takes time—64 years in my case, but once found, life will never be the same. In a sense, I feel like I am sitting on the piazza of my life, just as George Washington sat in a Windsor chair on the Mt. Vernon piazza at the end of his life. His view was amazing and the peacefulness still inhabits the land. The very difficult memories of the battles must have been fading during those years. The battle scars of life do fade and in their place is the desire to leave the knowledge we have gained for the next generation. Because of this, my desire to share becomes stronger every day. It is a peaceful view from here, but there is plenty left to accomplish.

The battle was worth it. The peace and freedom that I longed for is mine. It doesn’t look anything like I ever expected or hoped for, but it was worth the cost. I hope the founders of our nation would feel the same way about the country for which they fought and died. It would certainly not be what they ever expected, but I think they would still believe the battle was worth it.

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