Would you like summer to go on forever?
Here in the northern hemisphere the days are rapidly shortening. Trees are beginning to shed leaves, and the garden is almost done with its bounty.
I chafe against the limitations of the season, and I think about all the other limitations that I have bumped up against in the past few months.
It is not something that our culture encourages us to think about: what we can’t have, what we are not able to do, the restrictions – chosen or unbidden- on our dreams and hopes.
How do we live in a life and a world where there are limits to our horizons? Where what we plan for may not come to pass, and our bodies or our relationships, or even our own stamina may not support our endeavors?
A client of mine came to a painful decision last month. He has been working on a dream for over ten years. He devoted a great deal of money, effort and years of his life to pursue a kind of training that he felt held a measure of success and meaning for his life. He had built his identity around the dream – and a lot of our time together was devoted to helping him strategize and stay focused. Yet last month he came to the conclusion that this dream was not for him. He saw his own limitations of energy and time, and felt the pull of other commitments and opportunities. I felt such regret with him, and I celebrated his courage and clear sightedness.
Living with chronic illness is a fast track way to look at limitation every day – or maybe several times a day. The life you have is not the life you planned, or even wanted. What helps us live with these realities?
The present moment.
So much of what we experience as a limitation has to do with our plans for the future, or our ideas about what should be. When you are feeling disappointed or discouraged by what does not seem possible, take a breath, and come to the moment. Feel the spaciousness of what you have. Even in a deeply painful time, there are breaths or tiny spaces where there is no pain. Allow yourself to feel those.
Gratitude for what is.
In her book, Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh writes about the intermittency of human life. “We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return…”
Gratitude helps us accept the ebbs, because we can see that we have received before and so we know that we will again. Gratitude nurtures our hope in times of scarcity. It nourishes our spirits even when we are facing endings and closed doors.
Maybe the most difficult word of all – maybe even more difficult than limitation. Surrender has the connotation of defeat, giving up or giving in.
But the real potential in surrender is to recognize the power of acceptance. It is a strong choice to look at what is and not flinch, but allow it to be. The body that can’t bend easily can house a spirit that is flexible. Surrender means to move with the rhythm of not being in control, but recognizing a greater flow.
There is no easy way to live with limitation – it requires thoughtfulness and practice. But wherever we practice, the lessons move from one part of our lives into all of life.