Open Up Your Sail

I’ve developed a bad habit. When things seem “right,” and I feel like I’m “where I’m supposed to be,” in terms of my journey, I have this tendency to reign in my sail and float. I stop letting the wind direct me or propel me along. Why would I want to keep my sail open if I’m exactly where I need to be, right?

Oh, I keep busy as I float, I star gaze, I batten down the hatches when the storms hit, but I’m not really making an effort to go anywhere. I just sit and wait on inspiration to strike and encourage me to raise my sail once again.

I’m not sure why I close down to possibility if I feel like I’ve “arrived.” When I think about pioneering explorers like Magellan, sure, they made pit stops as they journeyed. And, they even set a spell in a few places. But the open seas were always in the back of their minds. They knew that the next adventure was just a strong wind away.

Don’t get me wrong, keeping your sail open is not about being non-committal… because something better may come along. When you keep your sail open, you’re not so much questioning the present as welcoming possibility; you’re offering an open invitation to God to direct your path. You’re not cocooned in the idea that you know better. You’re saying, “Yeah, I’m enjoying sitting a spell, but I’m ready for what awaits me on the horizon.”

So tell me, is your sail open?

Be Unapologetic

When it comes to living wide, I’ve realized you have to be unapologetic.

I’ll let that sink in for a moment.

As I shared in the Genesis of Living Wide, my acquaintance who recently passed was very much unapologetic about his life. He wanted to play music for a living, so he did. He never felt the need to rationalize it to other people. If at any given moment he felt convicted to tell you exactly what he thought/felt about you or a decision you’d made, he did whether you needed or wanted to hear it. His choices and decisions were all made unapologetically; no looking back, no second guessing. I have no doubt he picked his path based on the information he had in front of him at the time, and that was it. He charged forward. He didn’t get tangled in the vines of other people’s judgment or expectations.

These “others” are not the authors of your dreams. The day-to-day of your life isn’t their responsibility, it’s yours and yours alone.

When someone seems intent on knocking down your sandcastle, you have to ask, what is their motivation for questioning or doubting me? You then need to stop, remind yourself of all the reasons you chose to spread your arms wide and embrace your decision, and proceed unapologetically. Their choice to only see the obstacles, to dwell in the limitations, is not your problem. You’ve got a life to live. Stop letting other people’s mire matter to you.

Reboot

When I was pondering this post, I realized that up until 30 or so years ago, the term “reboot” did not exist. Or at least it didn’t exist in popular vernacular. Can you imagine, what did people say when they needed to convey the idea of restart/renew/reinvention? Well, they likely used one of those, but reboot means so much more than that.

By definition, a reboot is the reloading of an operating system following the restart of an electronic device. For some reason, your computer is “having a day,” and needs to refresh its electronic synapses. Now, I’m no IT expert, but I do know anytime I have a computer issue, my first step is always to reboot. Primarily because I know that if I call an actual IT guy (or gal), that’s the first thing they’re going to tell me to do, but also because I’ve worked with computers long enough to know that this is generally the chicken soup for almost all ills of the digital age. As I’ve marinated on this idea of living wide over the past few days, I realized that there’s a certain amount of foundational work that has to be done for someone like me who is somewhat predisposed to live small. More specifically, there needs to be some introspection and self reflection. Questions need to be asked and honestly answered. And ultimately, there needs to be a large scale reboot.

As it stands, I know my current operating system will have difficulty recognizing the idea of living wide. It would be like trying to run Apple’s Lion on an average, everyday PC.* Neither is designed to be easily compatible with the other. Each has a different approach or philosophy to operating. It stands to reason that if one is going to “talk” to the other, they need help speaking the same language. Basically, I could reboot until the cows come home—change my job, learn a new skill, go on a dream vacation—but it’s not going to fix the base problem. Invariably I’ll realize, these were goals I achieved, and yes, they gave me hints at living wide, but they were only hints. When my primary issue is my mindset and the limitations that exist there, my new software has nothing to effectively adhere to. If I am to successfully live wide, I need to identify what it is at the DNA level that keeps me cycling back to living small. Then, I’ll know this upgrade to living wide will actually work.

