February 2, 2012

The Limits of Imagination

The Limits of Imagination

Everything you can imagine is real.  ~Pablo Picasso

I have noticed something interesting over the past few weeks. Suddenly – unprovoked – I have had several people suggest LONG runs to me…a 10K, a half-marathon, a full marathon (ultra…anyone?)

I have no idea why.

Maybe I crossed some invisible line after running for 7 months where suddenly the real runners I know are starting to look at me a bit more like I am one of them rather than someone who is going to casually dabble in running before moving on to the next best thing. It’s true – I am taking this pretty seriously – so perhaps that is what they sense?

To myself, however, I still feel a bit like a tourist making a long stay in a foreign country. I can sort of speak enough of the language to get by now, but I am definitely not full immersed in the cultures and ways of the locals. Still, I definitely fit in more now than before…and kind of I like it here in the world of runners for right now and I am not planning on moving on any time soon.

But when they start suggesting things like running farther than twice the distance I have ever run, well, I start to think about getting this first bus out of town.

I ran 3.5 miles today.  That was my personal record, and it felt great.

But it is a far cry form a marathon, and it already felt like pushing a limit.

So it made me think about limits. Where do they come from? Why do we set them? How do we move them? I was suddenly struck by the fact that other people are more or less telling me that they think I can do something, while I pretty firmly believe that I can’t.

As a parent when I have worked to help my kids conquer a new skill or task, I am often the one telling them they can, when they believe they can’t. I am their coach, their taskmaster, their cheerleader. As they have grown older, teachers, friends and coaches also take part in this role. Very often, it works. The vision held collectively by all of us on the outside can somehow spill over and overcome the barriers in the minds of my children.  They catch it in some way – the vision becomes their own and the barrier moves and suddenly the thing that could not be done is done. Voila!

So why should it be any different for me? Do years of growing up somehow close that pathway of learning – or at least make it more resistant? I would like to hold the same highest and best vision of myself that others can hold for me.

Maybe the first step is to let go.  To imagine something, we have to, in a sense, have an empty canvas to start with. Artists rarely start with anything but blank paper or unformed clay. So maybe my challenge right now is that the image I hold of my own limits is well-formed and solid. What if I could wipe the slate clean – erase that I hold to be true – and redraw the picture differently? Perhaps then a 3.5 could become 10, or 15, or 26…

I don’t know right now what the new picture will be, where the lines will be drawn, what will get filled in. But I feel willing to see if I can start from scratch and create something new.

Perhaps it will be beautiful.

Off to Cleveland tomorrow, where I hear it may snow.





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  1. Sandi
    February 2, 2012 at 12:31 am #

    So what you are saying here is that the only limits that truly exist in our universe are those we set for ourselves mindfully or not? I can buy into that having come from a sedentary, sickly 424 pound 56 year old to an active, healthy, 180 pound 63 year old. I never would have imagined I could, I just DID, succeeded and continued doing, and here I am today.. Wow, Jacqueline you really make me think!!! Thanks for that…

    • Jacqueline Jacques
      February 2, 2012 at 2:15 am #

      Hey Sandi – thank you for the thoughtful comments!
      I have so many thoughts about this, I could fill pages. I do think there are some limits that are not in our minds. For example, I am 5 feet tall, and I am pretty sure that no matter how much I want, wish, dream or pray I will not got to 5’7″ in this lifetime 🙂 On a more subtle note, there is research that indicates that some personality traits might be fairly enduring. I really don’t know for sure.
      But I do think there are an awful lot of ways that we do self-defining that can create limits. It is often in those statements that start like “I am” or I can’t” or even “I do and I can”. To some degree we write our stories this way. One thing that so deeply inspires me about being involved in the bariatric surgery community is the sheer number of people I have met who have completely rewritten their story. And sure, sometimes it does not turn out well, but wow! the ones that do.
      For myself, I am just spending a lot more time questing some of the things that I have considered to be true about me. I figure at the end of the day, some things will be true (or at least enduring) and others may not be. I am more attached to the process at the moment than the outcome.
      And I am super happy to have people like you joining in the fun!