As we pause to celebrate our nation's freedom, it's apparent that we as individuals determine its value to us.
We can -- and must, if (SET ITAL) we (END ITAL) are to be free -- declare individual freedom; and we can do it on the same grounds:
(SET ITAL) 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. (END ITAL)
What are you doing with liberty? Perhaps you'll join me in a fresh resolve to live your life unimpeded by what others would dictate. True happiness comes as a byproduct of doing that … and therein lies the glory of freedom.
John Adams wrote to his wife after Congress approved the Declaration of Independence: "It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more."
So, let the fireworks begin -- over and over again -- until we no longer have to be reminded to live free! And then, we will have lit a new brand of fireworks.
Look at your life at home and at work, in relationships with family, friends, business associates, neighbors, servers, clerks and government officials. Do you exercise your freedom?
If you do, you are incredibly happy? If you don't, you can be happier, a lot happier.
What's stopping you? It might seem as though it's time or money or ability … or your spouse or your kids or your parents. It's not. There is only one thing that can stop you. It's fear.
When you are unafraid, you have enough of whatever it is you need; when you are afraid, you point to excuses (some of them people) and stay stuck. You don't really want to be stuck with somebody else calling the shots, though. Our forefathers (and mothers) knew that.
They also knew the danger of fear and the true value of freedom. And they were willing to stand for freedom, regardless of the consequences. That's the kind of clarity and resolve we want.
You can trust that freedom serves your highest good … and the highest good of those around you. A stifled you is a poor representation of your potential as a parent, an employee, employer, child, spouse -- you name it.
Imagine your life, imagine you, free. What if you were free to say what you really think, regardless of what somebody else was thinking or how they might respond? What if you could live where you wanted to live, do what you wanted to do? What if you could be as happy as you wanted to be?
Of course, you can. You're free.
Don't be surprised if you're at a loss, though. When the world opens up to us, the options can seem overwhelming. No wonder we find ourselves retreating to our little cocoons where it's safe -- even if it is a little hard to breathe.
Begin to dismantle the walls. You don't have to do it all at once. Begin where you are now. Do something. And then decide what to do next. You can let the first step guide you to the second, the second to the third, etc.
Along the way, you'll find yourself taking some big leaps … and eventually you just might start flying. Happy and free like a bird, that's your unalienable right.
Jan Denise is a columnist, author of the just released "Innately Good: Dispelling the Myth That You're Not" and "Naked Relationships," speaker and consultant based in McIntosh, Fla. Please e-mail her at, or visit her website at To find out more about Jan Denise, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Author's Bio: 

Jan Denise is a columnist, author of the just released "Innately Good: Dispelling the Myth That You're Not" and "Naked Relationships: Sharing Your Authentic Self to Find the Partner of Your Dreams," speaker and consultant based in McIntosh, Fla. Please e-mail her at, or visit her website at