Asking the question: What are my limits?

I needed to run hard. The heavy breathing, maybe dry heaving kind of hard. The kind of hard running you do when you’re trying to run away from yourself. It makes you run even harder because, well, you can never run away from yourself. I didn’t wear a Garmin. Didn’t plot my course. It wasn’t about how fast or how far I ran. For 40 minutes, I wanted to empty myself. The universe seems to have me confused with someone else these days — some who is much stronger and braver and focused and confident. Why else would the universe send a bunch of crappy life events my way? Seriously dude. I think you have the wrong address.

I am not a violent person, but a nice face-push back to the universe would be wholly satisfying at the moment. Instead, I am surrendering to the healing powers of Nutella and training and decided to pound the pavement with my best, most torrid, most focused 40-minute run ever. While letting thoughts come and go during the run, the idea of limits floated through my brain. And to cut to the chase, I realized that I was the one who was creating limits for myself. I had been doing this since I can remember. No wonder it took me so long to realize it. When you’ve been doing something, believing something, for so long the habit fades into the every day. You forget that you can actually change the habit, change the story. And it turns out I have lots of stories about my own limits.

We’ve all seen the motivational posters with pretty pictures illustrating a meaningful quote imploring us to forget our limitations. On an intellectual I always got that. But on this particular run it became more than a motivational saying. It wasn’t just a tool in my head. This idea of limits, and how I’ve created them for myself, had settled into my heart. This was where I needed to look. This is where I needed to start asking questions. This is where I was going to heal.

I put limits on myself all the freaking time. I decide what I think is possible for me.  I compare myself to other women, other athletes, other writers and make up stories about what I think that means. Those stories are limiting. What is possible? No really, what is truly possible? Where else have I created limits for myself? Where else have I decided there is only one right way to be? One right thing to say? One right way to look?

There’s a terrific podcast in the NPR family called Radio Lab. My sister-in-law turned me onto it when she encouraged me to listen to the episode Limits. The program explored human limits of both the mind and body, staring with Ironman competitors Julie Moss and Wendy Ingraham. I thought of that podcast as my run continued. Because what were my limits? Where could I push my limits? How can I change the way I think about limits? How can I take limits off myself? It doesn’t necessarily matter what the answers are. It’s sitting with the questions which changes my perspective, create new opportunities and allow me to make friends again with the universe.

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