open door

One of the most pivotal moments in Tender Is the Night, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, comes when the character Nicole realizes that she has been abdicating her power to her husband for their entire marriage, and that she must now take that power back. Despite her history of mental illness, she must overcome her submissiveness and start thinking for herself.

The relevant passage is rather long, but it is worth quoting in its entirety, to exhibit its full force and beauty:

“She had somehow given over the thinking to him, and in his absences her every action seemed automatically governed by what he would like, so that now she felt inadequate to match her intentions against his. Yet think she must; she knew at last the number on the dreadful door of fantasy, the threshold to the escape that was no escape; she knew that for her the greatest sin now and in the future was to delude herself. It had been a long lesson but she had learned it. Either you think—or else others have to think for you and take power from you, pervert and discipline your natural tastes, civilize and sterilize you.”
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender Is the Night

I have known this feeling. I have been trapped within my own fear of showing myself, my own fear of deciding for myself. I endeavor nowadays to follow my instincts toward what I want my life to be—not what someone else wants.

The part about “the dreadful door of fantasy, the threshold to the escape that was no escape” is especially lovely. To let someone else decide for you is in many ways a dream come true. It’s the easy door that you can just fall through, blanketed softly by another person’s stronger mind. But the blanketing can quickly turn to smothering, whereupon the fantasy/escape becomes in fact a trap.

Wresting control over your own life is difficult, but it is the only way to be free. Moreover, it is a path that must be continually followed, as you make your way through the days and years. There are always more decisions to make—or to abdicate to others.

Are you on the path of freedom?