A few years ago I had two high school hockey players come to me asking for a little help. They had both broken an arm during hockey games in the same week. Now they were out for 4-6 weeks while they healed and they wanted to know if I would help them stay fit and strong so that they were ready to go when their casts came off.
The first thing we had to know was, what their limitations were. Some of those came from the doctors and were obvious, like no weight bearing exercise with the injured arm. But, some were things you might not think of, like no vibration in the injured arm and making sure that what we did wouldn’t put them at risk of a fall that could cause even more harm. So, no skating for a while and no dry land stick work either because of the vibration.
Once we knew the limitations, what we couldn’t do, we could get to work on the things we could do: leg strength, mobility, coordination, conditioning, recovery and mental skills. A month later both girls returned to the ice, fitter than before, well rested and with renewed enthusiasm.
The change of scenery helped them recharge as well as heal and the reason we were able to change the scenery was because we recognized the limitations, accepted them and worked with them. We didn’t deny them, fight them or get stuck in them. We honored them, because they gave us an important part of the framework for healing. We created the rest of the framework based on what we could do. Bowing to the limitations was the starting point for moving forward.
One of my coaches, Dr. Melissa Peet, introduced me to the idea of the holiness of limitations. If you’re not familiar with her work you should check it out. It’s powerful and it will help you think differently and better about creating change for yourself, the people you care about and serve, and your community.
In a nutshell its this: when you come up against your own limits and you choose to honor them, to bow to them, you accept your vulnerability and that vulnerability is what allows for the movement, for finding a way forward.
A final quick story about the hockey girls. The first day they showed up for training they came from class, so their long hair was down and hanging loose around their shoulders. They reached into their equipment bags with their left hand to grab a pony tail holder, then with their right hands tried to gather their hair and slip on the holder. You can probably guessed what happened. With a cast that that runs through your palm and immobilizes your thumb you can only grip with one hand. They looked at each other for a second, started to laugh and then helped each other put in their pony tails.
Bow to your limitations, accept your vulnerability, put in each other’s pony tails and get on with it. The holiness of limitations.