THE LIE OF THE LIMITLESS PHILOSOPHY — AND WHY LIMITS ARE ACTUALLY A GOOD THING

Whether you prefer to use the term pessimist, realist or glass-half-empty, it amounts to the same thing: I see the world as it is. Perhaps it’s because I’ve grown up disabled, and been subjected to my fair share of pitying stares, condescending questions and ableist attitudes which have made me rather cynical. Or maybe it’s the handful of other trials I’ve faced that have shown me time and time again that life is, and will always be, a challenge.

This isn’t to say that I don’t dream, or have aspirations of greatness or ambition to reach high and achieve. Anyone who knows me in my personal life can tell you so. But I am, and will always be, a realist.

And as a realist, I must make a declaration, or a confession if you will, and one that I rarely hear uttered in the blind community. Pardon me while I take a deep breath.

There Is No Such Thing as Being Limitless

Well, have I done it? Have I just made myself enemies in the very community in which I’ve thrown so much of my time, passion and words into? Maybe, and the only reason I wonder is because, in my experience, this philosophy of limitless potential is one that is rather divisive in the blind community. But maybe, my words don’t have to be fighting words but offer another perspective for you to think about.

I’ve read many a headline, mission statement and mantra which propagate an idea that says that just because we are disabled, does not mean that we are limited. We’re fully capable of achieving anything we desire, and there is nothing that can stop us—especially people who aren’t disabled.

But each time I read the headline, the mission statement or hear the mantra repeated by a fellow disabled person, I inwardly groan. And this is why.

I have limits. So do you. You, my disabled compatriots. You, my able-bodied allies.

We all have limits.

And I believe we do a major disservice to the disabled community and our attempt at societal equality when we promote the limitless philosophy. Because it simply isn’t true. It creates a falsity that, motivating or otherwise, is wrong and will only lead to disappointment and failed expectations.

But We Are All Capable

Now let me be clear: Disabled people, and in particular, disabled children, must be explicitly taught that they are capable. The world does a good enough job instilling doubt in its disabled people, so we must combat that doubt with hope. Blind children can grow up to be teachers, lawyers, artists, performers, politicians, doctors and virtually, any profession they set their sights on. As a child, playfully predicting my future in a game of MASH, my friends and I always put “bus driver” as a possible profession, jokingly of course, since we knew that I could never be one. Ability is not a reflection of determination. For as hard as I may try, I, a fully blind woman, cannot drive a bus.

I have a limitation. There are things I cannot do, like drive, and there are things that are harder for me but still possible with the right adaptations or equipment.

Disabled children who grow up in the knowledge of their own capability, talents, skills and unique abilities can, and will, lead full lives. But what becomes of their dreams if a life without limits is the guiding principle?

Being realistic can have its downsides. But the prevailing positive of being a realist is that expectations can be more easily managed, and one’s limitations can be worked with, not against.

If one can acknowledge their personal limitations and learn to view them not as a drain on their existence but a parameter within which to learn and grow, so much can be done. How can the windows be washed to let the light in if no one acknowledges that they are dirty?

It’s the same with windows as it is for limits: we must know what they are, acknowledge their presence, and live on. Because to live life denying an integral part that influences my every decision is to deprive my life of what it could be if I were to embrace it, fully and completely.

Embracing limitations is not only a discussion for those with disabilities, though. Everyone has limits, so this is a discussion for everyone.

Maybe you don’t consider these limitations, but rather “struggles” or “difficulties.” No matter what you call it, doesn’t it amount to the same thing?

Being limitless is not what drives us to succeed. This philosophy only shelters the reality that, for many disabled people, is cold, inaccessible and an ongoing challenge. In this way, limits are exactly that, limiting, making it so that the person cannot achieve their goals and desires. But I believe that once the limits are acknowledged and not seen as the enemy, then a fuller, more free, success is able to be achieved.

And that success is a more rewarding kind, because it isn’t founded on the idea that we had no limits and could achieve whatever we desired, but that we embraced every part of ourselves and worked together to achieve our dreams. You don’t get more points for living a life free of limits, but you do get a more fulfilling one by working with what you’ve been given and doing your best.

