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  • Helen

The Sky's the Limit...or is it?

A friend of mine who’s a couple of decades younger than I am, has, as the saying goes, ‘done her back in’! She was lifting some tables at her church when it happened. She told me, ‘I was the youngest one there and thought I should move the tables!’ Bad plan! Visits to A&E and osteopaths have followed but she’s still in a lot of pain. Through a blur of painkillers she muttered to me this week, ‘I don’t want to be human, I want to be superwoman!’

She’s not the only one seeking heroism! You don’t need to read the Guinness Book of Records to absorb the myths of super personhood. Media of all kinds feature stories of people doing amazing things. Just watch the Olympics or any other sports programme of your choice! Social media suggest to us that within or just outside our own circles, people are: breeding families of happy and adorable children, following exciting careers, eating and drinking whatever they fancy, travelling to the most exotic places, seeing the most impressive sights, meeting friends, fashioning beautiful gardens, writing and reading books and running marathons into their dotage.

The temptation to be superwomen and supermen doesn’t go away as we age. I’ve had enough honest conversations with contemporaries to know that, although we may not trumpet it on social media, the ability first to recognise and then to admit that we ‘can’t do what we used to do’ and need to stay within tighter boundaries than we used to is a regular challenge for all sorts of people.

‘Know your limits’ is easy to say! The knack is, first of all to know what those limits are and then to decide how to handle that knowledge – or to put it another way – to push or not to push boundaries. Around us are all sorts of people who either push their boundaries themselves or find that others persuade them to do so. Don’t just sit there, do something! Sometimes, unlike my friend with the bad back, people make the boundaries rather than the pushers, into the casualties. People are surprised at what they can do when they give it a try!

In an article in the Observer last Sunday, Saskia Sarginson recounted a surprising conversation in her 60s in which she made what turned out to be an inaccurate judgement about her own limits. Walking in the park and minding her own business, she was approached by a stranger who asked Saskia to join her modelling agency. ‘Who? Me? Saskia responded. ‘I don’t think so! I’m a granny!’. The stranger persisted and eventually Saskia agreed. Eventually she was glad she’d been persuaded.

Saskia, it turned out, was too cautious. My friend was probably too ambitious. It’s all about the challenge and the paradox of limitations and about knowing what you can do and what you can’t. Meeting the challenge is a very individual matter. The trick, as my bed-ridden, back-hurting friend says, is admitting in which areas you are most certainly not super!

The wisdom of knowing who we are and what our limits are takes some personal and individual honesty and humility, whatever our age. If our instincts have been telling us for years, ‘I can do this’, we may need to recognise and retrain. Others who have been instinctive ‘safeplayers’ may need to find the imagination or courage – or whatever it takes – to risk! And all of us, alongside recognising our own limitations, need to contend with other people’s perceptions of who we are and what we can or cannot do.

Developing wisdom about our limits may take trial and error. It is the work of a lifetime – and it takes supermen and superwomen to do it well!

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2 comentários

06 de jun. de 2023

Knowing the limits or shrinking away from opportunities. That's the challenge, isn't it? Thanks for another provocative piece!

Mike and Helen
06 de jun. de 2023
Respondendo a

Thanks Ber…in 8 words you got it😊

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