I’ve never been one who has a firm grip on her limits. Like the time when I went skydiving and signed up under “has experience” because that option saved fifty bucks. Or while Ian was in an induced coma in the ICU, after being told no, I snuck extra nutrition down his feeding tube while no one was watching.
Some limits can’t be ignored. And I’m discovering that to accept them, even embrace them is a game changer.
Life is a Series of Losses
I have a tennis friend who showed up to play with both knees heavily strapped. When I asked her about it, she said with a sarcastic sneer, “life is a series of losses.” What she meant was … my knees are creaky and I can no longer play two matches in the same day. But, she wasn’t wrong. In fact, her statement was profound. Life IS a series of losses.
How do you find your footing after a loss? When you realize the best is not yet to come, this side of heaven? How do you live fully knowing you have peaked, knowing you’re on the downhill slope? Or worse yet, what if some life event, an injury or an illness has increased your pace down that slope and you’re just hanging on, reacting. Sometimes, as in my case, loss happens because others depend on you and you’re limited by your responsibilities. For others, life circumstances have so changed their landscape that they’re starting over. Inevitably, whether you admit it or not, life is limited.
The Gold Medal skill of life
It makes me think of an elite athlete who is forced to retire. Depression is common. They wonder who they are without their sport to define them? Many struggle for years, to find a new identity and some never do. The real gold medal skill is to learn to enjoy and embrace the “what is”.
Is life somehow less because you have less, you can do less, you are less?
This article is for every one of us who thinks quietly, maybe even a bit regrettably, that maybe I won’t climb every mountain. But I still yearn to LIVE LIFE WELL.
Fighting the culture that says we’re limit-less
Americans have this ingrained desire to believe we’re limit-less. If you acknowledge a limit you’re a party pooper, a Debbie downer a negative Nancy. Try as we might, there are some limits that no amount of positivity can compensate for.
As I think about my new normal attempting to craft a meaningful, productive, wonderful life for myself, God has been near. Ironically, I’m learning that to accept a limitation is to invite God’s creativity. I credit Him with how He has helped me to navigate a way forward. It’s true and not just a clever saying… a new beginning starts with an ending.
I can’t take any credit for this counter-cultural way of thinking. Ian was my inspiration. This week he had a breakthrough. One I’ve been been praying for, for months. And while I’m still processing what it could mean, I can’t help but wonder why now? What has changed? This breakthrough was only possible with Ian’s acknowledgment of the “What Is.” Ian had to embrace reality and own his very significant limitations. For a brain injured 23 year old who still loses his wallet once a week, but plans to live in Brooklyn and support himself selling his art someday, this was nothing short of a miracle. Thank you God!
Nurturing an Artist
Since 2015 Ian has had a relationship with an organization called Abilities United, in Palo Alto California. This fantastic program provides a platform for artists with limitations. Abilities United sponsored Ian to display his work at the San Jose children’s museum, his first solo art show in 2015. It was that vote of confidence that gave Ian the gumption to pursue an art exhibit locally. And to compete with able bodied artists.
The VSA Art Center
Ian’s recent experience with his exhibit, “People Watching” at Harwood has been so affirming, he continues to ride its wave. While his passion for painting portraits continues, I’ve explored other outlets, to find something else for him to work towards. Advised by the program director of Abilities United, Ian contacted VSA North Fourth Art Center right here in Albuquerque. This organization, currently bulging with participation serving very special artists (VSA), was eager to meet with Ian to show him around their facility.
I was nervous and didn’t know what to expect. The VSA Art Center is a special place. Many of the participants were in wheel chairs with a range of disabilities that run the gamut. I wasn’t sure how Ian would react. Would he identify with them? Would he empathize with them? Would he freak out and conclude I’m not that bad get me out of here?
What I witnessed was astounding. Ian could not have been any more comfortable. Fist bumping the paraplegic, praising the autistic kid, and dropping to his knees to join the ten year old girl who was preoccupied with a bug on the floor. A 30 something woman, Brenda who wore a bib to catch her constant drool, approached Ian and asked him if his shoes (white Stan Smith tennis shoes) were for scuba diving. Without skipping a beat, Ian said… “hmmm I don’t know. I’ve never tried them to scuba dive.” She giggled with delight. And then Ian said… “what about your shoes? (leather sandals) Are they for scuba diving?” Brenda responded… “You are so funny. You are so funny. I like you. You are so funny.”
The director, excited about Ian’s obvious connection with the students, is eager to find a place for Ian to become more involved at VSA arts. Walking to the car Ian said, “I can see it. Someday, I’d like to be a full time teacher here. They would like me and everyone deserves to enjoy art.” I quickly put on my sunglasses to hide my wet eyes. Breakthrough indeed!
I repeat…. Is life somehow less because you have less, you can do less, you are less?
God’s Creative Solution
I believe what I witnessed was a God ordained work-around. Ian embraced his reality and when he did he could “see” a way forward. Perhaps, God has been working on Ian’s behalf the whole time — making a way in the wilderness. It really is true… God makes a way where there is no way.
Isaiah 43:16-19. I love this passage. God is powerful and creative. When we offer him our limitations, He uses them to make something new.
16 I am the Lord, who opened a way through the waters,
making a dry path through the sea.
17 I called forth the mighty army of Egypt
with all its chariots and horses.
I drew them beneath the waves, and they drowned,
their lives snuffed out like a smoldering candlewick.
18 “But forget all that—
it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.
19 For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
“This… I can work with!” God
The way I see it, when you embrace your limitations even offering them to God, you release His input, His direction and His creativity. It’s as if God says… “yes, thank you. THIS (limitation, loss, failure, dead dream) I can work with!” With your eyes now fully open, you discover His pathway through the wilderness. And… this new way that may look somehow less, in God’s economy is actually MORE.