Wednesday, May 30, 2012

How to Ruin a Manicure (Or the Problem WIth Can't)

"It's good to take a longer view and think, What would I really like to do if I had no limitations whatsoever?"
Laurie Anderson

Let me explain to you how the home manicure works: 
Step 1: Clean nails, clip cuticles, soak (if desired) and apply new polish. Preferably two coats of the color and a clear top coat.
Step 2: Wait 


for 


nails


to


dry.


And wait some more. 

If that looks a little painful to read, just try to imagine what the process of sitting there waiting is like. 

Here's the thing. I don't have the patience to wait. For anything. I may have graduated college, but I am still working (a year later, mind you) on getting out of the mentality that I have time. Despite an excessive lack of papers and work to do, I still can't manage to wrap my mind around the idea that I don't have to stress about every moment. That I have enough time to breathe, to eat, to sleep a normal 7 hours. That I can stay up a little later to wait Switchfoot on Letterman because I can catch up tomorrow. It's unfathomable that time tables and deadlines may actually have a little leeway. 

This inability to comprehend my current situation leaves me, more often than not, in peril. Suddenly, the littlest tasks seem looming, like there will never be enough time. I admit to sometimes melting into a puddle of reruns; I forgo the few things that need to get checked of my to-do list for my own well-being, and skip out to the wonderful world of Friends. 

But tell me that i have t sit still, for like half an hour, so the last 20 minutes of work that I put into painting my nails just right won't be wasted, and suddenly I have all the energy in the world. There are letters to write, desks to organize, clothes to fold. There are stories pouring out and begging to be written. There are books that I've just realized I've neglected. And they all need to be done now, wet nails and all. 

There's something in me that thrives on the pressures of being told "You cannot". I hate that. My own lackadaisical attitude towards things becomes suddenly determined when someone tells me that I can't do something. It's as if hearing that it would be a mistake has challenged me to have to try, and prove that I can be successful. A few summers ago, the asthmatic in my got frustrated when the doctor reminded me, just once more, that running was a no-no. I spent a good month and a half training myself to run all the way up and down my street- everyday, I got up half an  hour early, and spent a painfully breathless hour trying to convince my lungs that this motion my legs was into was a good thing. And at the end of my 90 day trial, I could get three-quarters of the way back to the house without feeling like i needed to curl into a ball. 

So apparently, I could run. It was just gonna take a few years to work up to any measurable distance. 

So when I paint my hands, and I tell myself (diplomatically, of course) that it would be best to spend my time waiting for them to dry watching television, or listening to a podcast, or laying on my bed and staring at the wall, the rest of me fights right back with a list of things that I HAVE to get done. It's one of those arguments that you have with yourself that you just won't win. Almost every manicure has given in to the pressures of cleaning, of playing games, of getting work done that isn't due, ever. As a matter of fact, I will admit that I am typing this with a fresh coat that may not be entirely dry.

We do not like to know our limitations because they make us feel weak. It's one thing to be lazy, to know that we have the potential to do great things, but hey, there's a new Modern Family that just needs to take precedence tonight. When we think we have a choice, we are coated in the goodness of control. If I wanted to, I would. That sort of thing.

But limitations are a good thing. They keep us grounded. They remind us that we aren't going to feel satisfied, or well, after eating an entire box of cookies in one sitting. That we cannot stay up for 72 hours, sleep for 8, and then be ready to go again. That heels are never going to feel like clouds.And that sometimes, even if you train for a month and a half, it can always rain for a week, and you are going to have to start all over again (hence why the running project ended when it did). 

And if we look at them right, limitations should be motivation, not just to strive or what we can't do, but to work on what we can. When we are reminded that there are impossibilities, it should make us grateful for all the possibles. Especially when we realize that there are other people who can't do what we can. I can't run. Maybe someone else can run, but they can't love. I can love. Being able to run suddenly seems like silly ambition.

I'm not saying I can't learn to sit still while the color dries on my fingers. That may be one of those things to strive for. But it's good to remember why my limitations upset me so much. And to be mindful of them so I can my head where it needs to be. Because patience is not just about waiting for something until it happens. Sometimes it's about accepting what is and what isn't until it's possible to make change.   

I am learning that accepting where I am and what I can do is a big deal. That this kind of self acceptance makes days happier, brighter, faster, and more fun. By accepting who I am and what I can do, I can make a difference. Just sitting around trying to fix what I can is a painful, slow, and boring process.

Sometimes it feels a little like watching paint dry.

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