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Physical limitations

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A brick wall.
Photo by Pete Willis on Unsplash

Lately, I’ve been thinking about physical limitations. I’ve gone and tore my left meniscus, the part of our knee that cushions the bones so they don’t grind on each other. Naturally, my activities are pretty much at a standstill. It’s better now. I’m doing physiotherapy and hoping to avoid surgery. But for a couple of weeks, I couldn’t walk, and I still can’t go very far without hearing about it (in the form of my knee hurting).


It made me think about other physical limitations that I find frustrating. For instance, I often find that I can’t write fast enough to keep pace with my thoughts. It mostly happens when I do my morning pages which I do longhand with my fancy pen. I type much faster than I write, so it happens much less often when I write on the computer.


And I thought about time limitation, which I guess is the most daunting limitation. I was talking to someone about my lists and admitting that, while I generally treat them as aspirational lists that make sure I always know which book I want to read next, they sometimes cause a bit of an existential meltdown. I will never be able to read all the books on my list (currently 1,258 books) or hear all the podcasts I want to hear (242 hours and change). I will never be all I still want to be when I grow up—a woodcarver, a cellist, an astronaut, a gardener—and I sometimes feel like my time is running out. Then I remind myself that I felt the same way when I was sixteen (I vividly remember that meltdown) and that it’s ok. Not that it’s going away, this fact, but there’s nothing I can do about it.


It made me think about a parenting guide, the only one who makes sense to me, and even her not all the time. She says that kids test limits when they feel there’s room for negotiation. The example she gives is a wall: if kids run up against a wall, they don’t try to bash it, move it, or argue with it. They go around it if they can, or they play on this side of it. They only argue (or have a meltdown) if they sense that the parent (or teacher, or whoever is “the wall” at that point) isn’t entirely firm. Mind you, my kids are now testing all limits, and I won’t be surprised if they try to run through walls to see what happens. I’ve got a kit ready.


So, I’ve been trying to think about my physical limitations as the walls the universe has set me, because banging up against them had only caused me a headache. Which is what you get if you run headfirst into a wall. I try to look at my limitations as opportunities. Writing more slowly than the pace of my thoughts is an opportunity to examine my thoughts, to reflect on them. Too little time to read everything I want is an opportunity to practice asserting my preferences, even exploring them. And my knee hurting is an opportunity for me to slow down, practice being, and learn to connect to my body. I’m not saying I’ve accepted it, and everything is rainbows and unicorns. But it’s the general idea.

 

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