Every spring, as new life sprouts around us, I find myself measuring my little girl’s growth at the park. We bound through the gates, eager to swing and slide and run. And then I watch as her longer limbs skillfully climb higher than they even dared to climb when red and yellow leaves fell from the trees.
Our first trip to the park this year was no different. She ran at everything. That climbing wall? Let’s see if we can climb it! That twisty slide? Let’s try going down it! That big kid swing? Let’s see how high I can get all on my own!
I watched her carefully. Fearful of her new courage and scared of skinned knees and bumps on the head. As if a little bump or scratch would be worse than missing that feeling of trying and succeeding where she didn’t before.
And then I noticed.
She pushed herself to give everything a try. Monkey bars and balance beams and tall ladders leading to taller slides. But if she didn’t feel comfortable, she stopped. She backed out and ran off to the next thing.
She didn’t feel down about this. She didn’t beat herself up over it. She knew her limits. And she respected them.
I’ve long had a willful ignorance of my own limits. I tell myself that I can do anything and then I set off to prove it.
Of course, this pushing is good from time to time. And it’s what we’re all told and, often, inspired to do. Leave your comfort zone. Push yourself. Your beautiful new reality is right there, just beyond that limit.
And, of course, my willful ignorance of my limits has taken me to some amazing places. Australia and Africa and India. Motherhood. My blog and this space right here. It has introduced me to some wonderful people who have changed my life in only the best ways.
But it has also hurt. It has left me with stitches. It has left me in tears. It has left me in bed, a weeping ball of mess trying to recover lost hours of sleep.
So what do you do with that? How do you know when to push and when to feel good about trying as you just move on?
I used to think of this limit pushing as black and white. You either ignore the limits and blow right by them. Or you acknowledge them and make a cozy home on this side of uncomfortable.
But my girl has shown me the shade of grey here.
There is nothing wrong with throwing yourself at the climbing wall with all the gusto you can muster, only to say, “This isn’t for me right now,” and climbing back down the few steps you went up. There is nothing wrong with then running off to try something else. Feel good about the effort, not down about the result.
My girl has taught me, once again, that it’s ok. It’s ok to try. It’s ok to throw yourself at something and give it your all. And it’s ok to walk away, happy you tried and read for the next thing.
It’s ok to respect your limits.