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?

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.

What, Me Worry?!

Admittedly, I’m a bit of a worrier. Not of the perpetual furrowed brow, constant handwringing variety per say, but I do have a fairly regular level of concern. Being single, that’s kind of a given. In terms of income, you’re it. Reconciling bills, you have to do it. Unexpected pricey repair for the car, well, it gets you too and from where you earn the income, so you have to figure it out. As you can tell from my last post, my living wide life has been more living day-to-day as best I can, and a lot of that has to do with worry.

Quite a few storms have rumbled into my world recently, but instead of blowing through quickly, they’ve stalled. If I could draw a cartoon of myself (believe me, you don’t want me to try), it would look something like a completely drenched girl with a gray, violent cloud over her head from which lightening strikes out periodically as a zinging reminder that, yep, it’s still there.

Now, generally, I handle stress pretty well, but when there’s no preamble to a storm, when it starts at a deluge and doesn’t let up, unfortunately, even keel kind of goes out the window. And where worry was once creeping in through a few small leaks in the roof, now it’s an unadulterated pummeling because, well, there was no roof anymore. I was worrying so much, in fact, that I was worried about how much I was worrying. I know, I know… vicious cycle.

The thing about being worried, especially when in a worrisome situation, is that people around me begin to worry sympathetically. Trust me, my circumstance did warrant it, and those around me weren’t just being supportive; they had concerns of their own. The issue was that the collective worrying began to self fulfill and spawn a whole host of bad juju, like paranoia, emotions I’m sure swirled round and round the bottom of Pandora’s box.

One day, at yet another collective worry session, I hit a wall. I simply could not worry about one more thing. Big, small, it didn’t matter, there was no room left at the inn. I looked at the people around me as they speculated and spit-balled, and realized, this is kind of pointless. There we were, trying to crystal ball some outcomes, trying to define the unknown variables, when truthfully, the dominos were already falling. The best we could do was navigate the present and not try to predict the height of the waves or the pitch of the ocean.

One of my favorite stories about Jesus is chronicled in a couple of different books of the Bible. He and the disciples were on a boat in the middle of horrific storm, and Jesus, unconcerned, was asleep. The disciples woke him because they were scared, and, invariably, he calmed the storm to appease their worry. But notice, he wasn’t worried. He was so not worried that he was asleep. He knew that particular moment was scary, yes, but his father, God, was going to get him through it, while Jesus’ disciples, not yet quite as sure, worried.

To be honest, I wasn’t exactly thinking of this story when I hit the wall, but when I did, I realized something. The only thing you can control in a circumstance that is worrisome is how you react to it. You can’t control someone’s behavior, choices or actions, but you can control how you respond. So, basically, stop trying to be hyper offensive to avoid being defensive. Be aware, don’t be naive, but don’t be a slave to the “coulds,” of life. Rest in the fact that someone far more capable than you has “got this,” and you can rest easy in the fact that you had faith enough to get in the boat with him.

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!”

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.