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?

Shake It Out

Author’s Note:  For the sake of honesty, this blog post is helping me momentarily avoid my grad school homework… just so you know. Quite simply, it is the end of the semester, I’m over it, yet I have to press on. [Sigh….] Okay, pity party over. Carry on.

***

When I first heard Florence + The Machine’s “Shake it Out,” I was knocked completely sideways… in a good way. Without boring you, I was going through a weird time. I had some things in my life I knew I needed to sever and purge, but I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t let go, and I didn’t know why or how.

I promise, if you’re living through a moment like that, nothing will punch you in the gut faster than the lyrics from this song. Lines like, “Regrets collect like old friends, here to relive your darkest moments,” or, “And it’s hard to dance with the devil on your back, so shake him off.” They make you face not only the enemy outside of you, but the enemy within yourself as well when you’re trying to live a wide life.

Darkness wants to keep you small. It wants to keep you limited. It wants to show you the boundaries and make you fear pushing past them. And what’s even scarier, it wants to prevent you from pushing past those feelings to things that are unknown, uncertain, strange, alluring and terrifying all at the same time. You want to pursue them, but you’re also courted by the comfort of your past… the safeness of the known versus the unknown.

The thing I try to remember is, if I ever feel burdened or heavy, if a situation ever makes me feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders, then I am in the wrong place. The only person who should ever feel that is not of this plane. I shouldn’t feel that way. That’s not my job. I should feel more unencumbered, untethered. I should feel free, and I should feel free to feel free.

So here’s a question, what song releases you to feel like you are completely free?

Risking It

Even as we were packing the moving truck, I had doubts. It was the summer of 2005, and I was moving to Washington, D.C. It was a decision that was either going to further my career or end up with me calling my parents six weeks down the road to tell them that I was A) out of money and B) needed to move back to Atlanta. Why those two outcomes, you ask? Well, I was making the move purely based on faith. I was living wide before I even knew what living wide was.

A few months earlier, I’d passed the two and half years mark in my job, and I was feeling restless. I’d previously toyed with the idea of moving away from the state I’d called home for nearly two decades, but never felt it was the right time. At this point, I’d been exploring my faith for several years and had recently begun bringing the big prayers to God. Like, is it time for me to move? I’d always liked Washington, D.C. I’d visited the city a handful of times and knew living there held great potential for my career. As I prayed about what was to come next, my heart kept turning back to D.C. Initially, God made it obvious that D.C. was to be my new home in subtle ways, but in the spring, He got downright overt. An apartment I could afford was available down the street from the only friend I knew in the city. My resume was getting some interest. Things were looking good. All signs were pointing to “Go,” so I decided to.

It was a leap of faith that would land me an 11-hour car ride away from the safety net of my family. A fact which hadn’t dawned on me until we were loading the moving truck. My decision had suddenly become real. I was really taking a leap into the unknown based solely on an inkling from God. I was trusting that my faith in Him and the talents and abilities He’d given me were going to be enough. That I would be okay and it would all work out.

Invariably, it did all work out. By my fourth week in D.C., I had a job. My bills were all going to be paid, and my cat and I would continue to have food to eat. I had taken a flying leap into God’s will, and it turned out better than I’d hoped.

I’ve been thinking about this step in my journey quite a bit lately. In many ways, my choice painted me as a risk taker. I was risking my financial security by responding to God’s call. Was I scared to do it? Yes, absolutely. The fact that I was trusting God, that I was leaving everything I knew for something I had no clue about, made the decision terrifying. That kind of faith was simply scary. But I tell you what, I never regretted it.

The reason this particular decision has been so on my mind is because I reached another crossroads recently. I had to decide whether it was worth it to continue in my current job, or walk away and trust that God would bring about new possibilities. I had to choose, was I going to be faithful or fearful.

After much prayer, thought and counsel, I decided. I decided I’d rather terrify the Earthly side of my nature by leaping into the will of God, trusting in His provision, than do what’s expected; to do things the “right way.” How’s it all going to turn out? I’m not sure really, but I’ll tell you one thing, it’s a risk I’m willing to take.

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.