5 Lessons From Living With Limits

89591-PH-SS-043I’m getting a graduate course in living with limits while recovering from my foot surgery. Since I can’t put any weight on my foot for six weeks and am getting around on a scooter and crutches, the lessons are varied and deep.

I’ll bet many of you know the drill. If you’ve broken a limb, had a knee replacement or been otherwise disabled, then you know the lessons appear to be mostly physical. I’ve learned to sleep propped up, with my foot elevated. I’ve had to learn to maneuver my scooter, and carry things in a tote bag I put on the handlebars, carry liquids in screwtop containers and bathe in a plastic chair in the shower with a showerhead on a hose.  My “nest” in the living room contains everything I need to keep occupied and pretty happy.

Of course there are other learnings I’ve generalized from these limitations, lessons I hope to take into my “regular life” as a lucky, normally able-bodied person:

1. We are adaptable beings! I’ve watched myself invent creative ways to get around restrictions. Like figuring out how to make chicken soup without burning or cutting myself, or falling. I want to remember how adaptable I am and approach what I used to call “problems” as a chance to be creative.

2. Time is relative. When you can’t do much and have stripped life of driving, errands, household chores, hours pass much more slowly. I want to remember this, since in my old life I kept convincing myself that rushing and pushing would somehow create more time. The opposite is actually true.

3. Slowed way down, I notice more. The land around me is even more precious than before, so I keep binoculars in my nest. Really looking and noticing wildlife is my way of traveling outside my “confinement.” I want to continue to heighten my powers of observation and seeing.

4. Dependent on others, I am full of gratitude. My husband bringing me the mail and a drink from Starbucks feels like a major event. Dear friends who call or visit are heroines. I see how much I normally take for granted, and want to remain grateful and receptive.

5. My limitations show me what is really important, and I see that all I care about is what has heart and meaning. I could watch junk TV or eat junk food, but I do almost none of this. I want to walk that path of heart and meaning and just let everything else fall away.

All these lessons are so clear and easy to take in now. The challenge will be to live them when once again, I am on the move. Why is it that we seem to need hardship to really learn? And then back in ease, we forget so easily.

A lot of that return to old habits is just that: habitual behavior. To break a habit and replace it with new behavior takes repetition, rewiring of the brain. Will this recovery period be long enough?

What are the habits that hardship has inspired you to break? What have the lessons been that have come to you when you’ve been limited?

Recalling those lessons now, how can you form a new habit, new actions that will form the life you desire? So many of the patterns we blame on the outer world are really our coopting, our trance behavior where we give up our will. We give up what we say matters, just because it’s easy and familiar.

If you could pick one habit that you think falls into this category, what would that be? And if you could pick one practice to change that habit, what could you begin doing?

For example, if you want, as I do, to choose activities that have heart and meaning, then you could begin the habit of asking yourself every time you’re choosing to watch TV or take a walk or get a snack or pick up the phone…Will this choice bring me heart and meaning?

That way, even though every life has some limits, you might just find you’re freer than you thought!

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