JulieLeung.com: a life told in tidepools

pictures and stories from the water’s edge

JulieLeung.com: a life told in tidepools header image 2

Learning to live with limits

May 29th, 2004 · 1 Comment

This week I’ve been thinking about limits I need to set for myself. I think I like to believe I am some sort of super human. Not that I’d admit it or declare it or wear a huge “S” across my chest.

But when I look at what I’d like to accomplish in a day and the price I pay for my amibitions, I realize I’m not living in reality. It’s subtle self-deception. All illusions must come to an end, one way or another, and if I’m not careful, I’ll end up on a painful route to recovery. You can only break the rules for so long before it catches up with you…

Rod Kratochwill replied to my post on what friends are for, pointing out that it is a delicate balance, knowing how often one should call on a friend for help. I do agree that there are good reasons why AAA exists (I am a member), why there are nursing homes, and hospice, taxi cabs and restaurants. A friend could pick you up, cook you a meal, take care of you when you’re ill. But people have limits.

I know I have mine. I’d like to think I’m the kind of friend who could take care of my friends whenever they need me. But if you called me for three weeks in a row every morning at three and asked me to pick you up from the pub because your car wouldn’t start again, I’d have to tell you to call AAA instead. I’d probably reach my limits before three weeks of three am driving. I have limits because I am a human being with finite resources. I need sleep. And I also have limits because I have other commitments in my life that are priorities: my husband and children.

It’s a fine line, I feel, between thinking about your own needs and caring for someone else’s. I’m happy to pour myself out for other people. But then I find I get too tired if I put too much on my plate. I was responding to the AAA ad because I was reacting to the ad’s premise that friends are flaky. I believe we live in an era of relative affluence, where if you can hire someone to do it for you, many people will, choosing to pay money rather than ask a friend. Relationships are run by convenience. Relationships can be rare. Too often people are afraid to ask or don’t want to bother someone else. I feel that way: often I just do it myself.

In the past year, I’ve been wrestling through learning to say no to activities, things I’d like to do, things I’d like to do for others. Priorities are important. I don’t like to say no. But sometimes I need to say no. Even to a friend.

When I push myself too much, my sleep suffers. And this deprivation has a domino effect. I’m cranky. I can’t love my kids or husband as well. I often don’t have time to exercise. And I don’t eat as well as I should either.

Recently I’ve been looking myself in the eye (ha!)…I have new soft lenses that seem to be sensitive to sleep. If I don’t get enough rest at night, I can’t seem to fit the lenses into my eyes. It’s helping me live out my convictions to slow down and live within limits.

Lisa Williams described why she felt exhausted last night.

Unfortunately, the idiot lights on my dashboard say that I have to hang around and rest.

I hate hanging around and resting. I have work to do, Do You Hear?!! (shakes fist)

I too wrestle with rest. I’d rather not. Napping seems a nuisance. I’d rather get up and go! There’s always plenty to do.

But I’m realizing that I need to set my limits and live by them. I need to be disciplined and respect my body’s need for sleep.

Earlier this week, Lenn Pryor linked to a (horrifying!)Harvard Magazine article (subtitled Ancient bodies collide with modern technology to produce a flabby, disease-ridden populace) and described his own experience with the effect of stress and diet on his health. It is true that we are killing ourselves as a society. I know there are habits I need to change. It’s easy to look at what we’re not doing as a family…we’re not watching TV, we’re not going to McDonald’s, we’re not drinking soda pop etc…but I think there are things I want to change. I want to be more disciplined with my diet, exercise and sleep (as if I could single out three separate aspects of holistic living – they are interdependent.)

Funny how I need to teach myself that it’s okay to be tired. That it’s okay to take care of myself. To go to bed with a messy desk and laundry piles on the floor. To be less than whatever unattainable and impractical model I believe I should be. Through my life I’ve struggled to know what it is that I need and how to allow myself to have it – in a sense, I am learning how to love and bless myself so that I can love and bless others.

Learning to live within the limits requires letting go of all the things I think I need to do. It requires taking a realistic look at myself as a human being. As a person who needs rest and sleep. A person who needs to care for her body as well as her emotions and spirit. A person who needs to enjoy life rather than rush and race through the days. A wife and mom who can’t accomplish everything. A woman who has to choose what she wants and live by it. I can’t have it all. But I can have what is good for me and my family – and my friends too. If I’m willing to pay the price of discipline, and live within the limits.

Tags: journal

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Randy Charles Morin // May 29, 2004 at 7:35 am

    Don’t worry, your readers can see the S and it’s no silent S.