My Sandpaper Year

Photo from  Emilian Robert Vicol via Flickr.

Photo from Emilian Robert Vicol via Flickr.

Reflecting on 2014, I imagine any number of the thoughts that have crossed my mind are likely the same ones that have occurred to other people about the last 12 months of life. I could have done a little more of this and a little less of that. I could have been a better friend/sister/daughter [fill in your superlative here]. Nostalgia always tends to abound this time of year.

As I reviewed the chronicle of my own experience, however, I realized something pretty profound. This was one of my sandpaper years.

My what now?

I know it’s an odd term, but let me explain. Everyone, whether they realize it or not, has years that shape them more than most. Years where some things about who you are as a person are buffed smooth, and other rougher spots you didn’t even realize existed, get exposed. It’s a year where not a lot seems easy, and you feel mostly like Sisyphus, continuously rolling a boulder uphill just to watch it slide down the other side and have to do it all over again. In short, a sandpaper year.

Photo from  Beth Scupham via Flickr.

Photo from Beth Scupham
via Flickr.

If I’m being honest, I’ve actually had a couple of back-to-back sandpaper years. Self-inflicted, unfortunately. Without getting too detailed, let’s just say I made an awful lot of big decisions that should have been better thought and prayed through, and I didn’t do much of either. I panicked when faced with my future and thought I knew what was best for myself, but lack of counsel proved otherwise, and, well, there you go.

And for the sake of continued honesty, I didn’t do a whole lot of living wide during that time either. Sure there were glimmers here and there, but mostly I defaulted. I cocooned in and braced myself for the hard knocks as much as I could, much like a boxer backed into a corner, just trying to survive the round.

But, here’s what’s important; I learned something.

I realized I am far stronger than I ever thought possible. More often than not, I was the only support system propping me up and that made me push forward. I also realized, being a strong individual isn’t nearly as strong as the supportive bond of connection and friendship. A person is never truly an island, and those that believe so are fooling themselves. And, I came to the conclusion that truly knowing what you want, in life, in your career, in love, in general, should never be denied. Why? Because you will always seek it. Conscious, unconscious, you will always seek it, and be dissatisfied and completely and utterly restless until you finally chase after it.

So here I am, crossing over the threshold of another new year and wondering what to do. One thing’s for sure, my priority list is much different than it ever has been, and that is going to make for an interesting 12-month adventure.

Happy 2015, everyone! After a few lost years, I have resolved to get back to living wide. How about you?

We Come Running

Not to try to ratchet up my cool quotient, but I’d heard of Youngblood Hawke long before the American Idol commercials from this most recent season.

First, it’s a very irreverent song. You can’t help to bop to the beat. But, it truly were the lyrics that struck me when I first heard this song. Lyrics like, “Headed for the open door, Tell me what you’re waiting for, Look across the great divide, Soon they’re gunna hear, The sound, the sound, the sound, When we come running.”

When I hear these lyrics I think of someone running free. Being completely unencumbered in their experience. I picture a person sprinting with their arms stretched to the sky, with a huge smile plastered on their face, thinking of nothing but release and possibility.

Pre-living wide, I used to hang on to a lot of things with an unflinchingly tight grip. Things that I should have released to God, the universe, just in general. I never felt free to completely let go. To be carefree. What I love about this song is that it reminds me to be irreverent. Why should we feel laced up or tied down by expectations? Why shouldn’t we shatter through these things at a full-tilt run, like football players busting through a paper banner just before game time?

Take that visual with you when an obstacle seems a little to hard.

Turn the Page

So long 2012. Can’t say I’m sorry to see you go. To be honest, you weren’t all that bad, but nonetheless, don’t let the door hit ya and all. Buh bye.

Normally, I’m a little sentimental about a new year. I usually try to be positive and think about all the good things that have happened over the course of the previous 12 months. And don’t get me wrong… good things have happened. I was able to leave a job that was not the right fit for me anymore, and walk into a new position that seems much better. I also got accepted into a pretty great grad school program and started taking classes. Not to mention, my friends all hit major milestones, of which I was able to be a part of.

