Posts tagged ‘limits’

February 26, 2019

Ever Feel Like You Were Born on Opposite Day?

I often feel like I was born on opposite day. In yoga, when most people feel a stretch on the left leg, I’ll feel it in my back on the right. I can move and shift and never find a stretch on the left. While students around me tried to avoid teachers with a reputation for being difficult, I sought out the toughest English, chemistry, and biology teachers. I fired an easy flight instructor to fly with one who turned off the fuel on takeoff to see what I would do.*
I’m out of sync with the mainstream in other ways. I don’t want to go home from the doctor’s office with a bottle of pills if there’s another way to fix the problem…even if the alternate solution takes months or years. When my tummy feels like it needs something bland, eating a piece of cheese or a banana will send it into absolute spasms for days but a bowl of black beans has no ill effects.

This weekend I watched The Goddess Project with some friends. Afterward, I just kept thinking that I never feel limited by being female. I’m not saying I don’t see inequities in corporations, organizations, and institutions or that I haven’t sometimes had to figure out ways to navigate that wouldn’t be required of men. I’m just saying, I haven’t ever felt like I shouldn’t pursue whatever I want to pursue because I’m a girl.

Why am I writing about any of this? I’m not exactly sure. It has something to do with watching that movie, taking care of a 2-year-old, and trying to be present when everything feels raw. There’s a point lurking somewhere in the back of my mind. Maybe I’ll find it if I just keep writing.

There are times that my grandson DJ pouts and whines about something and I just smile and walk away because the behavior is best ignored. There have been other times when he has behaved badly, gotten in trouble, and then thrown a B.I.G. fit. My first instinct is to lay down the law. After all, he’s already gotten consequences and now he’s behaving worse.

But one day when this happened, instead of being punitive, I picked him up, held him close and told him what a good boy he was and that I was pretty sure we could figure out how to solve the problem. He stopped crying, yelling, and kicking, calmed down and was cooperative. It was an eye-opener. I have no idea why it struck me that was the thing to do, but somehow I knew he needed the opposite of what logic was telling me.

I often need the opposite of what convention offers. Support groups don’t make me feel supported. Attending a class doesn’t make me more likely to work out. Pushing me doesn’t mean you’ll get a quicker or better result. Talk therapy leaves me in an emotional loop I can’t get out of. (I can, but it’s by integrating my body into the process using somatic experiencing and yoga.) I tolerate directness, confrontation, and anger better than evasiveness, subterfuge, and manipulation presented in a very polite fashion.

I feel annoyed when “experts” promulgate the idea that they can predict what will trigger a traumatized person. What triggers one person will not phase another. The idea that there are specific words, phrases, and sounds that should be summarily eliminated from our lexicon feels like dismissiveness to me and I experience emotional flashbacks.

Of course it’s comforting to think that if we as a culture make a few blanket eliminations of words or phrases, then we have done our part to facilitate healing. But the way that often plays out is that I experience individuals who do not believe they need to hear my story, get to know me, or feel my pain. Language and topic policy provide them a comfortable cushion for avoiding genuine interaction.

Again, I understand that I may be in a small minority, but here’s how I feel. I’m a big girl. I can figure out the best way for me to deal with my own triggers. If you feel you must decide for me, you do not view me as your equal. Boom, I feel diminished and dismissed. That does not contribute to healing.

Conventional wisdom is sometimes just convention and convenience that makes us feel comfortable being emotionally lazy or fearful. If we’re willing to really see each other, it is never that simple. Hurt masquerades as anger; fear masquerades as acceptance; shame masquerades as advocacy; vulnerability cloaks itself in imagined limitations. When we really see each other, there is no us vs them. There is just us.

If you are like me, it may be harder to feel supported because what works for the majority of people just feels wrong to you. You may have to be more articulate than your colleagues to get your point across. You may sometimes feel excluded or shunned.

You may spend a lot of time twisting yourself into what you’re not in order to feel accepted. If you do, I am so sorry any and all of us have made you feel you must do that.

I often feel like I was born on opposite day. You may too. Perhaps the only point worth making is that you are not alone. I get it.

