Truth: I’m practically bald, I’m vertically challenged, and I can gain an inch around my waist just by looking at a bag of chips.
But one thing’s for sure: I am blessed with a hardy body.
Which doesn’t sound as fun as being tall, lean and having great hair. But! I have ZERO allergies (I’m talkin’ no food, seasonal, animal, or medicinal sensitivities), no medical issues, and nothing can shake up my stomach or sleep patterns.
I am a rock. My body is steady, predictable and reliable. It never fails me.
But there comes a time in everyone’s life when your body cannot do what you need it to do. It rebels, refuses to take orders, fails to perform the way it used to, or simply can’t keep up with the energy of your spirit and grit of your mind.
And for the first time in my life, I understand what it means to have limits.
Despite my pregnancy being a relative walk in the park, I must admit that carrying a basketball under my shirt is really starting to affect my daily life.
Here’s what I see when I look down at my toes:
But the tragedy of having limits on your body is coupled with unexpected beauty of the spirit, unveiled by your need to improvise, strategize, ask for help, and listen to what physical pain is telling you.
It is truly humbling.
Whether you’ve got a diagnosis of some kind, or you’re aging, or you’re terribly out of shape, or were born with physical handicaps, it is likely that you have an appreciation for small things that most others take for granted.
When Other People’s Physical Limits Test Your Compassion
Since my family is just as hardy as I am, I’ve never had to accommodate anyone’s special needs. My husband Brian was the first person in my life to have physical limits. (He is like an infant in need of very specific foods and activities at very specific times. If you change anything in his schedule, it affects his sleeping and his stomach for a week.) Down the road, my siblings and I brought in-laws and significant others into our growing family, some of whom struggle with constant pain and discomfort due to their various diagnoses.
I have had to learn compassion…and fess up to the fact that maybe I’m not always as compassionate as I think I am.
Having come from a place of ignorance, a family with excellent health, and a general household culture of not voicing any complaints, I wasn’t used to hearing people talk about their physical pain, set limits, and request special accomodations. So I had to check myself for impatient and judgmental thoughts– the hallmarks of ignorance and lack of exposure to those who are different from yourself.
I’ve also come to learn that some people have physical needs and limits but go out of their way to downplay them in the company of others so as not to inconvenience the group, while other people have demanding emotional needs as a result of their physical limits, and are not shy about voicing them. It has taken time for me to learn how to love each person properly, the way they need me to.
If you love someone with limits and needs, you develop a new kind of compassion and patience. When you focus on needs beyond just your own, you learn a new expression of love.
The Tables Have Turned
Since becoming pregnant, I literally start bleeding (down there!) if I lift weights, carry groceries, or exert energy. I have to ask for help, explain my limits, and say no to things. I constantly wonder if I appear wimpy, whiny, or helpless to others.
Since Brian comes from a family with various medical conditions, he has nothing but compassion for people who require special accommodations. He takes very good care of me, never losing patience, never accusing me of being whiny. The health-related hardships that have plagued him and his family have made him the empathetic person he is today.
I can’t say that having extreme physical limits is something I’d sign up to have in exchange for greater inner beauty. But for those who have no choice but to make this exchange, and for those who take care of these individuals, I salute you! There is nothing more inspiring than being in the presence of beauty born from pain.