Acts of Bravery Week 4: Limits Should Come With Barbwire

Welcome to my weekly highlights of bravery! If you’ve landed here by mistake, maybe it’s for a reason. Maybe you should read on and start your very own act of bravery. If you’re not quite ready yet, still read on and be inspired by my own attempts at bravery (or at least laugh, cry, or cringe along with me). Hopefully, one day, these tiny steps will lead us both closer to living smack in the middle of our dreams.

img_5496The last four weeks have been brutal. Trying to adjust to a 25-hour job while maintaining life keeps me barely treading water.

Week 1, 2, and 3, I made excuses: Life is crazy right now. After (fill the blank) things will fall into a groove.

But life doesn’t stop, it always throws one more thing into the already seam-popping mix.

Week 4, I crashed.

Piles of laundry, food rotting in the refrigerator because I didn’t have time to make dinner, zero editing done on my current novel, no time for family much less friends, so overwhelmed I wanted to sit on the couch and stare into space for hours. But I didn’t have hours. I didn’t even have spare seconds.

I had to face the truth.

I failed.

I feel every ounce of that failure. Every single ounce.

With that truth another stared me in the face.

I have limits. *Insert shocked face*

It’s been a while since I overstepped my limits. In fact, I didn’t even realize I overstepped them until it was too late.

Why can’t limits come with barbwire?

Barbwire puncturing skin and snagging clothes tends to stop a person. With barbwire, there’s no chance I’d be bull-headed enough to sail past my limits until I’m in way over my head.

This week I’ve spent a lot of time thinking over what items in my life I need to cut. None of the answers are satisfactory. All of them come with sacrifices. Sacrifices I’m not sure I want to live with.

Years ago, Tim and I started making decisions using a weight system. We asked a question: Is this good or is this great? If it rated good we eliminated it to make room for the great. Problem is, I’ve already prunned everything down to the great.

I had to up my decision-making game. But how?

After a ton of internal whining and agonizing (and some not so internal), I realized I must make decisions based on my needs. If I chose robotics over writing I was making the choice to give a part of me up for my kids. What a punch in the gut.

My daughter is a freshman in high school, my son a senior. Time with them rapidly ticks away. Wouldn’t the great be to suck it up, put my book on the shelf for a while, and hang out with my family during robotics season?

No. It’s not.

It’s not even the good.

Giving up this outlet, my art, my passion, would be betraying myself on a deep, deep level. But I can still be a supportive mom and attend every competition. I can still do little projects from home. I can still be their biggest fan. I can do all of this and still write.

It makes me think. What if we need barbwire around our deepest selves, the things that make up our personhood? Not in a keep everyone out and be elusive and hard and prickly way, but in a protective way. Sometimes as moms and wives and career people, we give up what truly makes us us.

That’s tragic.

We can’t give up ourselves. If we do, what are we left with?

You have to answer that for yourself. But let me tell you what happens to me. When I don’t write, when the outlet of my art is stifled, I get edgy, discontent, overwhelmed, even sick.

Cutting out the things that bring us to life ends up turning us into miserable human beings. Bowing to the tyranny of the urgent, even to the appeal of the “good” slowly kills us.

I say discover what the truest expression of you is. What is your “great”?  What brings you to life? Put barbwire around it. Don’t be tempted to sacrifice it for anything. Protect it with your life. Because, to have yourself fully—content, thriving, ridiculously happy—is worth shedding the rest.

Are you living your truest you? If not, what does barbwire need to protect? Share with me and we can figure out this limits thing together.

*P.S. Thank you Jenna Miller, Ricky Hayes, Tim DeNecochea, Travis Martin, Deserae Dahlgren, Deb Lee, Abigail Beasley and Beth Croteau, and Janean Malloney for you magical shocked faces. I couldn’t decide between them, they all made me belly laugh. You peeps are amazing!

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