Limits

I’m on a pretty serious struggle bus these days. Trying to juggle prep and grading for my summer course, keep up with coaching work, read and study for exams, plus all my dearly beloved side projects, on top of meal planning and cooking, keeping up with my exercise routine, and, oh, spending time with people I love, is getting to be a little much. Most afternoons, I want to collapse in a heap on my bed and pull the covers over my head in glorious oblivion.

The kicker is that all these obligations are projects I willingly took on. They’re all things I want to be doing from the bottom of my heart – some more than others, perhaps.

When I read Jennifer’s post this week, something clicked for me. Whenever I face my endless task list and feel dread and heaviness settling on top of me, I become resentful. Resentful that I am not a machine. That I can’t work for eight hours straight. That some days I feel like fiddling with a project that’s not high on the priority list.

When she writes that taking time for self-care can be a struggle because it means being honest about our limitations, she drives the dagger straight into my chest. This is precisely my problem and it generally always has been.

I don’t want to admit out loud, to myself, that I have limitations. That I need constant recharging. That I get tired, mentally and physically. I want to be able to do it all, without a struggle. I don’t want to admit that I need help. I expect a life where I have everything under control.

Such a life might be possible if I had fewer things I cared about. But there’s just so much I’m invested in. I can’t find more than two things on my list of commitments that I would happily give up. So reducing tasks isn’t really the best option for me.

But you know what is? Claiming my weakness. Claiming my fallibility. Claiming my need to rest and recharge, even if it means that such-and-such doesn’t get done as quickly as I want it to.

Openly and compassionately admitting limitation to myself isn’t going to happen overnight. But when I’m trying to do so much, the best I can do is practice being kind to myself. I can ask for help. I can have an honest conversation with my partner about my fears and hopes.

Being kind to myself also means that I stop measuring my success by what got checked off the to-do list today and start measuring it by what I did that refueled me. When I am able to cook a good dinner, or go for a run in the sunlight, or read for fun, or watch a movie in the evening, I know that I am better able to revisit the to-do list the next day. Even if there’s an new element of stress because I’ve put something off a bit longer, I can work on that.

I believe that we all have endless potential, but I also believe we are limited in various ways. If I can recognize my limitations and honor them, I can be better to myself and everyone around me. I can stop setting unreasonable expectations for myself and take a look at who I really am, what I need, and what I want.

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