I’ve never been big on inspirational sayings, Like Reach for the Stars or Believe in Your Dreams.
If I designed an inspirational poster, it would feature a unicorn in black leather with an eye patch standing in a hurricane with the caption:
Suck it up. Stop Whining. Try harder.
Mary Englebrecht I am not.
Now, if you’re training to be a Navy Seal, or climb Mt. Everest, a motto like this might be helpful. But I’ve finally realized that as a life philosophy, this a flawed and unhelpful way to look at the world.
Why? Because we all have limitations.
Last year I picked A Word for the Year, as so many of my writer friends do. But by February I’d forgotten it.
This year however, my word sits in a frame in my office where I am forced to look at it every day. That word is:
P A T I E N C E
I have only a nodding acquaintance with patience. We are not close. If patience were calories, I’d be a size 00 petite.
This lack of patience impacts the way I look at my limitations. I don’t have any patience for my limitations, and deep inside I think of them as excuses. I refuse to admit that my limitations are real and valid.
But a few months ago, I took a wonderful online class on productivity and it changed my perspective on limitations.
I realized that being frustrated by my limitations is like being frustrated that I haven’t won the lottery. Or that I can’t sing like Beyoncé. My limitations are REAL and refusing to accept them just makes me frustrated with a universe I can’t change or control.
So, this year instead of raging against my limitations, I’m going to try and ACCEPT them. Radical, right?
In that productivity class, I saw many authors who struggle with eliminating distractions to get words on the page.
My struggle is different. I have no trouble starting. My problem is stopping. Writing is the thing that distracts me from doing all the other things I should be doing.
Like, you know, feeding my children. And taking them to school and bringing them home again.
It drives me nuts to get into that beautiful, magical zone where the words are flowing, and I’m fully immersed in a world I’ve created and then…Alexa reminds me that it’s time to take someone to the orthodontist.
I love my children, but they are a limitation. And I need to accept that. Instead, I’m constantly looking for ways to squeeze more writing time into my day. Get up earlier, stay up later, don’t eat lunch.
But the reality is that I’m already up early. I’m already making maximum use of the time I have available to write.
I don’t think it’s enough time. But guess what? My time is LIMITED, and I have to accept that, instead of raging against the clock.
I need to remind myself that EVERY WRITER has limitations. The universe hasn’t singled me out for some unique form of torture. Some writers have health issues, or financial burdens, or loved ones who need far more care than my three healthy children.
My limitations are blessings. If I didn’t have them, I wouldn’t be a mother or a wife or a daughter or a friend. I wouldn’t live in a community filled with people and activities where everyone pitches in to coach or organize or chaperone as their time and talents allow. In other words, my limitations are the direct result of a full and happy existence.
It’s time to stop resenting the many blessings that make me a multi-dimensional person with an interesting life. It’s time to approach my limitations with patience and gratitude. It’s time to learn how to love my limitations.
Christine Gunderson is a former television anchor and former House and Senate aide who lives outside of Washington, D.C. with her husband, children and Star, the Wonder Dog. When not writing, she’s sailing, playing Star Wars trivia, re-reading Persuasion or unloading the dishwasher.