Limitations are only limiting when we use them as excuses not to try. What we perceive as a limitation, like blindness, doesn’t have to limit blind people, but propel us to make a positive change. And this is what I strive for in my life, and what I want to encourage you to do, as well.

Tell me your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to hear your perspective about limitations and how you manage them in your daily life.

TIME CAN NOT HEAL ALL WOUNDS, BUT THERAPY WILL

Talking to My Therapist and God

I talk to my therapist and God
at the intersections of my subconscious;
intermittent conversations penetrating
my awareness of childhood
trauma and childlike
faith,
where the cancer scar fades but
my skin is still stitched with threads of
chemo and vomit
and echoed laments to healer God for a
chocolate cake with six candles
and no flowers.
Where water is thicker than blood
but neither can quench my soul.

adrift in flashback
cast out in communion

My therapist and God talk to me
about healing.

© Rhianna McGregor

I wish I had a porch swing tonight. As a teenager, I found God’s comfort as I gently swung myself back and forth on the porch swing, staring at the stars and letting myself just feel. I sat on that swing, telling God about my first broken heart, my emerging struggles with traditional, evangelical Christianity, the friendship I ended over Skype… everything.

I wish I had a porch swing tonight.

Or at least, I wish I could talk with my therapist.

But therapy costs money. So does planning a wedding. And moving to a new city. Caring for my guide dog costs money, and trying to feed myself food that isn’t processed in plastic costs money.

And I don’t have much money. That is the simple truth of the matter and I see no point in sugar coating reality. After all, it is a reality lived day after day by many more people than just myself, and there is no shame in it or in seeking help.

But this isn’t a post about the doom and gloom of my financial stress, nor a plea for pity.

It’s merely to sit down with you on my porch swing and talk to you about my life. Will you sit with me for a while?

I have very exciting changes coming in my life. In a matter of weeks, I will become a wife and begin a new adventure with the love of my life. Alongside marriage, I will be moving to a new city with my husband, and will no longer have to travel back and forth and live long-distance. Many of the challenges we face today will be resolved once we say “I do.”

But what will not be resolved are the deeper issues that I pretend I don’t wrestle with, but which plague me on a daily basis.

They say that time heals all wounds. And while I can’t definitively say there is no truth to that, my experiences lead me to believe that time does not heal at all. It merely offers a cozy bed in which to huddle beneath blankets and indulge in a bucket of negativity.

I don’t want to be someone who holds grudges. After all, I’d like to be a person who follows 1 Corinthians 13:5, “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” But taking the high road and being that person, not simply spouting the good intention, are two different matters entirely.

I’ve touched on a couple of friendships of mine that have completely evaporated in the last several months. But as time goes on, I find myself falling deeper and deeper into the pit of bitterness and resentment, and farther from healing. Time has made a comfortable place for me to nurture my hurt, anger and deep sadness. There is no room for healing here.

You might think, but Rhianna, give it another try. Reach out. There’s no harm. Since I will not divulge the details of these relationships’ struggles, I can’t expect anyone to understand my position. But I will not, and cannot, rebuild these friendships. As my fiancé said, it’s like pouring water into a cup that leans on an angle—the water can only go one direction. I’ve tried again and again, and all we’ve done is spill more water.

But what’s it going to take to actually begin to heal from these hurts that not only happened in my past, but actively impact my present? A day doesn’t go by where I don’t feel a ball of bitterness sitting in the bottom of my belly, or rising up to my throat as hot, angry tears and screams that I can’t let out. It rears its head in everything I do—my writing and publishing endeavours, my fear, but deep desire, to make new friends, even the physical items around my home that remind me of what happened.

I want to heal. I don’t want to live like this anymore. But what can I do when old wounds continue to bleed, and new wounds puncture my heart, and make moving on next to impossible?

I don’t believe time is the answer.

But I do believe I have the answer. God and my therapist. I wouldn’t be who I am today without their love, support and guidance, and I won’t be the person I want to become without them now.

My therapist may cost money, and I do work to make seeing her a priority. But while I work and save, I’m just thankful that talking to God doesn’t cost anything.

Hey God, you got a minute [or two?]