Earlier, I identified one of the primary traits of someone who lives wide – the automatic response/reaction of, “Why not?” What keeps me from saying this and meaning it every time? All good questions, to which my answer is… more questions:

  • Why do I fear failure? If an idea or goal doesn’t work out, why do I internalize this as the “end of the world?”
  • How much security would be enough? Is there truly a number in a bank account or collection of things that will make me feel 100% safe?
  • Why do I push against asking for help so ferociously?
  • Why do I make God small? Why am I convinced His abilities have a limit? He created the universe for goodness sake!
  • Why do I feel unworthy of love, companionship, aid, accolades, compliments, etc.?
  • Why am I not more selfish with my time, energy, heart, etc.?
  • Why am I so selfish with my time, energy, heart, etc.?

If I’m truly going to make a go at this idea of living wide, these are all questions I need to answer. Thoughts on other questions I should consider?

 

*Calm down techno nerds, I know this is actually possible with the right “tools.” Just go with the illustration please.

The Genesis of Living Wide

About a year ago, in one of those rare moments where I truly was not thinking about anything in particular, I had a vision.  I had forgotten about this vision to an extent over the course of the past 12 months until this weekend when I attended the funeral of fantastic man who left us far too soon.  I seem to have said goodbye to several people gone too soon this year, much more so than in any in the past.  Each affected me in its own unique way, but this most recent death, which no one expected, affected me in a way that was, for a lack of a better word, profound.  It was surprising really, given that I was more of an acquaintance to this man.  We knew each other, we went to church together, I spoke with he and his wife on occasion.  I know it sounds crass, but I thought I would go to his funeral, shed a tear or two in remembrance, be a support for those who had a deeper connection with him, and that would be that.  But a recurring theme in my life reared its ugly head in that expectation was not matched by reality.

As I pulled yet another tissue from my now half-empty pack, I realized how much the world lost when this truly cool man passed.  Here was someone who had lived a wide life.  He experienced it out loud and completely unapologetically.  His family: close-knit, involved and completely in it together.  His career: doing something he loved, which was making music.  His faith: hard won and embraced with abandon.  His funeral was one final lesson to all who knew him, life is meant to be lived, not squandered.  That there is a distinct difference between experiencing and existing.  It was during this time of eulogy that my vision from a year ago came flooding back into my mind.

The Vision
The horizon transformed right in front of me.  Concrete and glass disappeared.  A range of some of the most beautiful, snow-capped mountains appeared several hundred miles in the distance.  The sky was clear, as was the road leading to the majestic peaks, with the exception of one roadblock.  A person standing directly in the center of the road.  I can’t really describe what the back of the person looked like because it wasn’t very distinct.  All I could say is they looked to be about my height.  As I drew closer to the figure, it turned around.  Standing directly in front of me was… me.  I was an arm’s length from myself as if I were standing before the mirror in my bedroom.  Blinking at the revelation, I stared at my own face for several moments, and then, just as quickly as the scene appeared, it was gone.

Now I know there are those out there who would argue that visions are any manner of things.  I think the one I’ve heard most often is that visions are merely latent desires transitioning from our unconscious to our conscious mind.  However, I immediately knew the author of this vision was not me, it was God.  God wanted me to make no mistake that what was currently “in my way,” in every sense, was me.  I was the obstacle to living the wide life he very much wanted for me.  That I, in essence, needed to get out of my own way.

All of this was reinforced to me as I sat among the family and friends of a wonderful man who seemed to do just that, get out of his own way and experience the life God gave him.  I realized, I live small.  I’m like a horse with blinders on, only cognizant of what is directly in front of me.  I only see the obstacles to those things I really want:

  • I need a steady paycheck, I can’t take a sabbatical and figure out what I really want to do with my life.
  • I can’t travel right now, that takes money I don’t have.
  • I have to save for my retirement now because that’s what all the experts say.
  • I’m so tired from work, I don’t have time to: write the rest of my book, learn to sing, learn to knit, learn to dance, learn to play chess, etc., etc.

I am the classic oldest child in that dreams come after responsibilities.  If I’m responsible, then maybe I can achieve one of my dreams… some day.  In her book “Eat, Pray, Love,” Elizabeth Gilbert summed up my life in two sentences:

I’d been such a diligent soldier for years – working, producing, never missing a deadline, taking care of loved ones, my gums, and my credit record, voting, etc. Is this lifetime supposed to be only about duty?

In the lines that precede this statement, she talks about always wanting to learn Italian, but never quite getting around to it because she had no practical reason, no future application, with which she could justify the investment of time it would take to learn the language.  Dear Lord does that sound familiar!

So now what?  In light of all this, what do I do with all the realizations that have been ping ponging inside of my head for the past week?  How can I stop living small, and start living wide?  Wish me luck as I seek to find out.