Finding Serenity

Sometimes you have to leave things just as messy as when you found them. This is a hard concept for my Type A personality to grasp. In fact, I push against this concept with every fiber of my being. I don’t like loose ends. They seem sloppy, ill prepared, like I wasn’t quite up for the challenge, so a lack of success falls on my shoulders. But I’ve recently learned, this simply is not true.

Whenever I’ve transitioned from one stage of my life to the next, it has generally been on my terms. I chose the day to “move on” from a project/job/person. It was always mutually beneficial, you see. I was able to tidy up and package things just so, leaving things/staff/people well equipped in my wake. It was important to me to prove my vitality. It showed that a situation/organization/person was better off for having been associated with me. That I was important. That I mattered.

This logic supposes that I always have the control, which, as evidenced in the Genesis of Living Wide, is flawed. Not always is there a place for everything and everything is in its place. Sometimes you find yourself in an “I’ve done everything I know how to do, I’ve done everything right. Why is this not working? Why can’t I fix it?” situation. Sometimes the needle simply won’t budge. Even if you’ve given your best. Even after you’ve attempted to bargain for a better outcome. And yes, even when you’ve begged a higher power to make it all work out.

When I came to this realization, I didn’t want to believe it at first. In my mind, there is always an answer. If you can’t go around a wall, you go over it, under it, and, when necessary, through it. Obstacles are not impossibilities, they are simply obstructions. But for every rule, there is an exception, I guess. A situation or circumstance that is much bigger than you and your talent/drive/ambition/creativity/stubbornness. And when that happens, you have to make a decision. Do you press on until you completely burn out, or do you leave said person/place/thing just as messy as when you found them and move on.

Many years ago, a succinct little prayer started making the rounds:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Now the mantra of most groups devoted to battling addiction, this prayer serves as a reminder that we are human. We are not limitless or perfect. Sometimes, things will not change because of our associations. Sometimes there are loose ends. And sometimes, we were meant to simply learn from a messy situation and grow because of it. Living wide isn’t about the vanity of a perfect exit and its affirmation of your value. It’s about accepting those things you cannot change just as easily as those you can and using that knowledge to grow your horizon.

Holding Loose, Ain’t Letting Go

My first real journalism job was as an intern for a decently sized newspaper in northern Georgia. The staff was small, but they all shared the same passion, reporting the news of their community. One day, as I was transcribing some interviews, the lead photojournalist passed my desk. I had my Discman out and a stack of CDs sitting next to it (yes, I realize I’m dating myself here). At the top was a movie soundtrack, I don’t remember which one. As he breezed behind me, this somewhat grizzled shutterbug said, “You know, real life doesn’t come with a soundtrack.”

I was too green at the time to come up with a withering response like, “Oh yeah, well you dress funny.” I mean, how dare he question a 19-year-old’s taste in music when he wore the same black t-shirt to work… every day.  [Insert sarcasm here.] Instead, I simply smiled politely—I am southern after all—and thought, “Well my life does.”

And to this day, my life still does. I could name half a dozen songs right now that have been mile markers on my journey thus far, that every time I hear them, I can’t help but think of who I was in that moment. That’s what music is to me.

Recently, I was on a very long car trip. And as fortune, or good planning, would have it, I had an iPod full of music to keep me company. As I was driving along, a song I’ve heard dozens of times before came on – Matt Wertz’s “5:19.” When it cued, I couldn’t help but sing along – yes, I’m one of those people. It was then that a particular lyric struck me:

I’m holding loose, ain’t letting go.

That lyric bounced around in my brain for several days. What did it mean to hold loose, but not let go? Dreams occurred to me. When you walk the living wide life, dreams are very important. You have to have something to strive for, something to run toward. But God also occurred to me. When you’ve chosen to walk with God, you realize that free will isn’t a license to do absolutely anything you wish, it’s a choice. Every choice you make is between listening to your heart and letting God be your North Star, or being a slave to your desires. He holds loose, but never lets go.

In essence, He’s got you; you just have to take a page from His book. Hold your life loose, but don’t let go of what’s on your heart. Living wide is a very personal experience. God knows what you need and what you desire. He’s giving slack to that experience without ever letting go of the path He’s meant for you. To live wide, you have to take a page from His book… hold your dreams/goals loose but never let them go.

 

By the way, the half a dozen songs:

  • “Back to Life,” Soul II Soul, always reminds me of my two childhood best friends Kristi and Lisa
  • “End of the Road,” Boys II Men, was the jam when I went to the 8th grade dance with my first boyfriend
  • “(I’m Gonna Be) 500 Miles,” The Proclaimers, a reminder of my freshman year of high school, when flannel and Chuck Taylors were cool
  • “1979,” Smashing Pumpkins, was playing as I drove to my high school graduation, and is subsequently the year I was born
  • “I Want You Back,” N’Sync, was on constant repeat during Spring Break 1998
  • “Shake It Out,” Florence + The Machine, was also on repeat this past summer when I had to make a hard choice.

Oh Joy

Several years ago, I made a New Year’s resolution to stop making New Year’s resolutions. Like most, I never kept mine for long, and I started to hate the idea of making a promise to myself that I never intended to keep. So, I gave up the practice and opted instead to resolve that I would follow through and accomplish goals as they became necessary in my life.

This year, I’m making an exception. This year, I resolve to open myself up to joy. To live wide, I’ve realized you have to be as open as you are aware. Sure, you can be aware of a “Why not?” opportunity, but you won’t fully learn from it unless you are open to what it has to teach you.

I think the reason a regular occurrence of joy has eluded me is because truly experiencing joy requires a willingness to abandon all restraint. Restraint is the polar opposite of joy, and leaning toward restraint has always been my comfort zone. But, it is a new year, and it is two months after I decided to pursue the idea of living wide. Now is not the time to gravitate toward what makes me feel safe. Now is the time to ask the question, “What do I want out of my life?”

In this moment it is joy. I want to do things that bring me joy. I want to be a joy to others. And I want to feel the effervescence of joy as much as possible in 2012. I’m not sure exactly what this will look like, but as I open up to joy and pursue a life of living wide, I’ll make sure to chronicle my encounters here.

Day One of 2012: I am open to the joy of new beginnings, and I gifted myself the joy of perfectly purple fingernails.