I have written before on such themes as gifts, bucket lists, and so on, the importance of which I cannot stress. However, realistically in developing gifts or pursuing goals we likely will face limitations. The obvious one is money but there are others.
When I was 16, among other things I wanted to become a professional baseball player. As time passed, though, it became clear that I was limited by average ability and did not have the financial wherewithal to go to baseball camps to build on my skills. So I didn’t pursue it. Similarly, I did play basketball but again faced some limitations in terms of skill and, eventually, size.
The God of my understanding does indeed bless us with gifts but as St. Paul notes, not all of us have every gift. I stand in wonder when I hear my daughter play her French horn or watch my wife perform on stage. Those are not my gifts and I have to accept that.
And yet….and yet. How often to I allow fear to present itself as apparent limitations? I diddled around for some years with my writing, fearing that I lacked that gift and wasting time in the process. I put off certain goals, believing that limitations would prevent me from pursuing them. Thus, for example, I waited until I was 51 to run my first marathon, deciding that age was NOT a limitation.
There is a tension between the poles of being a realist and being a dreamer. Some of us tend toward the dreamer side, pursuing goals that are out of reach and hurting others in the process. Others of us tend toward realism and take no risks, defining ourselves in terms of limitations.
I would invite you then to take inventory of yourself in terms of this tension between realism and dreaming and see where you fall. And as you consider possible limits, allow yourself to be challenged by Alexey Romanov.
The tension between dreaming and realism can be a slippery slope. The major obstacle is the human ego which almost immediately fills with hubris, particularly in a “can do” culture that tells us that in America “anything is possible,” and “if you try hard enough, you can.” While I heartily support dreaming and reaching for the stars, I have also experienced that I have certain limitations, some of which I was born with and some of which come from my upbringing. There are many things I wanted to do in my life, like travel much more, but I didn’t and probably won’t be able to do as much as I would like. My spiritual work, I believe, is to passionately pursue the work I came here to do and be open to doing things I never dreamed possible, and at the same time accept my limitations. Rumi said, “When I run after what I think I want, my days are a furnace of distress and anxiety; If I sit in my own place of patience, what I need flows to me, And without any pain.”
Once when I was in my formative years, you, Dr. Patterson, told me that we are limited in the ways that we have been hurt. I have found that to be true. I also agree that fear is a BIG limitation and one that nearly prevented me from becoming a parent. I am not so sure that money is as limiting as it seems to be. I live in a very wealthy community although I myself am not. What I have noticed is that wealth can provide opportunities and help to overcome limitations, but it cannot provide meaning. Only the self can do that. The self must be continually re-created, renewed and sometimes overcome. One psychologist told me that it is sometimes easier to overcome external obstacles than to overcome one’s self.
P.S. Limitations can also be strengths, as paradoxical as it seems. My PTSD is a limitation because of the insomnia and anxiety which impedes me BUT surviving it has also taught me how to “pop smoke” and elude the enemy.
P.P.S. A Catholic nun told me that after we die, the question that God will ask us is not, “How many mistakes did you make?” but “What did you do with your gifts and talents?”. The fundamental question is not how talented one is but who is helped by one’s talents.