Aspirations and Limitations

Aspirations and Limitations

My first aspiration when I fractured my shoulder at the beginning of December was to not be in pain; my second aspiration was to take enough pain meds to sleep through the night but not too much that would make me vomit.  A delicate dance.

My aspirations progressed as my rehab progressed – to be able to open my mailbox myself or pick up my cats. Progress has been steady and the gratitude for my recovery runs deep.  I can once again take a hot shower and pick up my breakfast plate with two hands.

Limitations remain. I can’t yet drive again, though I am optimistic.  I can’t yet carry a bag of groceries with my weakened left arm, though I look forward to that soon.

Looking forward is one way we cope with troubles and setbacks. Indeed, re-opening to future possibilities and new horizons is an essential part of recovering from loss and trauma. The dance between aspirations and limitations in the process of learning from AFGO’s – another frickin’ growth opportunity – is one I’ve become more and more intrigued with, as it becomes more and more a part of my daily experience and very visible everywhere as people move from the disappointments and even disasters of 2020 into the aspirations and realistic hopes for 2021. 

As a health care worker, I received my first coronavirus vaccine last week, but it may be months before it would be safe for me to work with patients in person again. I hope to celebrate my sister-in-law’s birthday at her favorite restaurant this spring, but other favorite restaurants have closed forever. I hope to swim my ½ miles of laps in the outdoor pool again by summer, but I may never have the strength in my shoulder to brave ocean waves again. I aspire to teach experiential workshops on resilience in person again by next fall, but many highly respected venues that have offered in person trainings for decades currently remain shut down. 

I explore this dance between aspirations and limitations, personally and collectively, more fully in the upcoming online course Transforming Any Adversity into Learning and Growth.  (The deadline to register is tonight.)

One of the practices I’ll be exploring is Saying Yes to Saying No (or saying yes to not yet.)  When accepting limitations is our wisest aspiration.

So many of our assumptions about being resilient rest on the premise that doing something is better than doing nothing.  That we “should” muster our courage to push forward and do something difficult with determination and perseverance – I often teach that and that can be very true.  But often the wisest course of action is pausing to discern what is truly wisest – for our core values, for our personal integrity, for which inner strengths we want to develop.

And sometimes saying yes to saying no is what is truly wise.

Saying no to medical school to pursue a career as a musician. Leaving a career as a lawyer to volunteer for an NGO providing safe water to drink in an undeveloped country. Saying no to marrying the picture-perfect spouse everyone else approves and risking following our heart on someone still evolving and growing. 

I’m a work in progress with this practice myself. Stay tuned. (Or consider joining the online Transforming Adversity into Learning and Growth course to explore together.)