I also choose to believe there is nothing wrong with us for being out of sync with our peers. And I know the world needs our voices just as much as it needs other points of view. I won’t try to get you to unite. We’ll leave that to those who were born on regular days.

*I don’t mean he pulled the throttle back, I mean he turned the fuel OFF. The engine was not coming back on. Okay, in truth the easy flight instructor screamed a lot when I was learning to land and I couldn’t stand that anymore. Also, I didn’t know Mike would turn off the fuel until the day he did. I just knew he intimidated all of the young male pilots and gave lots of notes. For any pilot reading this and thinking that move was reckless—we were flying a Cessna 172 and without me noticing, Mike had put his leg up to block the yoke so that I couldn’t pull it back if I panicked once I realized we weren’t climbing. I didn’t. I immediately put the nose down and prepared to land on the remaining length of runway. He knew we had plenty of runway left and if I hadn’t responded with the correct procedure, he would have taken control of the plane.


August 21, 2014

Having Trouble Figuring Out How to Include Cooking in Your Daily Routine? Embrace your limits!

Having trouble figuring out how to include cooking in your daily routine? Embrace your limits!

Today’s tip comes from my lifelong deficits. I have an inability to type faster than anyone else, swim faster than anyone else, or sprint faster than anyone else. In spite of this gaping lack of ability, I have been chosen for typing contests, advanced swim instruction, and participation in track meets. Why? I am ploddingly consistent and rarely know when to quit, but even more than that, I am willing to look my limits in the face.

I think it took me a whole summer to learn to slalom ski. While I’d popped right up on two skis when I was 10. I didn’t try again until I was in my 30s. It still wasn’t difficult to get up on two skis, but I wanted to slalom. The boat driver instructed me to get up on two and then drop one off. And so it began, I’d get up on two, try to drop one, and fall. Then I’d try again…and fall. My kids thought this was both funny and boring because it went on trip after trip after trip…until I finally found my balance point. Once that happened, I quickly learned to get up on one ski. The balance point had been my limiter. Had I not stuck with the process until I found it, my choices would have been to ski on two skis or drive the boat. By finding my limiter, I eventually expanded my options.

How does this relate to cooking? It relates in the same way that it relates to anything that feels difficult to conquer – once you find the primary thing that holds you back and deal with that one thing (okay, it can be a small list of things), you will find you have more options.

I’ll give you another example. I sometimes walk in the mornings with a neighbor who is always looking for an excuse not to show up. If I put on my walking clothes & carry my shoes downstairs immediately after I get out of bed, I am 90% more likely to walk whether he shows up or not. Why? My mental limiter is having to make a trip back up the stairs. I can’t tell you specifically why that trip seems like such a big deal, but I don’t really need to understand this. As long as I know and face this fact about myself, I can make a choice that will lead to me feeling like I CAN instead of I CAN’T!

If you don’t think you can find the time to cook for yourself or your family, start observing how you feel when some informed expert gives you facts that indicate fresh food positively affects your health and you think, “I really should cook more, but I simply…can’t, don’t,”…whatever comes to mind. For me it could be: “If I cook I’ll have to clean up the kitchen & I really don’t want to do that tonight. I need some time to do nothing.”

For you it will be a unique set of limiters. Way down deep, you will feel your limit. You may feel silly about it, or ashamed, or inadequate that, if you’re me, you can’t get your mind around a single trip up the stairs. Often, we won’t let that feeling come to the surface and become a conscious thought because it makes us feel like there’s something wrong with us – especially when it seems like something small that’s impeding our progress. So instead, we remain in a kind of limbo that keeps us stuck making no progress, or if we let the thought form, spend our time beating ourselves up for having that limit. Often we construct elaborate scenarios to keep ourselves from admitting a simple truth about ourselves that we view as negative.

So, here’s the tipWhenever you feel like you just “CAN’T” cook, walk, say no, say yes, etc. – follow the path your feelings take. Let those feelings lead you to the thing that’s limiting your progress. Trust that the process will bring you insight, and insight will bring you better choices. In other words, you’ll have more choices when you embrace your limits!

