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.

Sounds Good

Apologies, Living Wide faithful.  I know I’ve been absent these past few weeks, which reminds me, I need to update my bio because the reasons for my truancy are both very good.  First, I’m writing again!!  YAY!!  I have been trucking along on the manuscript for my second book, tentatively titled “Perfect.”

Wait, second book?  Where’s your first book?  I’m glad you asked about that.  See, my first book was a project I started in 2002, one year post-college.  It was a tale I returned to several times over the course of the years, and I was pretty happy with it until 2008 when I decided to rewrite all the parts that I had finished from a completely different point of view.  Why?  I don’t remember really, but it definitely set me back and led to four more years of starting and stopping.  I also can’t tell you why I couldn’t just get it together and finish the first draft, but after a while, I had to admit to myself that things weren’t working.  It had been nearly 10 years and still no book.  Late last year, I made the conscious decision to admit that I’d failed.  That my first book wasn’t the story I needed to write in this moment.

Accompanying that decision was a batch of my soul searching over the past couple of months, during which I realized something pretty important… I want to follow my dreams.  I know that’s something everyone says, but few actually do.  Well, I think you’ve realized by now, if I am anything, I am the follow-through-girl.  I’m also a little bit crazy and daring (hello, quitting my job).  So I decided to do the ultimate wakadoo thing and have faith in myself.  Faith that whether I would be published or not, whether people liked the story I had to tell or not, I was going to write a book.

I picked up one of the ideas I had filed away and started to play with it around October of last year.  And bam, I was writing again.  I wrote, and I wrote, and I wrote, and then I stopped for grad school finals, and then I wrote again.  Oh, did I mention that’s the other reason?  Grad school?  Like I said I’m a little nutty… new job, grad school and writing my first/second novel all at the same time.  But I digress….  I finally found my story, and I promised myself, even if it kills me, I will finish it and someone, I don’t know who or how many, will get to read it.

Now that you know the why, let’s get to the fun part.  I’ve decided to challenge myself even more.  Again, what is she thinking?!?  I know, but roll with it would you?  So every day in the month of April I am going to post an inspirational song that is Living Wide-themed, and hopefully will encourage you all to follow your dreams too.  I’m calling it the Soundtrack for Successful Failure.  I will also accept submissions for songs that make you want to stop living small, break out of your box, and chase the horizon.  I can’t wait take this journey with you all!  Who’s bringing the snacks?

Love,
Me

Turn the Page

So long 2012. Can’t say I’m sorry to see you go. To be honest, you weren’t all that bad, but nonetheless, don’t let the door hit ya and all. Buh bye.

Normally, I’m a little sentimental about a new year. I usually try to be positive and think about all the good things that have happened over the course of the previous 12 months. And don’t get me wrong… good things have happened. I was able to leave a job that was not the right fit for me anymore, and walk into a new position that seems much better. I also got accepted into a pretty great grad school program and started taking classes. Not to mention, my friends all hit major milestones, of which I was able to be a part of.

But ultimately, 2012 was the cap of a trying set of years that I am very ready to leave behind. In frankness, Living Wide came along directly in the middle of that season. We’ll call it the brush fire season. Why, you ask. Well, the brush fire is an interesting phenomenon. Pretty much every year, the air gets a little too dry, and the sun a little too hot, which results in a brush fire. It generally rips through everything that is old and decaying, scorching the earth until it’s barren and unrecognizable. In the end, it is so damaged, that most believe, there is no way it could ever recover. But then, something miraculous happens… things start to grow. The land pushes back against the devastation and trauma it endured to become fruitful again. In fact, new things emerge that simply couldn’t have grown unless they were exposed to fire.

It wasn’t until recently that I started to feel that way… fruitful again.

I’ve taken the time to look at who I’ve become over the past few years, and frankly, for a time, I haven’t liked her. She was complacent, afraid, trapped, easily convinced, misguided, weak. She wasn’t brave… not in the slightest. She lacked many things, most of which, was a spine. Harsh words to speak about one’s self, but that doesn’t make them any less true.

If you’ve been following along on this journey, Living Wide started with a death. A very unexpected death of a man who should have had many more years left to live, but didn’t. Who managed to live more life in his time on Earth than most people I know and seemed to have a blast doing it. As I watched those who cared about him say goodbye, I knew that the woman I saw reflected back at me in the mirror every day was a degradation of who I used to be, and it was time to reclaim her.

In 2013, that journey continues. This year, I turn the page.  I’ve decided I will be braver. That I will push out of my comfort zone and stop worrying so much about what is the “right thing to do.” The times I’ve rejected that “right thing” and flung myself blindly into my faith in the Lord, I’ve been rewarded more richly than I ever thought possible. So, in 2013, there is no “right thing,” there’s only the horizon.

Tell me who you hope to be in 2013? Leave a comment.

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?

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.