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

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?

The Genesis of Living Wide

About a year ago, in one of those rare moments where I truly was not thinking about anything in particular, I had a vision.  I had forgotten about this vision to an extent over the course of the past 12 months until this weekend when I attended the funeral of fantastic man who left us far too soon.  I seem to have said goodbye to several people gone too soon this year, much more so than in any in the past.  Each affected me in its own unique way, but this most recent death, which no one expected, affected me in a way that was, for a lack of a better word, profound.  It was surprising really, given that I was more of an acquaintance to this man.  We knew each other, we went to church together, I spoke with he and his wife on occasion.  I know it sounds crass, but I thought I would go to his funeral, shed a tear or two in remembrance, be a support for those who had a deeper connection with him, and that would be that.  But a recurring theme in my life reared its ugly head in that expectation was not matched by reality.

As I pulled yet another tissue from my now half-empty pack, I realized how much the world lost when this truly cool man passed.  Here was someone who had lived a wide life.  He experienced it out loud and completely unapologetically.  His family: close-knit, involved and completely in it together.  His career: doing something he loved, which was making music.  His faith: hard won and embraced with abandon.  His funeral was one final lesson to all who knew him, life is meant to be lived, not squandered.  That there is a distinct difference between experiencing and existing.  It was during this time of eulogy that my vision from a year ago came flooding back into my mind.

The Vision
The horizon transformed right in front of me.  Concrete and glass disappeared.  A range of some of the most beautiful, snow-capped mountains appeared several hundred miles in the distance.  The sky was clear, as was the road leading to the majestic peaks, with the exception of one roadblock.  A person standing directly in the center of the road.  I can’t really describe what the back of the person looked like because it wasn’t very distinct.  All I could say is they looked to be about my height.  As I drew closer to the figure, it turned around.  Standing directly in front of me was… me.  I was an arm’s length from myself as if I were standing before the mirror in my bedroom.  Blinking at the revelation, I stared at my own face for several moments, and then, just as quickly as the scene appeared, it was gone.

Now I know there are those out there who would argue that visions are any manner of things.  I think the one I’ve heard most often is that visions are merely latent desires transitioning from our unconscious to our conscious mind.  However, I immediately knew the author of this vision was not me, it was God.  God wanted me to make no mistake that what was currently “in my way,” in every sense, was me.  I was the obstacle to living the wide life he very much wanted for me.  That I, in essence, needed to get out of my own way.

All of this was reinforced to me as I sat among the family and friends of a wonderful man who seemed to do just that, get out of his own way and experience the life God gave him.  I realized, I live small.  I’m like a horse with blinders on, only cognizant of what is directly in front of me.  I only see the obstacles to those things I really want:

  • I need a steady paycheck, I can’t take a sabbatical and figure out what I really want to do with my life.
  • I can’t travel right now, that takes money I don’t have.
  • I have to save for my retirement now because that’s what all the experts say.
  • I’m so tired from work, I don’t have time to: write the rest of my book, learn to sing, learn to knit, learn to dance, learn to play chess, etc., etc.

I am the classic oldest child in that dreams come after responsibilities.  If I’m responsible, then maybe I can achieve one of my dreams… some day.  In her book “Eat, Pray, Love,” Elizabeth Gilbert summed up my life in two sentences:

I’d been such a diligent soldier for years – working, producing, never missing a deadline, taking care of loved ones, my gums, and my credit record, voting, etc. Is this lifetime supposed to be only about duty?

In the lines that precede this statement, she talks about always wanting to learn Italian, but never quite getting around to it because she had no practical reason, no future application, with which she could justify the investment of time it would take to learn the language.  Dear Lord does that sound familiar!

So now what?  In light of all this, what do I do with all the realizations that have been ping ponging inside of my head for the past week?  How can I stop living small, and start living wide?  Wish me luck as I seek to find out.