Sunday, January 29, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

It’s January 29th.  1/12 of 2012 is already almost over.  How are you doing on accomplishing your New Year’s resolutions?  I didn’t officially make New Year’s resolutions, but if I had, they might look like this:

1.  Exercise consistently
2.  Keep my house clean
3.  Stretch my leg muscles

Those are quite idealistic.  To be honest, resolutions that I may actually accomplish by 2013 look more like this:

1.  Gain five more pounds by the end of this winter
2.  Invite friends over at least once a month so that my carpet gets vacuumed
3.  Stretching...what’s that?

Hamstring Stretch

I’m supposed to stretch my hamstrings and heel cords on a daily basis to maintain flexibility.  But, I’m negligent.  If I’m lucky, this gets accomplished once a week. I think I ignore this all important task because it’s boring, time consuming, and forces me to come face to face with my limitations.  Something I hate.  You would think I would have learned my lesson after an incident I had a few years ago.  Our family went on vacation to Washington D.C. where we walked all day exploring our nation’s capital.  By the time dinner rolled around, I was depleted but chose to ignore my fatigue.  Our family had decided that the evening would be the best time to visit the monuments because they light up at night.  I had determined that nothing was going to stop me from going along. 

Heel cord stretch using a slant board

I should have stayed in the hotel and rested.

About the time I was staring into the face of a Korean solider, I began to notice pain in my left leg.  Every succeeding step suddenly felt wrong.  I adjusted my gait, complained, and wondered what was going on....I eventually learned I had pulled a muscle! 

The guessed it!  Stretching.  The physical therapist made me stretch every muscle in both of my legs for weeks.  The reality of my limitations became amplified.  But, after those few weeks, something amazing happened:  Not only did I recover from my injury, but the consistent stretching loosened my muscles.  I was able to accomplish daily tasks with incredible ease.  I zipped up and down stairs with speed, slid in and out of my car, and enjoyed the feeling of relaxation in my legs.  Leaning into the fullness of my limitations turned out to be the vehicle that ultimately created the expansion of my abilities.  It gave me freedom!

I am finding the same principle is true in life.  If there is one human limitation about me that I cannot stand it is not my tightened’s my limited capacity to love.  I wish I had the emotional capacity to deeply care about every human being I come in contact with, rejoicing in their excitements, weeping at their disappointments, infinitely curious to learn the details of their life, but I can’t. I also wish I could say “yes” to every opportunity that presented itself in my life.  However, the human condition does not allow this amount of investment.  Last year I thought I could ignore my human limitations and expand my capacity to love by interacting with a greater number of people and take on a greater number of commitments.  Surely that would expand my ability to love more! 


I remember ending many weeks last year feeling angry and empty. Out of my desire to love and say yes to the all the opportunities that lay before me, I had given myself and stretched myself too far in too many directions both personally and professionally. I began to wonder, “Why can't I love all the people that I interact with in a day? Why do I always feel so empty, like I have nothing left?” I began to slow down and discern what to say yes to and what to say no to; I had to let go of many things, some with a sigh of relief and some with tears. I began to focus deeply on just a few things that I really felt called to do. Then something amazing happened: my capacity to love others expanded as I decreased and focused on fewer activities! I find myself noticing people this year, remembering their names, slowing down to be present with people as they talk and share their needs. I feel as if I have something in me with which I can share with others. I have expanded in love through contracting in commitments. I am learning that it is so important to discern what I say yes and no to and the importance of resisting the temptation to compare myself to others as I faithfully complete the work I have been uniquely given to complete.

What do you need to say no to in 2012?

Photo Credit: A. Foreman

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Frustrated by Fatigue

I have always been a huge fan of DC Comic’s classic character The Flash.  Ever since middle school when I was given the nickname Flash, my fascination was piqued by the Scarlet Speedster.  He’s fast, wears a stellar costume, and has to be smart:  Hey, he’s one of the few members of the Justice League of America who has figured out that underwear are supposed to go underneath spandex pants!  I was delighted when CBS’ hit show The Big Bang Theory made Flash popular again.  One of its lead characters, Sheldon Cooper, shares a mutual affection with me for this speedy superhero.

I found a flash costume in college and still wear it from time to time for Halloween parties or when promoting a book fair, but underneath the lightning bolts, mask, and red stretchy material lays a woman who wishes she had the boundless energy of her favorite superhero, but in reality, she struggles with fatigue.

This week I put in a rather long day at work, as many of us do, and proceeded to come home and continue working: dinner, laundry, exercise, homework…I finally laid my head on the pillow feeling GREAT for all I had accomplished….until I woke up the next morning, exhausted! 

(I know the description of my day sounds very typical, and it is, which makes this situation all the more frustrating!  I want to ignore with every fiber of my being the estimation that it takes 3-5 times more energy for me to move than my peers, that the internet is littered with stories of young adults with cerebral palsy, also in their mid 20s who are struggling with fatigue, and that I too have occasional days where I’d rather not get off the couch or out of bed.)

I made it through the following day alright, but near the end, a colleague looked at me and said, “Hill, we must have tired you out!  You’re moving half as fast as you normally do.”  I looked at him, knew he was right; I was moving slow, too slow.  When I got home, I climbed into bed, and on the verge of frustrated tears, took a much needed nap at 5PM in the afternoon.  I felt so defeated and angry by this act of lying down, like fatigue had won today even though deep inside of me beat a passionate heart that had hopes of getting more tasks accomplished at home.  

When I woke up, I was still discouraged with myself, frustrated by my fatigue, and filled with heated questions:
  1. Why can’t I do more with my body, life, time, and energy?
  2. Why do I have to battle with fatigue, I’m only in my 20s!
  3. Why can’t I hide my limitations from my peers?  Must I be so transparent?
  4. Why can’t I be a superhero? 
I’m still wrestling with these questions, and if you have any insight on the answer to number 4, I’m all ears!  In the interim, I’ve begun to consider that maybe saying “yes” to rest and welcoming the need to nap on occasion is the way in which I can actually accomplish more.  Perhaps by delaying my desires for productivity one night may in turn give me the stamina I need to accomplish more the following evening.  Perhaps I don’t need to see fatigue as a sign of defeat, but rather as a pathway to restoration.

Do you struggle with fatigue from time to time or frustration with your own limitations?  Do you welcome or resist the need for rest in your life?  What is one thing you could do this week to slow down or delay your own gratification in order to accomplish more in the future? 

Stumbo Family Story