Living beyond limits
Knowing and respecting our limits is fairly straightforward. At around 5 foot 7 inches, I am unlikely to be picked for a basketball team – I just don’t have the height to live that dream. (But I did play guard with a deadly 3 point shot for 3 years in school). I have very specific gaps in my spatial intelligence, so I can really struggle to flip a shape from one side to another. No problem – these are not limits that have a major impact on my well-being or the pleasurable quality of my life.
Respecting the limits you have can be a kind of self-care. Knowing how far you can drive safely before taking a break, how late in the day you can have a cup of coffee without lying awake at night, how much you can lift without hurting yourself.
And there can be limits placed upon you, like breaking your foot, limiting how long you can stand and walk. Having a disease like MS that limits your stamina, your vision or your mobility. Having to take care of the needs of aging parents or sick children, keep you focusing on the care of another, limiting what you have time, energy or freedom to do for yourself.
There are lots of ways to live with limits. We can take a harsh inner tone, berating ourselves for failing to overcome a limit. (Can’t you figure out how to fix your own leaky faucet?) We can become masters of avoidance, finding entirely legitimate reasons for not entering into an experience that brings us to confront our limits. (That boot camp class is just not at a good time for me, I never get home until 5 pm and it is such a hassle to try to get there). We can get judgy about other people’s limits, our perception of their failings as a dynamic way out of acknowledging our own. (This is the moment when we judge how fast someone is jogging, even as we stroll past eating ice cream and talking about getting into shape. I know some of you have done this). We can tell elaborate stories, to frame our limits in a kind of interpretive personal history so our limits can be talked about and placed in an appropriately non-impactful corner of ourselves. (Well, see I had that pneumonia and bronchitis in grade 10 so I get asthma whenever I go too hard and I really have more passion for music anyways, so I don’t really see the point in starting weight lifting because when am I going to lift anything heavier than a guitar case).
I am interested in what it can be like to live beyond limits. This might conjure up a vision of gritted teeth, the person who, in learning to run 10k, pushes their sweaty self to run one more kilometer each week to achieve the goal. The person who pushes their body to the limits in an extreme sport or takes a risky route to ski down the mountain. Heroic effort that doesn’t give up, no matter the pain, no matter the risk.
Engaging in uncomfortable experiences is a pragmatic part of challenge – be it public speaking, learning a new sport, a new language. How can you find support when you put yourself beyond your comfort zone? One of the personal resources we can bring into moments of uncomfortable confusion is our attention. When I am beyond the “me” who knows what to do next, this is the moment real learning begins. This is where we grow. In a way that I find quite interesting – when we learn something that is beyond what we already know how to do, both failure and success serve us well. Unless the mistake create serious outcomes, like not knowing whether the next part of the clear glass bridge is actually solid, so we fall through when we step, (like a cartoon coyote I watched as a kid) we tend to learn so that we add directly to our experiential bank of knowledge.
This is not the learning about something – this is the learning how to and how not to so that we can.
Even better is leaning into our limit, not to overcome it through will power but to discover how something about how our limit can become a strength. In aikido, I sometimes literally cannot transpose a new technique from the right side to my left. I have to re-learn it, sometimes several times on the left for it to make the same sense that it did on the right side. A frustrating limit that can cause me to savagely beat myself up on the inside. But it also gives me an opportunity, to linger at the beginning of learning so I can notice more connections, where there is support in the movement and where there are openings, transitions that need to be filled and attended to. I can’t keep up with more athletically gifted training mates, not at the beginning. But oh boy, when the learning integrates, it really integrates. And I am learning what I need to vary on my left side because of how it is limited compared to my more coordinated, more adept right side. So I, of necessity, learn at least two ways to approach each technique which is helpful when slow focused practice becomes freer, faster movement. And keeping on with the keeping on is slowly improving my left side’s coordination and overall know how – not as good as some people’s ability but better than my first day of training.
I was inspired to write this posting today by a video, Popping for Parkinson’s. It’s worth a 6 minute watch – what I really like is how the hip hop teacher Simone uses a common symptom in Parkinson’s – tremors – as a strength to do popping and how the dance creates a supportive opportunity not only to move but to expand the sense of self that people with Parkinson’s have – to know I have a life beyond the disease. For your moment of pop, checkout https://vimeo.com/146412099.
Look for your opportunity today to live better from here, wherever your here happens to be. If you are interested in more Living beyond Limits, join my Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/744722979216023/to hang with people who believe to their core they have the ability to live fully, on purpose, that loving what is and leaning into learning, growth and development can dance together.