For the First Time

Matt Wertz crossed my path a few years ago. I knew that a friend was attending his concert, and always eager to learn more about new music, I looked him up. I liked his style. He was good, I had to admit, but it wasn’t until his most recent album “Weights & Wings” that I truly appreciated his songwriting.

His song, “For the First Time” is very special to me.

I first hear this song when I was contemplating starting a blog. I’d been thinking about the vision I had regarding my life for a long time, and then the turning point happened.

His lyric, “For the first time, I finally realized, I’m what’s in the way,” really struck me. I came to the hard conclusion that I was what was in my own way. In terms of being happy, of moving on, of living wide, I was what was in my way.

I think in a lot of ways, we all get in our own way. We let obstacles seem too big. We let dreams seem to unattainable. We believe there are limits. But really, aren’t those limits all in our own heads? Aren’t we really what is in the way?

So, riddle me this, how can you get out of your own way in terms of living wide?

The Long Way Around

I grew up in a small southern town. Most of my friends still live close to where we grew up, and though I applaud their decisions, sticking close to home was never for me.

Because of my dad’s job, I lived the first decade of my life as a bit of a gypsy. We moved cities five times before I was six, if that gives you any indication. But we finally landed in a small Georgia town for most of my formative years. It taught me a lot. A lot about what I wanted and what I didn’t from my life

In many ways, the Dixie Chicks really speak to me because of my life experiences. I got a great, tight-knit foundation with growing up in the South, but I also couldn’t, and shouldn’t deny my wanderlust. “Taking the Long Way,” really speaks to my living wide journey. It shows deep, solid roots, but an appreciation for wanting a little more. To explore the horizon without apology.

Guess that’s my lot in life.

People Like Us

For Day 5 of Living Wide’s Soundtrack for Successful Failure, I think a good punch the air song is appropriate. I know not everyone is a pop rock fan, but even if you’re not, you have to admit, Kelly Clarkson does have some talent. At least I hope you’ll admit it, because you’ll be seeing her a few times this month.

The song “People Like Us,” from Clarkson’s recently released greatest hits album, is one of those great “get revved-up songs,” which are important to have in your playlist for days when you’re dragging, feeling sorry for yourself, or trapped in the spiral of a pity party. Just like she says, we all want to throw it away sometimes.

I regularly consider myself a misfit. Truthfully, I’ve never fully fit into any one aspect of my life. I believe one way spiritually, but lean another way politically. I work in a conservative environment, yet I have tattoos and a constant yearning to dye my hair an outrageous shade.

I’ve always had a rebellious streak, a voice in my head that said, “Yes, I agree with you, but… I also think we should level your idea and start fresh.”

“People Like Us” is one of those great reminders that no one is alone. Everyone has a community. Everyone has a mirror who thinks the same way they do, who has shared experiences and can relate. It’s just a matter of being brave enough to find that misfit group of toys where you fit. In all honesty, I’m still looking for mine, but at least I’m still looking.

Meaning

Thanks for joining me as I kick off Living Wide’s Soundtrack for Successful Failure.  Why a soundtrack for failing successfully, you ask?  Well, in the famed words of Thomas Edison, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”

I have never let it be said that I don’t A) laugh at myself or B) admit when I am wrong. In my last post, I detailed how I had to shelve the manuscript I’d worked on for 10 years because it simply wasn’t working… for now.  In admitting that I’d failed, that I simply couldn’t make an idea work, I freed myself to other possibilities. I opened up new opportunities I hadn’t anticipated.

So, in celebration of failing, yet in a good way, I am debuting a playlist of songs that will hopefully encourage you, dear readers, to follow your dreams, even if at first, you fall flat on your face like I did.

First up, Gavin DeGraw’s “Meaning.” I am a little ashamed to admit, only a little, but I first discovered Gavin DeGraw by watching “One Tree Hill” many moons ago. You’ll remember his track “I Don’t Want to Be” was the show’s title song. On the same album, Chariot, is the song “Meaning.”

It contains the line:

“Sometimes our only way is jumping, I hope you’re not afraid of heights.”

If I were ever to get a lyric tattooed on my body, this would be it. Never has one line defined my life succinctly, and it’s an important reminder that not always are we given options, and sometimes those options are radical and scary.