But ultimately, 2012 was the cap of a trying set of years that I am very ready to leave behind. In frankness, Living Wide came along directly in the middle of that season. We’ll call it the brush fire season. Why, you ask. Well, the brush fire is an interesting phenomenon. Pretty much every year, the air gets a little too dry, and the sun a little too hot, which results in a brush fire. It generally rips through everything that is old and decaying, scorching the earth until it’s barren and unrecognizable. In the end, it is so damaged, that most believe, there is no way it could ever recover. But then, something miraculous happens… things start to grow. The land pushes back against the devastation and trauma it endured to become fruitful again. In fact, new things emerge that simply couldn’t have grown unless they were exposed to fire.

It wasn’t until recently that I started to feel that way… fruitful again.

I’ve taken the time to look at who I’ve become over the past few years, and frankly, for a time, I haven’t liked her. She was complacent, afraid, trapped, easily convinced, misguided, weak. She wasn’t brave… not in the slightest. She lacked many things, most of which, was a spine. Harsh words to speak about one’s self, but that doesn’t make them any less true.

If you’ve been following along on this journey, Living Wide started with a death. A very unexpected death of a man who should have had many more years left to live, but didn’t. Who managed to live more life in his time on Earth than most people I know and seemed to have a blast doing it. As I watched those who cared about him say goodbye, I knew that the woman I saw reflected back at me in the mirror every day was a degradation of who I used to be, and it was time to reclaim her.

In 2013, that journey continues. This year, I turn the page.  I’ve decided I will be braver. That I will push out of my comfort zone and stop worrying so much about what is the “right thing to do.” The times I’ve rejected that “right thing” and flung myself blindly into my faith in the Lord, I’ve been rewarded more richly than I ever thought possible. So, in 2013, there is no “right thing,” there’s only the horizon.

Tell me who you hope to be in 2013? Leave a comment.

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?

Aha!

It was Sunday morning. I had another half an hour to sleep before I needed to get up, but no matter how many times I rolled over, I just couldn’t slip back into the unconscious. So I got up and started my normal Sunday routine: Bemoan the Fraggle Rock do that is my bed head, feed my cat, turn on the TV and start my coffee.

As I sat on my couch, cereal in hand, I scanned through the TiVo guide to see what was on. My normal go-to, The Food Network, had a chef on that I didn’t really like, so I surfed the channels to see what else was on. The only thing that looked remotely interesting was Oprah’s LifeClass, so I tuned in, but only half-heartedly.

Then it happened. I had one of those Aha moments she always talks about. Her class that day was titled, “You Become What You Believe,” a concept that I’ve often heard her talk about, but I guess never really got. In this particular episode, Oprah talked about shadow beliefs, the underlying sabotages to one’s positive sense of self. She pointed out that these shadow beliefs are the tapes that run in your head, the ones that convince you you’re not worth it, that you’re not enough. And if you listen to them, if you buy in, these tapes will color your life from stem to stern and back again.

What struck me right between the eyes was the fact that I was clinging tight to my shadow beliefs. That my current discontent with the state of my life was because I simply put my belief in something other than God and myself. It was like someone held a mirror up and said, “See, that ugly lack of faith, yep, that’s you.” It was two and two that I’d never put together before. I had become the gook I believed about myself, and I had made choices based on lies. I believed that my instincts were wrong; that I wasn’t making a difference with the talents God gave me. I felt I didn’t deserve love or abundance. Simply put, I had become what I believed about myself.

I had become a shadow of the woman I once was; the one that graduated from college 11 years prior, determined to take the world by the tail. Somewhere along the line I’d lost her. But more than that, I’d convinced myself that that was okay. I had accepted the worldly prescribed view of my life – you can’t do that, that’s too radical; why are you even considering that, it’s not prudent; are you crazy, what if it doesn’t work out. And even though I’d worked on living a wide life for several months, I realized, in that moment, I’d still been living very, very small.

And just like that, the 22 year-old me woke up. She pushed off the thick quilt that had been smothering her for over a decade, she sauntered to the front of my mind, looked the 33 year-old me up and down and said, “It’s about time. Now what’s your plan?”

“Well,” I answered, “let’s start with, this, ‘I am worthy of abundance, and like Gavin DeGraw said,

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

My 22 year-old self smiled approvingly. “Alright then, let’s do this!”