I was at the gym the other day and noticed a sign on the machine that caught my attention. “What is my desired range of motion?” I wondered. “How much resistance am I willing to try in order to strengthen my legs? Will I injure my knees if I take on too much? But if I don’t, how will I build capacity?” These questions apply every bit as much to our willingness to tackle difficulties in life, let alone the proper form for weight training.

 

Lately, I’ve had several troubling realizations occur at once, leaving me feeling overwhelmed, disappointed, and dispirited—most of them involving matters well beyond my control, but they directly impact me nonetheless. If I had it all my way, I wouldn’t be confronted with any of it—the search for romance gone awry, parental resistance to aging issues, and ongoing questions about earning a living. (It doesn’t help that my birthday’s around the corner, which sours my mood that much more.) Just one of these topics presents sufficient challenge, but when they all arrive at once, it causes me to want to curl up and pull the covers over my head

 

Have you ever found yourself in the same boat?

 

Since nobody’s going to ride in on a white horse and magically erase all my problems, I have to find my own way out. A wise friend counseled that I try to find something in each situation that I can be grateful for. Of course, my gut reaction was an emphatic, “Nothing,” but herein lay my resistance. Even I, the author and champion of the re-booting process, can easily fall down that woe-is-me rabbit hole.

 

Back at the gym, as I sat on the machine contemplating desired range of motion, I realized that the only way we gain strength is when we push ourselves, a little bit at a time. If we remain at the same weight and the same range of motion forever, our muscles don’t strengthen, our bodies aren’t forced to adjust. So, too, with the personal matters I’m confronting now. Maybe I can’t do anything about my dad’s hostile refusal and denial about aging issues, but I can learn to become less invested in his choices. I can decrease my sense of responsibility. I can accept that my help is not wanted. I can learn to step away and still retain loving feelings.

 

What does doing so teach me?

 

Setting clearer boundaries with those we care about is a tricky business, precisely because we’re so invested. I imagine the families of addicts confront this problem everyday… I realize I have a proclivity for taking on the problems of others as my own, and this is not a good thing. Respecting boundaries—theirs and ours. Huh. So now I find myself with the opportunity to stretch beyond my normal instincts and master the art of stepping back. Let the chips fall where they may…

 

As someone who really likes having a game plan and follow through, it is extraordinarily difficult to let things rest if I detect fuzzy spots. I’ve always preferred clarity; it makes things so much easier (Ha! Good luck with that one, Chrisanna). Alas, when it comes to the very fuzzy arena of budding relationships, it worked against me to believe things were more defined than they were, to rely on the words expressed as literal expressions of intent, to ignore the ordinary caution that comes up when getting to know anyone new. Never mind how rare it is to stumble across anyone with whom we have genuine chemistry, sometimes they walk away–which is what happened to me. So, what am I grateful for in this situation? Being brave enough to put myself out there, being willing to make myself vulnerable, having the confidence that this disappointment is not the final word, wishing the other person well, and being willing to try again… The entire experience extends uncomfortably beyond my desired range of motion.

 

So, what about you? What edge can you push in order to grow?

 

The older we get, the more comfortable it is to remain in our familiar little spots. Summoning the will and the energy to force ourselves to try a new approach—especially when it comes to disappointment or frustration–is a significant undertaking, but I want you to try. You wouldn’t be reading this blog if you weren’t interested in doing better. We’ve all seen people calcify into their fixed routines, fixed ideas, and fixed reactions—comfortable with their original game plan, never mind that it’s far from optimum. We’ve watched as their stubbornness has hurt them and those nearby.

 

It’s sad to see them refuse to reach for something better.

While we can’t do it for them, we can do it for ourselves.

 

So, with this post, I’m asking you to reflect upon some current distress in your life and push yourself to find some aspect you’re grateful for. Just doing this will push at your edges, but it will also provide desperately needed perspective. If we can find hope in our troubles, we become stronger and less afraid. That range of motion can extend further than we imagined.

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