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?

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.

Releasing Fear

Whenever I see a bunch of balloons I can’t help but smile. They are brightly colored sleeves, floating atop equally colorful strings, designed to delight and inspire wonder. I mean, who hasn’t dreamed of a bouquet of balloons lifting you from your life and carrying you, just like Dorothy, to a land of wonder far, far away.

When I was in grade school, I remember a day when they assembled all of the students on the playground. Just prior to the gathering, they’d asked us all to write down something we wished or hoped for that we would like to share with another person. “Think big,” they instructed us. “Think about what you would do to make the world different, better.” Lofty instructions for a group that ranged from barely able to read to the borderline between childhood innocence and adolescent angst.

I remembered agonizing over what I was going to write. I wanted it to be something inspiring. Something that the finder would remember all of their life. In truth, I cannot recall what those words of wisdom were, but given my age, I’m sure they had something to do with chasing rainbows.

What I do remember, however, is the sight of hundreds of red balloons bobbing in the wind as we waited for the release signal. I remember the sheer joy of seeing those balloons soar into the sky as we all cheered. And I remember watching mine as long as I could, hoping that the right someone would stumble across my message.

In a way, that’s kind of what it’s like to release fear. Fear’s stranglehold can be debilitating. It can rob you of your confidence and slow your momentum to a crawl. But more importantly, it can severely hinder your choice to live wide.

I am guilty of letting fear snake into my life. Being Type A, I most definitely fear failure. I am frightened by the prospect of poor planning or my lack of accuracy in predicting the outcome. But, can anyone “by worrying add a single hour to [our] life?”* Why do we cede control of our minds to the murk and mire that is fear? Why do we not release it and watch it float away like a scarlet balloon cast against a pale blue sky? Why do we grip it just as tightly as it holds onto us?

It’s not often [I need to get better at that], but when I am able to release my fear to a power far greater than me, I feel an indescribable relief. It’s almost like an elephant, rising from its seat upon my chest.

Take a moment to give shape to your fear. What does it look like? Now pour that anxiety into a bright red balloon. Picture it floating lightly inside a helium-filled orb begging for your release. It’s just waiting. All you have to do is let go. Relax your fingers and let the string pull free. I promise, the relief you’ll feel watching your worry float into oblivion is far greater than the anxiety of refusing to let go.

*Matthew 6:27.