On Limits

IMG_0315.JPG

I get confused about limits.  I place them where they’re not necessary and ignore them where they matter.

On the one hand, I needlessly limit the range of my imagination, the breadth of my curiosity, the reach of my compassion, and the scale of my hope. 

On the other, I heedlessly fail to acknowledge real limits on available time (in a day or in my life), on my reserves of energy, on my capacity to bear pain, and on the strength of my will to overrule physical fatigue or emotional weariness.

Like people who are ordered to attend driver’s education classes after racking up too many points against their licenses, I’m enrolled in a crash course (actually a course to prevent my crashing) in unmalleable limits. The reminders are straightforward: 

Speed kills. It particularly kills wonder and mystery, qualities which emerge into consciousness in response to slow savoring of the journey.

Distractions are dangerous. One thing—one task, one moment—at a time is enough.   Besides, more than one at a time isn’t actually possible.

Intoxication is deadly. The drug of denial, the high of an unruly ego, and the buzz of anxious adrenaline can impair judgment.

Don’t ignore the warning signs; they’re wisdom, not dares.

Beyond the anti-crash course, illness is tutoring me about the final limit—death. These lessons in mortality include paradoxically life-giving explorations of vocation (What am I invited to be and do with my remaining life?); of urgency (Now is the time), and of humility (Whatever I do matters greatly in some ways and hardly at all in others).  

I’m also learning to do regular energy audits which show some of the ways I carelessly burn energy: failure to close the windows of perception on fierce storms of other people’s expectations and to seal the doors of access against chilling drafts of despair. I’ve learned that I need to add insulation between the present moment and the attic of difficult memories and the crawl space of dark regrets.

I’m doing remedial work in emotional accounting.  How is it I keep ignoring the simple principle that income has to at least match expenditures? Repeatedly, I’ve teetered on the edge of psychic bankruptcy, desperate for emergency infusions of faith, hope, and love so I can make the next payments—meet the next demands.

I’m learning that I must, may, and can stop being careless about these real limits.

I also want to be free of false limits.

The world is vast and gorgeous; its Creator invites us to revel in the creation—to explore (not exploit) its goodness wherever we are and at whatever pace we can manage.

Imagination can soar even when pain tethers the body.

Dreaming is possible in the valley of the shadow.

Joy steals past doors which struggle slammed shut.

Creativity can flower in a windowsill planter.

Love picks the lock of fear.

Grace shatters shame’s shackles.

God makes a way out of no way.