Einstein said, “Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.” I won’t boast to think that I know what precise meaning he attached to these words, but I can discuss what it means to me.
In social media, I use the hashtag #NoLimits a lot. It is meaningful after being told what my limitations were and what I could no longer do after certain injuries and health conditions entered the picture. My friends and close followers have seen me throw down in more than one social media scrap over this topic too, and probably more of them in recent months. As I continue to claw my way back into capabilities and strengths, I find it an even greater offense for anyone to try to put us “defectives” in a closed box. (Please don’t get mad at me for using the word “defective” here and there… it’s a reference to the physical malfunctions we face, and a commentary on how society views us. I honestly do feel like I was dealt the hand of a defective body and it’s just my path to figure out how to use it properly.)
“If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”
Thank you, Bruce Lee. I believe in going beyond. What I think is this… that acceptance that Einstein was referring to is an acceptance of our human frailty, our failings, our damage, our pain, and our fear. Embracing that something is difficult, possibly terrifying, or could physically stop us in our tracks, gives us the ability to.. be like water, again. We place incredible pressure on ourselves to perform, to outperform, to live up to the expectations of others, and for someone that is disabled that type of comparison can shake even the most solid of confidences if you let it in. What are we really trying to accomplish though? To keep up with someone else means to try to match their personal gifts and capabilities, and that doesn’t always work out so well. I really want to be a better version of myself each day. I just won’t set a limit until I’m there. Living with a disease that breaks down muscle, attacks otherwise healthy organs and systems, wreaks havoc neurologically, and makes the most benign of environments literally dangerous for us, Lupus patients constantly feel like their day involves climbing a mountain. Then a few of us have enough screws loose to actually go do that. Exhibit A, my friend Lisa. I can crack wise with her because I do the same things. 😉 She’s many strides ahead of me right now but I’m catching up. I think she’s a rock star and I am overjoyed to be able to call her my Friend. When you’re the only one doing a thing that everyone says you shouldn’t or can’t, it gets a little lonely.. and dicey sometimes. I’ve been told I am everything from dreamy, and “frickin awesome” to nuts, and off my dot. I’ll accept all of the above, because there is probably some amount of truth in anything a person could say. I’m not trying to be “normal” anyway. Lisa is testing her “limits” the same as I am and she has proven to be formidable. She not only knows that she has every right to take back some quality of life and put herself out there, but she knows how to temper her actions with good choices. She recently summited Mt. Baldy – totally awesome. I love these photos from her even more recent trip to Mt. Whitney, where she kicked ass as far as I’m concerned. She made it to Trail Crest and said this is where I turn around. Not summiting is not a failure when it’s something that massive and you have accomplished that much. This is one of the harshest environments to put a Lupie into… heat, wind, sun, physical stress, altitude… ! I have to laugh. We do look insane. It’s about taking life by the throat when it doesn’t cooperate. Sometimes you just have to. That’s some serious grit.
There are also the moments when you feel like you are spent, you embrace that (acceptance), and find it in yourself to do a little more (beyond).
Just make good choices. That’s where the “limit” is – wherever you set it. So I’m using this new hashtag as well… #NoLimitsButKnowLimits. I’m saying don’t let your circumstances, other people, your ailments, disability, or fear dictate whether you set your foot on any particular path. Do not let the typical concerns tell you that you cannot do something. Your body will let you know when it is wise to slow down, take a break, change your path, or call something off for the moment. It is a choice, truly. Accepting temporary pain and recovery – stellar. Pushing till you are damaged, not so much. I want to see more of my friends step out and get the experiences they feel have been taken away, but be smart about it. I am still learning to pace myself. Finding that edge… and pushing just a little past it to advance myself is the hardest thing I’ve had to figure out. What’s calling it too short? What’s going too far? Sometimes I have to do something that I know will probably hurt, just to find out what it’s like and weigh the results. So yeah.. maybe I’m a little off my dot. Remember, I was also learning 16th century European fencing with a shinai (took a hiatus when I had to have shoulder surgeries). So I’m used to hitting people and getting hit with heavy bamboo sticks for fun. Without protective gear. I’ve had the fat lip, bruised shins, and black eye to prove it too. Not everyone’s cup of tea. 😉
I have used the tagline for many years “I only LOOK cute and fluffy” for a reason. It is my bodily health that has betrayed me, not my mind.. not my soul… not who I am. My body I can retrain. I am getting there. The difference between now and 20 to 30 yrs ago is that I have more life experience on how to stay disciplined and on track. It is simply more important to me now than it was then. Those few that saw me at my low point, and at my least capable, will be the ones to understand best just how hard I have had to work. To those friends that are on a similar path, I see you. I see your incredible determination, and your struggle. I also see your successes. Keep making good choices. Keep going beyond.