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.

Gotta Be More

He is one of my favorite artists of all time, yet not many people know who is, which is a shame. If you dig modern blues, or funk-infused southern rock, and you don’t know Marc Broussard, where have you been?

To show how much I love Mr. Broussard, I have been to nine of his shows since 2004. Every time he plays anywhere remotely close to me, I simply have to go see him. “Gotta Be More” is from his first EP “Momentary Setback.” Most people know him for “Home,” which is also a great song, but “Gotta Be More” speaks more to the living wide philosophy.

I first discovered Marc when I was walking around a book/music store randomly in 2004. I was in a job that took up most of my life—I’m not kidding, I was working 26 weekends a year—I was worn out, tired and needed a distraction. So on one of my rare, free Saturday nights, I took myself to a movie and walked around this book/music store after. Marc’s first full-length album “Carencro” was playing over the sound system, and I just had to know who he was.

I bought the album that night, and any and all music he has produced has been on constant rotation in my house and car ever since.

I hope y’all are enjoying the Living Wide Soundtrack for Successful Failure thus far. Remember, if you have a song suggestion, I’m open. Make sure to leave the name and why you love it in the comments section below or on Facebook at any time.

I’m Drawing a Blank

It is the pleasure and pain of every writer… a blank page with a blinking cursor. It’s both the promise of brilliance and the threat of defeat. Given that I make my living as a creative professional, I encounter the sheer terror of a stark white canvas on a daily basis. In fact, it’s been nearly a month since my last Living Wide post, not because I haven’t learned anything in these past weeks as I’ve continued my journey, but because I’ve been completely at a loss as to how to articulate it.

This happens to me sometimes. I have many half ideas, things that are nice little nuggets of knowledge, but a lot of them aren’t necessarily translatable to others. But just as soon as that thought comes into my head, I realize, somebody out there somewhere is likely encountering a living wide learning experience just like me.

So, here’s me, getting over my writers fear of releasing half-fleshed out ideas. Let me know if you can relate.

I love to quote people way smarter than me. The quick reminders by far more brilliant minds than mine, like Mark Twain, Eleanor Roosevelt and the ultimate Bartlett’s, the one and only God almighty, are encouraging sound bite that get me out of my own head so I can see the bigger picture. Plus, they say it way better than I ever could.

And just as I am a fan of quoting smarty pants people, I equally love the messages in fortune cookies. To some, it’s just a nuisance slip of paper in a perfectly good cookie, but when the fortune is fatefully timed, like, “In life, you won’t go far unless you know where the goalposts are,” it can be a bit of magic in your day.

Panic is never a normal response. If you ever find yourself walking into a situation—relationship, job, project—where your immediate and regular response is a sense of dread so acute it’s causing you to look for the nearest paper bag, life is too short and you don’t need it. Walk away.

Ever heard the expression, “Giving up the ghost?” It’s not indicatively southern, but I think I’ve heard it more back home than in most places. It basically means to release the apparition that has a negative hold on you. Are you making excuses for something in your life, or promising yourself that things will change? More often than not, what needs to change in those situation is you… your thinking, your attitude, your approach. What is haunting you?

And finally, the idea of whispers and sledgehammers. Not too long ago, I held a mirror up for a good friend. They were feeling a bit overwhelmed in their life, and though I couldn’t fully relate to their experience, I could see God at work. For me, God often speaks in whispers and sledgehammers. First, its a quite insistence that I generally ignore for awhile. Then, when I’m being really stubborn, He whacks me on the head with a sledgehammer, completely befuddling me until I have nowhere to turn except to Him. Let’s just say, my friend and I are working on the in between.

Has a blinking cursor been taunting you too? Make sure to let out your half thoughts in the comments section.

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.