Limiting “All”

Six months ago, give or take, I discovered a new word. It was love at first sight. I loved the way I couldn’t say it without making a funny face or how reading its definition felt like permission granted. habseligkeiten, which I never want to capitalize because it feels as if it deserves to live forever as a lowercase word, a member of the eternal tribe of dreamers and collectors, discoverers and believers.

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Montages danced before me of bits of bark, ends of ribbons, metal shavings, and dry eraser ink stained tissues. A lump threatened in my throat as guilt lanced me, all the things I’ve tossed into garbage bags.

We can’t keep every single thing that we collect or sustain an impenetrable awareness of value. I cannot be entirely childlike or perfectly adult; it’s why each chunk of life is so beautiful and maddening. Time softens what we remember, yearning polishes what we don’t yet have, but in between, if we allow it, we can let the corners touch.

I let the crown of clovers sit precariously on the tower that’s built on the wedge step halfway up the stairs.

I recycle the fifteenth worksheet that comes home from school.

Baby teeth tumble from underwear and sock drawers, I keep some and toss others.

Yesterday a friend posted something online. She and I have only met once in person, but the words and images she shares online are part of my grown up collection trove. She is someone whose heart and perspective sprang from the clutter of the internet, like bits of quartz that used to catch my eye on hikes as a little girl. Her post was different than usual, tired and a bit sad. It made sense, I completely related to it, and yet it got me thinking about habseligkeiten and how we adults have something too. It isn’t collecting, rather it’s chasing what can never be caught. It is the opposite of the believing we did as kids. It’s not hopeful pursuit.

It needs a word; it is the futile idea that there is chase we can give to the idea of all that will actually yield triumph.

notjoymorehurt might work.

Sean sent me on a run last night, too many consecutive days of tears and inability to articulate the core of my sadness. He knew, as so often happens, better than I did what was needed to restore my perspective. My feet hit the pavement and each step rattled the sorrow, every ragged breath drew in new hope. I ran through the events of the last week—a woman in my ragtag, decade-old writing tribe took her own life, a dream was dashed as a rejection letter hit my inbox, pitches I put my heart in for work yielded more rejection, 6th grade mean girls, the relentless 3:55am wake up call from the cat, wanting to write, not wanting to write, undercooked chicken.

Why do these things sometimes pile up, catching in my brain and heart in ways that I can’t unlock? How is it that any of us get the idea that it is possible to bob and weave through all that life throws at us without tripping?

There is certain sadness in life, people will die, shit will break, people will say no. Why do we think “all” is attainable or that “balance” can be achieved? What I learned this week is that we have limits.

There is such a thing as too much, just as there is not enough. I want to become better at identifying my limits, honoring other people’s limits, and exploring a life that doesn’t test all of it quite so much.

Limits 

If you are sad or angry, if you are constantly muttering under your breath, “I don’t think I can do this” or “How am I going to get through this?” I hope that you will listen to the nudges that you ought to go for a run or answer the call of that book that is begging you to take it in your arms. Unclench your hand, let everything fall down, if for no other reason than to give your arm a rest and to regather the things so they fit better in your hand.

We are all sitting precariously on towers of our own making. They don’t have to reach the sky or carry the world, they just need to hold us and that starts with us accepting that “all” is not something we even want.

 

I'm not kidding when I ask you to tell me what you think.

    • Thank you. I swear in the same way they try and ram the ‘buy more’ thing down our throats, the same is true about “all.” Going to be hard work.

  1. Oh, yes to this Amanda. The irony is, when I glimpsed your title, my brain turned it into Limitless All before I looked more closely. We have limits and they can hit hard and fast, or they can creep up on us and all of a sudden we’re buried and can’t see the light. I’m so very sorry about your friend.

  2. So beautifully said. And I love how undercooked chicken made the list. Sometimes it’s that last, simple thing that doesn’t go well that puts us over the edge, leaving our husbands and children to think that we’re actually crying about chicken.

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  4. Perfect note on perfect time. I am reading your blog for the first time and I felt the message for me. I breakdown often (at least once in a week …) and this message touched me as I am not alone

  5. “It isn’t collecting, rather it’s chasing what can never be caught. It is the opposite of the believing we did as kids. It’s not hopeful pursuit.” You’ve captured something I struggle with often–this ragged, endless chase after this thing or that or the other. This feeling that “if only this works out” or “that falls into place” then all will be well and right with the world. Then I will have what I need. Then I will be happy. Enough. This post is like a breath of fresh air reminding me that these ephemeral “things” I seek aren’t even worth wanting, that they are not what I seek after all…thank you, thank you, dear Amanda, for always making me see what matters.