A Prisoner Of My Own Mind

new potholder

I read Russell Banks’ novel  Cloudsplitter  when it first came out.   It’s historical fiction about Abolitionist  John Brown, someone who’s always intrigued me because of his complexities.    It’s been years since I read it, but there’s one part that still comes back to me.

The story is told through the life of  Brown’s son, Owen.  He’s in the thrall of his father’s madness. His life’s choices dictated to him by his father.   At one point he meets a young woman who is unmarried and pregnant.  She tells him that in their society, a woman in her situation has very few options (she later commits suicide) but he can do what ever he wants to do.  All he has to do is change his mind.

The woman is a prisoner of her society, but Owen is a prisoner of his mind.

That idea stayed with me.  I think because at the time I read it I didn’t quite understand it and was trying to.  And now, it comes back to me because I understand it too well.

I know about being a prisoner of my mind.  Because of my beliefs,   I didn’t know I could leave my marriage if I didn’t want to be in it anymore.  I didn’t even know I could leave a family dinner if it made me uncomfortable.  I didn’t know that I could not like my father.  I didn’t know I could be an artist or be loved and desired.  I grew up in the suburbs of New York City in the 1970’s a time of freedom, experimentation and equal rights.  And I know I was effected by what was going on around me, but still, my beliefs kept me small and voiceless.

It took me most of my life to  begin the process of freeing my mind.  But those grooves run deep and if I’m walking along the edge, after just having pulled my self up out of that worn path, it’s easy to slip back in.  Changing my mind is work.  It’s doesn’t just happen because I want it to.  Because my mind is in my body too, not just my brain.  Everything has to be rearranged.  And I had to actually do it, not just think about doing it.  Again and again, until I carved a new groove.  Lots of new grooves, of my choosing, that cradled me and  led me to my freedom.

I’ve heard that the Israelites had to wander in the desert for 40 years after they were freed from Egypt because  they had their physical freedom but still had the minds of slaves.  And it takes that long to free the mind.  That makes sense to me.  It took me forty years just to understand I was a prisoner of my own mind and I’m still working on  the freedom part.




9 thoughts on “A Prisoner Of My Own Mind

  1. I know well what you mean. . .those old ‘grooves’, those old tapes of what we learned & experienced when younger really become part of us. . .part of our emotional DNA. . .and wow, it takes a lot of work and consciousness and courage to grow past it. . .You inspire me to do this. . .so thanks for your voice and goodness. . .for who you are and who you are becoming each day . . . xo Veronica

  2. All the walls we build to keep ourselves safe only to discover that those walls keep us trapped. I’m still tearing down walls and expect to be doing so forever. And the list of things I didn’t know is so long … The first time I tested one of those truths I thought some big hand would appear and smack me, but nothing happened, I became an iota freer. It’s quite a journey, isn’t it. Thank you for sharing yours. You tell it so well. Alice

  3. Maria, Before I read your piece I was stopped in my tracks by your pot holder. How beautiful! It seems different than any you have done before. The strong bold patterns of beautiful colors and then that sweet patterned center! Is it for sale? I would like to buy it. Your writing is powerful. I love the story of the Israelites in the desert-They were freed from Egypt but not yet the Egypt in their hearts. You articulated so well how an ancient struggle can be our own.

  4. Maria, l absolutely love the design of this latest potholder; brilliant in colour, sharp edges drawing one’s attention to it…totally gorgeous and a bit different from your other designs somehow, not sure why l am saying this though…and l made a screen saver out of your ‘cleaning the desk’ picture with all the stacked threats – l found it very appealing and interesting to look at, something about it is 3D, don’t you think??? Thanks so much, snowy greetings from northern BC, Canada

    1. It is different Sabina, And I’m going to write about how it came about once the potholders are done. I hadn’t thought of the photo as 3D, but I can see what you mean.

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