November 14, 2013

Do Our Fantasies Keep Us From Being Healthy?

I don’t…I can’t…Do our fantasies keep us from being healthy?

No Football

No Left TurnHave you ever noticed that you’ve inadvertently created a fantasy world in which you follow certain rules? Some of those rules may start with I don’t. For instance, I don’t go to football games. I don’t take taxis. I don’t ride the subway. I don’t mix my groups of friends. I don’t make left hand turns in my car.

Or maybe we go a step further and say I can’t. I can’t stay up past 9. I can’t leave work before 6pm. I can’t learn to ski. I can’t fly in a small plane. I can’t give up my mom’s homemade dinner rolls. I can’t give up the handmade pasta at my favorite restaurant. I can’t give up my grandmother’s cherry pie.

Cherry Pie

I don’t… I can’t ….. Why do these fantasies become our reality? I’m guessing that most of us make these rules so we will feel safe. We probably don’t even realize that we’ve restricted ourselves until life throws us a curve and the only way to get home from the airport is a taxi. At that point, we recognize we must make a choice. We can choose to stay on an airport couch until other transportation is available, or we can move past our self-imposed limitation.

If you’re tired, hungry, and ready to be at home, a taxi ride may not seem too ominous. I’ve noticed that when I have to shift, I often find that I’m more comfortable than I thought I would be. I’ve finally learned to be grateful for those circumstances that put me in a position to challenge my self-imposed limitations.

After I started writing this post, I took a lunch break to attend a lecture by Dr. Eben Alexander III, the author of “Proof of Heaven”. As I listened, I recognized that he was describing the same phenomenon, but on a much grander scale. Dr. Alexander describes our brains as filters of consciousness as opposed to the place where consciousness begins. Our brains filter through the tiny bit of consciousness we’re willing to experience, but he says that what’s available to us is much greater. He also postulates that there is much to healing we do not understand that is beyond the physical, rational, and emotional. It seemed that he shared all of this in gratitude for his journey through coma – not so much his gratitude for full recovery, as for the journey itself.

It seems that many of us only recognize our journey in retrospect instead of embracing it in the moment. I want to have a full, adventurous, exciting journey to look back on. I can facilitate that by embracing adventure, excitement, and healthy physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual choices in each moment. This thought excites and motivates me to give up my self-limiting fantasies, embrace my fear, and live each moment to the fullest.

Want to join me?


March 20, 2013

Inspiring Lessons of Connection from Parents with Critically Ill Children

The past few days, I’ve had a chance to see both the best and worst of humanity. The stark contrast presented by a unique week of interaction has me pondering the importance of connection, personal power, fear, and our contributions to our own misery.

Okay, admittedly that’s a lot of territory so, for now, let’s look at the best and see if there’s anything we can learn that will help us improve the quality of our lives so that our families can thrive.

My week started with a photo shoot of several families who have children that are critically ill, injured, or have recently received a transplant. As I asked each family if they were having a good day, I received varied answers. One family’s son had just had his chest tubes removed after his third open-heart surgery. He is three. The mom told me that she was grateful to have learned it doesn’t matter what color your skin is. When you are told your child may die, it only matters who you are and what’s in your heart. A family that had arrived in town because the mom went into labor on an airplane and we had the closest airport, moved carefully because of her recent Caesarian. Her new daughter is still in NICU, she is having to shower in a communal bathroom, and her husband has been unable to start his new job. She calmly instructed her 3-year-old son who has to wear his blue sweater several days per week because there’s been no chance to locate other clothes. She wasn’t much for talking; her quiet smile said it all. One young mom wrestled her 4-month-old son who recently had a heart transplant. He has gorgeous red hair, a feeding tube, a mask over his face, and he cries incessantly. He was frightened by the photographer’s strobes. As he wriggled and screamed, his young mom remained relaxed and gentle with him. Her unflappable serenity shines through in the photos.

