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.

Pencil You In

[Ring, Ring]
[Ring, Ring]
“Hello?”
“Hi, how are ya?”
“Um, fine.”
“That’s good. Do you know who this is?”
“I’m not sure?”
“It’s your heart. Been a long time since you checked in. We need to talk.”

Imagined conversation aside, I realized yesterday that it’s been a long time since I’ve given credence to my heart. Yes, scientifically, the heart’s primary use is not to be the repository for our dreams and desires, but I’m a writer. I think of things in terms of poetry and romance, so we’re going to ignore science momentarily.

The pace of today’s world makes it really easy to get disconnected from the yearning of your heart. With schedules that dictate our lives down to the second, it’s no wonder those things that feed us, that make us feel a passion for life, get pushed to the side. For example, over the course of the past year, I’ve let my writing get jostled and pushed to a back burner somewhere near China.

Let me clarify. Yes, I consider my blog posts writing, however, I’ve broken the cardinal rule of being a writer over the last 12 months in that I’m not doing it every day, which makes finishing my first novel kind of difficult. I’m ashamed to admit how long it’s been since I started this book, so we’ll quantify it as a long time ago. In my defense, a handful of years ago, I got some advice about tweaking my voice and tone, and the whole thing (i.e., what I’d finished to that point) needed to be rewritten. But I digress. Due to a series of life circumstances that surfaced in the past year, my priorities changed. My focus was redirected to those things, and the recognition of how much I enjoyed spending time with my characters each day began to fade.

Well, those circumstances have now brought me full circle. Though things haven’t changed (yet), a moment of quiet during my drive home yesterday reignited my fire to finish the story I began many years ago. I realized the real priority, what I should truly be penciling in, is that blood that beats my heart. Those things that get me excited and make me borderline obsessive because of the intensity that I feel.

Living wide is just that, living with your arms, heart, soul wide open. Being receptive to what life has to offer and reflecting that light, beauty, joy through the passionate side of your nature.

So if your heart were to give you a call, what would it say? Make sure to comment below.

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.