Know (and be grateful for) your Limits

ear Miracles: This from Wendell Berry: “Unlimited Economic Growth. This is the pet idea of the Party of Hardheaded Realists. That unlimited growth can be accomplished with limited materials and limited intelligence, only shows the unlimited courage and self-confidence of these Great Minds. That unlimited economic growth implies unlimited consumption, which in turn implies unlimited pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth, only makes the prospect even more unlimited.” Wendell Berry from Sex, Economy, Freedom, & Community

My petition for today:

May we all be limited. May we know our limitations and be grateful for them, for they are the boundaries which keep us honest, impeccable, and full of integrity-in our work, our lives, our relationships, and our hearts.

True confession: Being a mom and running your own amazing company is hard work. Being a mom is hard. Running a company is hard. Doing both…hard! Also, awesome, beautiful, blessed-absolutely yes, but sometimes on the interweb I think the beauty can be overemphasized and the difficulties minimized. I am ridiculously blessed to be able to work from home, bring in great money, and be with my 18 month old joy and light, of that there is no question.

But it is also a challenge. Like when I look on various social networking sites and see that my colleagues can be so much more active-because their early mornings and late evenings are not monopolized by baby stuff, or when I know that I could grow my business even bigger, faster, more profitably if I did not have to allocate so much time a day to, you know, rearing a child. 

Snatching moments when they appear, noticing that many of the wonderful women who preach and teach about marketing, business savvy, and all the rest don’t have children, returning to blog posts after being interrupted for feeding, napping, diaper changing-whatever-and struggling to pick up the thread of thought like so many bristle blocks on the living room floor. Epiphanies happen on the walk to baby day at the library, in the pediatrician’s office, projects of power and prosperity are dreamed up while taking out the diaper trash and can’t be written down until the wee hours of morning when everyone is finally, hopefully, asleep.

But having a business, a child, a thriving family simply accentuates something that we all-men, women, moms or not have to deal with — limitations. My time is limited-having a baby just makes it more clear-but it was true before and it will be true once he is, God willing, all grown up. My energy is limited-again-always has been, always will be. What I know is that these limits are not something to be overcome, transcended, broken through-they are present in my life as reminders that there are natural limits all the time. No one eco-system can support all forms of life.  Trees, plants, animals, water sources-typically grow within a limited space with limited food supply and limited support-this is a healthy ethic. When they are unbounded or unlimited they choke out other species, the flood, they catch fire.

Growing monocultures like corn year after year, season after season is an example of unlimited growth-and you know what? It kills. It kills the soil, it kills diversity, it kills the life of a small farm and the small scale economy that is natural and needed for the farm to survive. Unlimited growth is seen in corporations-that pollute, deceive, and concern themselves only with the bottom line. Unlimited growth might mean I make more money, have more clients, get to spend time on this social media place or that-but it doesn’t make my life better-it doesn’t make me a better person, it certainly doesn’t make me a better mother, and I know its not good for business either.

We don’t like thinking about our limits. Listen to our political discourse and you know its true-unlimited money, unlimited health care, unlimited military spending, unlimited education, unlimited war mongering, unlimited jobs and on, and on-both sides—we like expansiveness, we have a can-do attitude, where there’s a will there’s a way and if that road is closed we will just make a new one. I think some of this is good-it comes out of our Democratic belief that circumstance should not be a limiting factor on who you can be and what you can achieve, all minority groups have benefited from it in part and we have collectively accomplished great things.

But when we look to nature we see limits-and we may find how richly life thrives when limits are embraced and accepted. We spend so much time wanting to grow, develop, progress, make more, do more, see more that we forget to stand strongly where we are right now in this moment, after all, it could be our last. That’s the ultimate limit-Death-and what a sorry day it will be if we ever overcome it-for its presence is what makes life blessed and precious-it is by knowing intimately our limits that we find true expansion, good work, shining presence.


May we all be limited. May we know our limitations and be grateful for them, for they are the boundaries which keep us honest, impeccable, and full of integrity-in our work, our lives, our relationships, and our hearts.

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