One of the constant themes in my life is re-invention. Seven careers, dozens of jobs, two degrees 26 years apart, it goes on and on. And, on a recent walk, I realized that, thanks to the Dixie Chicks, I have an anthem for my re-invention: Wide Open Spaces. (full lyrics are at the end of this post)

Conveniently, the song is on my 30 minute walk playlist. As I was walking earlier this week, I realized that the lyrics don’t just apply to young women starting out; they apply to me right now. I’m wondering if they apply to you, too.

I’m so familiar with the song’s chorus that the words don’t always register with me:

 She needs wide open spaces / Room to make the big mistakes.

But, on that day, on that particular walk on a rare cool morning at the end of May, I heard anew these 2 lines:

To find a dream of and a life of their own / A place in the clouds, a foundation of stone.

And I realized that the four lines taken together beautifully address the dichotomy of taking risks, of daring to make mistakes – big ones. We take risks to find the lives we’ve dreamed of, that we believe we can achieve – and those dreams are as ephemeral as a cloud formation, and they’re built on the bedrock of who we are.

We are magnificent

Wow. Think about it. When we go out in the world, looking for the next challenge, searching for the newest version of ourselves (I figure I’m at Becky, version 37.5), we are building those dreams, the latest version of who we are, on the foundation of everything we have done and experienced up to this very minute. Every success, every struggle, every failure (and, yes, I have experienced massive, scary, gut-wrenching failures), every learning opportunity, every relationship, every class, sermon, lecture, and party we have experienced has created the magnificent, awe inspiring creatures that we are right now.

It’s a comforting thought. I don’t know about you, but too often I find myself second guessing my choices, chewing over what I should have done, what I could have done, and berating myself for not doing the best thing. But here’s the thing:  I’m still standing; I’m thriving; I’m struggling; I’m having a blast; I’m growing: I’m learning. Must not have made as many bad decisions as I think I did.

Involuntary Re-invention

When I listen to Wide Open Spaces, I think about the current version of me. The one who struck out on her own at 55 to find a life that was mine, only mine, with no partner for the first time in 30 years. I didn’t ask for this choice, it was thrust on me.

And I’m lucky because over those 30 years my late husband, Bo, kept pointing out the “wide open spaces” and inviting me in to them to make my own mistakes. And, boy, did I! Somehow, his belief that I could accomplish anything I wanted to made me want to try.

Burning Bridges

Now, a little revelatory moment here. Before I met Bo, I was the queen of bridge burning. One of my professors in college even called me on it. I didn’t know any other way to get past my mistakes other than burning those bridges. I would work at a job for six months, get bored, quit, and find another one. And I kept doing it until I met Bo.

Bo taught me that A’s aren’t the standard and neither is perfection. He showed me that it’s the struggle, the risk, the daring to do something you can’t even believe you can do that’s the sweet spot in life. He pointed out that I already knew how to take risks and that I didn’t even notice when I accomplished amazing things at work. He helped me own my own foundation.

Keep going

Luckily for me, when I lost Bo and was faced with re-invention again (is that redundant?), I knew I could both find those spaces and survive the mistakes – no matter how big. I’d already dealt with the high stakes nature of the gambles we took in our careers during our marriage and I was still standing. I was so much stronger than when we started out.

So, I kept going. I kept going because I had a foundation of stone. Granite. Like Stone Mountain. First there was everything I learned from Bo that I fully owned. During the worst times, my family and friends kept me standing. Sometimes I needed unimaginable amounts of support – and I received it without even asking. Sometimes all I needed was a nudge to get to the next thing – and I got it. I still do.

Renovating our foundations

Then something happened that I didn’t fully anticipate. There were new faces in my life. As I moved from teaching to coaching, I found new faces to support and nudge me along. And gradually, I built an even bigger, stronger foundation.

Oh, did you catch that? I built a stronger foundation. Hmmmm. I did that. It wasn’t an accident. I went out, took the risk of going to new places to meet new people, and created an even stronger foundation along the way. Even better, many of my old faces are right here with me now, cheering and prodding and supporting me as I move through this version of my life.

And the line “She knows the high stakes”? I do know the high stakes. I know that there are no higher stakes than risking living fully into ourselves, owning our own potential, intentionally renovating our foundation as needed.

Re-invention is a choice

The great gift of choice is that when we recognize that what’s at stake for us is our vision of the life we want, we can find those spaces, make those mistakes, and arrive at the next version of ourselves. And, we can rest assured that when it’s time to choose our next destination, our next chapter, we will know what to do.

Maybe I’ll add Wide Open Spaces to all of my exercise playlists….

Be ferocious,

Becky

Wide Open Spaces

Lyrics by Susan Gibson
Recorded by the Dixie Chicks

Who doesn’t know what I’m talking about

Who’s never left home, who’s never struck out

To find a dream and a life of their own

A place in the clouds, a foundation of stone

 

Many precede and many will follow

A young girl’s dreams no longer hollow

It takes the shape of a place out west

But what it holds for her, she hasn’t yet guessed

 

She needs wide open spaces

Room to make her big mistakes

She needs new faces

She knows the high stakes

 

She traveled this road as a child

Wide eyed and grinning, she never tired

But now she won’t be coming back with the rest

If these are life’s lessons, she’ll take this test

 

She needs wide open spaces

Room to make her big mistakes

She needs new faces

She knows the high stakes

 

As her folks drive away her dad yells, “Check the oil!”

Mom stares out the window and says, “I’m leaving my girl”

She said, “It didn’t seem like that long ago”

When she stood there and let her own folks know

 

She needed wide open spaces

Room to make her big mistakes

She needs new faces

She knows the high stakes

 

She knows the highest stakes

She knows the highest stakes

She knows the highest stakes