All day long, I kept expecting to see people at their worst – exhausted, frightened, struggling, hopeless. What I kept discovering was that I was seeing people at their best. They may have felt exhausted, frightened, and helpless, but what I experienced was calm strength and total presence in the moment. Without time or energy for the usual niceties or pretense, connection was natural, easy and inspiring. Over and over again, I felt an immediate connection. With each meeting of our eyes, each smile or look of empathy, I knew my presence made a difference. I felt honored, humbled and powerful.

For these families, life has been stripped down to the absolute essentials. Their challenge is to embrace each bit of kindness, joy, or relief that appears while surrounded by the most difficult of life’s realities. If they choose to spend five minutes wondering why their child must suffer when others don’t, they know that’s five minutes they aren’t fully relishing the time they have with their child. What a choice!

It’s easy for most of us to draw a contrast between our everyday lives and that of these families, but maybe there’s something we can learn from them and apply to our everyday interactions:

Because these families are painfully aware that the time we get in this life is limited and uncertain, they focus on making the most of each day. We can all benefit from this type of focus. Our priorities will then allow us to rid ourselves of the activities or friendships we have chosen that do not feed us or contribute positive energy to our lives.

While they have real reasons to worry, these folks recognize that worry is a distraction that keeps us from being present in the moment and thereby prevents us from fully connecting with each other. It is through this connection that we can give and receive empathy, care, comfort, and love. 

Although presented with heart-wrenching circumstances, the families I observed show up each day to face the situation and make difficult choices. We too are faced with everyday choices that affect our health and quality of life. Do we choose to cower in denial or do we gather our courage and make the choice that best serves our overall well-being even if that’s not the easiest choice?

In the role of parent, the adults recognize that they must function as adults. If they weep and wail and act helpless, their children will become frightened. If they are disrespectful to the nurses or staff, they may inadvertently jeopardize their child’s care. If they decide that they just can’t handle the stress of the hospital, their child will be left alone. These loving parents do not choose to burden their children with adult matters so they summon their best selves and find the strength to cope with each difficult day. How often do we fail our children by neglecting to summon our inner strength to set and enforce limits on sugar consumption, screen time, rude behavior, or frivolous spending?

When parents are separated for days or weeks by taking shifts to provide a continuous presence in a child’s hospital room, the importance of adult time to connect without the children cannot be taken for granted. Are we remembering to value our connection with our partner? Do we make time and space for connection on a regular basis? Do we present a united front to our children?

As days turn into weeks and the world begins to shrink to the size of the hospital room, these parents must find small ways to care for themselves and keep a connection with the larger world in order to remain inspired. There is no energy to feel guilty for a few “selfish” moments; in fact, there’s a realization that feeding their own spirit is not just important, but critical. Some of them make sure to take a walk and watch the sunrise or sunset. Others read a book that allows them to empathize with the characters. Some schedule a meal out once a week so they can get out and people-watch. Some moms just take a long bath and a nap or get a massage. Do we measure our worth in self-sacrifice that causes us to lose our identity or feel guilty when we take care of our spirits?

This week in the midst of tragedy, I had the privilege of seeing the best. I also had the experience of seeing the worst. This contrast reminded me that life-changing events are a chance for people to reveal their real character. Sometimes you learn that your partner, sister, aunt, mom, or dad is too fearful to be supportive, too needy to put another’s interests first, too interested in comparison to have compassion, or too threatened by real connection to let down their walls and be there for you. Can we have compassion for their weakness and the courage to let go of our expectations of more from them so that we can recognize and be open to receiving what we need when it presents itself? 

When we allow ourselves to see the truth, we may be faced with other difficult life decisions. Can we be grateful for a chance to face our fears, embrace grief, loss, and change in order to move forward and heal ourselves?

While we may never have a critically ill child, we will all face trying circumstances. Some of us will choose to live in chaos, pain, worry, and dissonance without ever recognizing that we’re making a choice. If you are struggling at the moment, can you tell yourself the truth and begin experimenting with tiny changes in your behavior? Can you take inspiration from what resilient parents have learned? 

 If so, are you willing to share your story? We’d love to hear it.