Tuesday's Attention #7
Limitations Leaving More Room for Love
Limitations Leaving More Room for Love
In February of 2021, a woman who I had recently been getting to know reached out to encourage me. I was struggling after my 6th month of teaching from my attic and felt like I wasn’t able to do all that I used to be able to do. Her encouragement was not what I was expecting. She shared with me a bit about the beauty in our limitations. She shared that there, in the place of awareness of how limited I was, I could see my need and reach out for support. Then, in that place of receiving support, I could experience a beautiful element of community. I had never thought of my limitations as something that could be beautiful until then. After that, I felt a bit more free to not be okay and more empowered to reach out to others for support. Little did I know, a month or so later I’d enter into a year of needing others more than ever before.
This year has been a wrestle with my pride and with my limitations. Generally, when we are aware of and/or confronted with our limitations, we are prone to frustrations. Why can’t we be better? Why can’t we do x, y, and z? Why can they do what I can’t? Or, maybe you are like me and you are in a season where you can no longer do what you once could. Anger and frustration are normal emotions here.
It’s hard to be in need.
Yet, we all are.
This past week, I started spending three days in the week with a sweet 3 month old baby. She’s so limited and so in need. While I am with her, I pay close attention to what those limitations and needs are in order to be responsive to them. It is a beautiful joy to do so. She’s too young to be stubborn like me to resist the care and support people in her life want to give. She receives what she needs in order to make it through each day. It is a beautiful thing to witness as she goes from crying to content.
As we grow up, we grow into more self-efficiency, more autonomy, and also more responsibility. It’s not that we need less, we are just able to meet more of our own needs. However, contrary to what we may want/think at times, we are unable to meet all of our needs on our own. We were created for others. We were created to be in need. It is in our limitations and in our need where we are able to receive what I’d argue is the greatest gift of all: love.
Sometimes it takes us being back in a deeply vulnerable place to be reminded that it is okay to need others and to receive love that is given. I continue to quote Suleika Jauoad because her words are resonating most deeply with me in this season. Last week, she wrote at the beginning of her newsletter, “why is it that we have such an easier time summoning love, expressing love, and receiving love when we’re facing a heightened sense of mortality— an awareness of our finitude, our impermanence?” I am asking myself that question a lot these days. I think, in many ways, when we are deep in our limitations or our finiteness, we recognize how powerful love is to lift us. For almost a year now, I have felt like the paralytic being carried by my friends and family before my Healer. When I let my pride fall and actually allow others to carry me in love, I become unstuck. I can move a whole lot further with them than I could laying on a mat. I am not as limited when I am connected to community. And, in that place of being carried, I am awestruck by the depth of love.
It has taken me a long time to learn this, but it is far greater to receive love and care than to resist receiving. We are each on our journey back to learning how to be like a child in so many ways and learning how to be within our limits and needs, I believe, is one of the biggest ways.
As I write this to finish it up, it is 10pm the night before releasing this. I’m currently up close and personal with my limitations. Writing has been hard for me these past few weeks. The noise of life has been so loud that my writing voice has been quiet. I am working my way through the noise and in the process, words feel difficult. A lot of things in life feel difficult right now and it has taken holding a 3 month old baby for me to return back to a place of grace with myself and honesty with those around me. I am reminding myself that it is here, in my limitations, where there is more room for love. There is both more room for me to receive love and also to extend it to others. As I am more aware of just how human I am, I am reminded of how we each are doing our best with what we have. And, I am reminded that, together we are always better. We do not have to walk through our limitations alone.
Words that have been sticking with me:
Mary Oliver’s poem, “Wild Geese” is one I return back to frequently. This week has been one of those weeks where I have carried the book Devotions with me to be reminded of the gift of attention and poetry. I’ve reread this poem below a whole lot in the process of flipping back through Devotions.
“You do not have to be good
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert repenting
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
Love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
Are moving across the landscapes,
Over the prairies and the deep trees,
The mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air
Are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
The world offers itself to your imagination,
Calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—
Over and over accounting your place
In the family of things.”
This poem speaks for itself. She touches on our limitations in a way where we are reminded to just allow ourselves to be. She also reminds us of where our limits no longer exist— within our imagination. It is in nature, surrounded by other beings and the beauty and messiness of life where we are reminded that we are not alone in the struggles we face. We are a part of the family of things— both limited and lovely and always learning and growing.
List of Attention:
The tenderness in a being falling asleep (especially a baby or a dog)
How amazing an alexandrina saucer magnolia flower is and how they bloom so early on (it gets me so excited for spring)
How tiny sweets are just more fun
The magic of music
The joy of water coloring
How nourishing cooking a meal with a friend can be
How precious it is watching a baby begin to learn how to laugh
How impactful being a part of a team can be
At the end of every newsletter, I want to leave you all with some questions/prompts to think on. My hope is that these can encourage you in some form or fashion. Whether it is through just taking some time to think through them, to write about that, or to talk through them with a loved one. If you ever want a friend to hear your thoughts, feel free to share them back with me! I always love to read and to listen.
This week I decided to limit each question/prompt to one per section so it doesn’t feel as overwhelming choosing between them all. I hope this feels helpful. I’d love your feedback on whether or not you prefer three questions/prompts per section or one.
Where have you experienced love in your limitations? You can make a list or write about a specific time or talk with a friend about your answer!
Creative Prompts/Celebration Tasks:
Write a poem about limitations. In your writing process, limit yourself in some way. Maybe you follow a strict form or create specific rules your poem has to follow. See how it stretches and maybe even nourishes your creativity.
One Word Prompts:
Write a letter to a specific limitation of yours that you have been struggling with. Be curious about it and be soft with yourself!
In your weeks ahead, I hope you are soft with yourself. I hope you feel less alone and connected to others through love. I hope you find a sense of freedom in your limitations and that you are able to release the pressures off of yourself to be more and/or to do more. And I hope you see that, as Mary Oliver said, “the world offers itself to your imagination”. Let your imagination and creativity carry you where your limitations cannot.
As you carry on into this week, may your days ahead be filled with words that encourage you, laughter that heals you, and moments of beauty that pull your attention in and bring you to slow down.
May you know that you, yourself, are worth paying attention to.
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Thank you all for continuing to read my words. It is a joy to share this space with you all.