In a Cage With the Door Wide Open

05/05/2015 01:06 pm ET | Updated May 05, 2016

I've lived most of my life like a bird in a cage with the door wide open. At any time, I could have hopped on over to the opening, taken flight and soared to new heights. All along, I've known how to fly. No one clipped my wings.

So, what kept me in the cage? My own fear and self imposed limitations held me there. I was my own prison guard. I think we are all born knowing how to fly, but life happens and beats us down little-by-little until we forget that we ever had this valuable skill

Sure, I may have gotten insanely tired of numbly existing inside a little, wire box day after day, but at least, there was always a roof over my head, food on the table, and the bills got paid. Even though I felt constricted and confined in my life, I knew what to expect and what role I was supposed to play -- whether I liked the role or not. I was in my comfort zone even if it was uncomfortable as hell. The cage provided the safety of the known versus the big, scary unknown.

Even if I was miserable in the known, it was preferable to me than the "who knows what?"

About a decade ago, I lived in an affluent neighborhood in Florida. I was in the final stretch of a marriage that lasted 18 years after dating for six years before getting married which was basically, my whole adult life and then some. I lived in an elegant home complete with a laundry chute (never used it, but my sons discovered that it made a fantastic slide for Pokemon figurines), a swimming pool, marble countertops and a Porsche in the three-car garage. Despite this to-die-for lifestyle, I was extremely unhappy. It was a cage. A nice one, but a cage nonetheless.

Even with my cushy surroundings, I didn't feel joyful or grateful and knew that something was wrong. "There has to be more than this," I humphed. Just under the surface, I was always boiling ready to explode (which I did often, I'm not proud to say) because I wasn't living authentically or meeting my own needs.

I wanted out of the cage dammit, but I was too afraid to take the leap and stretch my wings. Every time I even thought about it, my heart pounded all of the way up into my throat, and I got that panicky, bug-eyed feeling.

It took things getting really ugly in the marriage, but I did finally summon the courage to step through the door of the cage. While there have been legendary crashes at high speeds and numerous out-of-control tail spins since then, I've also learned to gracefully glide and even soar at other times. I feel so much more alive and like I'm living the life I'm here to live.

It's taken years and has been a slow, sometimes painful, growing and learning process, but I'm finally being honest with myself and others about who I am and not playing some role that I believe everybody thinks I should or wants me to be.

While I still feel the throat-tightening fear of the unknown at times, I forge ahead anyway because I now know that this feeling is not all bad and is just a part of living fully. I've learned to have trust and faith in myself and the universe. Sure, I'll crash again -- no doubt about it -- but I also know that I can pick myself up and take flight again. It takes both to weave a richly textured life.

Fear is a prison. It's a box in which we keep ourselves to avoid failing, to avoid being laughed at or judged, to avoid feeling disappointment or hurt, to avoid all kinds of things that make us feel uncomfortable. However, if we protect ourselves from these things, we're also shutting ourselves off from the many possibilities and joys of living life to the fullest.

Life's journey is not to
arrive at the grave safely
in a well-preserved body,
but rather to skid in sideways,
totally worn-out, shouting
'Holy shit... What a ride!'-- George Carlin