In my endeavor to live wide, I’ve often found that the best decisions I ever made were scary as all get out, and not completely “sane” by most people’s standards. Yet, I don’t regret any of them, and they’ve definitely made life interesting and vastly wide.

What do you think? Has a lyric spoken to you so much you that it made you want to step outside of what is safe? Or, has a song spoken to you so much you wanted it as a permanent reminder on your body? Please share away!

Happy Anniversary

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been one year since Living Wide launched. And what a year it’s been. When I started this journey, it was in the midst of loss. In the blink of an eye, the life of a man who lived a full and sweeping existence was gone. He left behind a pretty big legacy, which he built in just a few decades. He lived wide.

As the pages on the calendar were ripped away over the course of this past year, living wide was always in the back of my mind. But it wasn’t always easy to keep it there. I’m sure 98% of the world had a tougher experience then I did over the last 12 months, but believe me when I say, I am emerging from a dark, treacherous and downright terrifying path.

It’s often said that you learn more about yourself when faced with adversity. That wasn’t something I truly understood until I started fighting against this idea of living small. All I knew last November was that there had to be more to this life than simply existing. There had to be life in this life.

I wish I could say everything I learned about myself and living wide was good. It wasn’t. Some of my lessons were painful, but often times, new things don’t have the opportunity to grow unless you cut away the old.

Living Wide Lessons – Year 1

Know Your Worth – If you don’t feel that you’re worthy of a good job, a good man/woman, a happy life, then those feelings are going to get reflected back to you by the world. For much of my life I’ve felt that I didn’t deserve for good things to happen to me. When going through hardships or dealing with difficult relationships, I always thought, “Well, I must deserve this in some way.” I never felt worthy of a happy ending, whatever that may be. Through trying to live wide, I’ve learned that I’m tired of that world. I want the good job/man/life, so I’m turning the page and valuing myself and knowing my worth.

If You Give Power Away, Someone Will Take It – For much of the past year, I’ve felt powerless. Trapped by circumstances, choices and loyalties. I relinquished my power to people who never in a million years should have been close to having such a hold over me. Why? Because I felt caged by life, like I had no alternatives. And when you give up, and give that power away, less than honorable people will use it as a weapon against you. Be careful whom you trust.

Fear Can Be Both Your Worst Enemy and Your Best Friend – Fear can lord over you. It can trick you into thinking you’re inert, completely stuck, unable to make a decision. It can make the smallest thing seem like the biggest obstacle. But, if you lean into the fear, if you turn it over, examine it, dig into it; you can break its control over you. You can say, “Yeah, I’m scared of this or that outcome, but what’s the worse that could happen?”

Take Risks of Every Size – This year, I took a range of risks. I tried a relationship that didn’t work out. I chose to invest in my future by returning to school while in the midst of a current personal crisis. I jumped headfirst into God’s will by leaving my job with no guaranteed possibility of another one. I took risks out of necessity, principle and vanity. I don’t regret any of them or their outcomes because I knew that it would all work out in the end.

You Get One Life, Stop Hiding from It – For many years, I hid from my life. I buried myself neck-deep in work, school, perceived obligations. I kept myself distracted from what I really wanted. And I did it under the guise of following a roadmap I did not draw. I was following societal mandates – Well, if you’re a woman of a certain age and not married, then you should be focused hardcore on your career. You should be climbing that corporate ladder, baby, and be the “one in the room.” I woke up and realized, I don’t want that, I want something  else. So, I pulled my head from the sand and opened my eyes.

My Identity is Not Found in Superlatives – Walking through some of the trials of this past year I realized, I’ve lashed an awful lot of my identity to the wrong mast. My job, my title, my clout, my contribution, my creativity, my control, my responsibilities, none of them were my true identity. I thought that they were. But I had it wrong. My real identity is who I am as an authentic person, that soul that swims around in my heart, and what that soul is to God, that’s who I really am. He knows the truth, and deep down I did too. I just had to believe it.

I’m amazed at what a year of living wide has taught me. And that is why it truly is a happy anniversary. Thank you for sharing this journey with me! I wonder what we’ll learn in the year to come.

What has this year of living wide taught you?