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Thursday, January 2, 2014

* * limitations&maps of the self * *

Two days ago, I had my mind very gently blown when I came across this:
Limitations should not always be seen as negative constraints. They are the geography of our situation, and it is only right to take advantage of this.- Deng Ming-Dao 365 Tao

I have been, for the past month, using a self-help book called The Artist's Way It is an excellent book that helps you find your creative depths. I say "depths" to convey that it's not just a fluffy book about learning how to draw puppies realistically*. It's about finding that part of you that is creative and saying to it Hi. I respect you. Let's do this thing. ...and then actually doing this thing.

But this week, I hit a snag. Julia Cameron, a sweet but often bossy and just a tiny bit self-righteous lady, tells the reader just how many things you can get done in your life if you do not read for a week. You can, for instance: hang curtains, rearrange furniture, plant a garden, paint a shelf, cook, pay instead of procrastinate bills, go dancing.  As I read through that list, I think Well. Maybe she can do all those things. I'm pretty sure I can't.  She also makes a point of describing all the people who think that this chapter doesn't apply to them. Gulp. 

But on the same day as reading this, I ran across the above quote from Deng Ming-Dao. It made me think of why it is that I read. I have a schedule that I follow on a daily basis -- it changes from day to day, but is more or less the same. Let's say I want to work on a project. First, I figure out what the energy level of that project is. Translating Neruda poems? Low energy. I can have 30 minutes. Cleaning the kitchen? High energy. Only 10 allotted. Then I hem that project in with plenty of rest for my body and my mind. I read for 10 minutes after I've worked on my translations, and then decide if I want to continue for another 30. I read for 30 after working on the kitchen and decide if I can do another 10. Often, I make these decisions beforehand so that I don't fool myself in the moment with that sly Oh, I'm fine, I can keep going that is the origin point of every flare-up.

What do I do if I take out reading? Lay on the couch for several different 30 minute sessions? Fretting? Worrying? I already do two sessions of meditation and one session of relaxation (not to mention the multiple yoga and acupressure sessions) every day -- I spend a lot of time with my mind. Reading is a matter of pride. When I read, I am defining who I am. I am defining who I am by recognizing my limits and using them to my advantage. If I don't take moments to read, to take myself away from my pain, from my fatigue, then I lose. I lose myself in the myriad of things to do. I try to rearrange the furniture, to paint a shelf, to bake cupcakes, and I send my body into a tailspin.

My concession to Ms. Cameron is to take time off this week from social media and the internet. This is where my time gets lost. Truly, I love the ability to connect with people around the world, and adore the support for chronic illness in forums and blogs, but between Buzzfeed and reading an entire forum thread on a topic I know nothing about, I can lose three hours of my day.

I still feel just the tiniest bit guilty, like Julia is going to find out and shake her head at me. But I plan on holding my head up high, and paying attention to my own geography for once. Do yourselves a favor and take a few minutes this week to transform one of your perceived limitations into a healthy geographical boundary. How does it help you define you? Does your pain piss you off, or do you use it as a guide? Can you think of something that you can do in place of complaining for one day?

Okay, okay.

Let's be real here. We're not going to stop complaining. Um. We hurt. But, hey, maybe we can bite our collective tongues back for ten minutes and sketch a freakin' flower. Complaints may then resume. But with a freakin' flower to look at while we do it.


Happy new year, and happy mapping!

*There is nothing intrinsically wrong with drawing puppies realistically. If you can do this, I love you.


  1. I appreciate your insight and humor on this complex and often sensitive subject. I have never thought of looking at my pain as a geographical marker. I like how that sounds (certainly more positive than how I often think of it). I also haven't drawn in decades! Maybe I can draw puppies ^_^ LOL

    1. Thank you :) Please, please, please draw some puppies. Everyone will benefit!


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