Knowing My Limits

In It’s Never Too Late, The Bipolar Hot Mess wrote:

George Eliot said “It’s never too late to become what you might have been.”  Thanks Mr. Eliot for trying to give me hope, but I might have been able to fulfill my dreams as a model if my parents were taller, but…

do-you-know-your-limitsI don’t subscribe to Mr. Eliot’s line of thinking at all.  In Hot Mess’s case, “might have been”  couldn’t have been because she wasn’t tall enough and never could be, but her point is taken.  Not all dreams that might have been can be.

I studied voice in college. I wanted to be a professional opera singer so bad.  I had/have talent, but I needed more training.  I’ll never know if I could have been good enough.  But I chose to be a daddy.  I chose to stay close to my family and be an active participant and a good provider instead of being out on the road or take everybody far away for home so that I could pursue my “dreams” while I needed to be nurturing the dreams of my children.  Now I’m 43.  I don’t have the money or the time to train.  And even if I was good enough, I should be in the prime of my career right now.  It’s too late.  I accept it.  There is no way I could do it without an extraordinary act of selfishness.

We all have dreams growing up, and we might have a parent or parents who teach us that we have no limits in what we can do, but I think that is utter bullshit and downright hurtful.  We have limits.  We have things we are good at and things that we are not. I could’ve worked 24/7 when I was young to be a pro basketball player, but it would never have happened.  I’m like Hot Mess, I’m not tall enough, and in my case I’m not skilled enough.  If I was going to be a pro basketball player, people would have known it.  You can spot a future star at a young age.  They learn quick.  They have the right body.  They know magic.

As someone with bipolar, I have limits.  There are nights when I CANnot go out for the sake of my mental health.  I played in a band for a year, and although I loved it, it was a mistake.  It pushed me beyond my limits.  Starting a gig at 12:30 am.  Playing on week nights.  Drinking every free drink a fan bought me.  Getting high with every practice and every gig.  It ruined my mental health.  It threatened to destroy everything I’d worked so hard to build into my life since my diagnosis and the reconciliation of my marriage.

I had to quit a job a couple of years ago.  It was a good job.  Good money. Bonuses.  Good people.  Good company.  But I was working until midnight and on weekends.  I was put under tremendous stress with million-dollar deadlines.  My drinking reached it’s zenith.  My mania began to return.  Nope.  This job was perfect for some people, but not for a bipolar.  I quit.  I work in a very low-stress job for more money.   Things are better.

I can’t afford to make anymore huge mistakes.  I’ve whittled it down.    I don’t drink.  I don’t smoke; weed or cigarettes.  I don’t even look at another woman sideways.  I swim every day.  I eat a balanced diet with supplements.  I take my meds.   I meditate. I sleep 7-8 hours a night.  I prayer every morning and every night.  I attend AA.  I attend church.  This keeps me healthy and happy.   I have to think very carefully about anything I choose to do that could cause me to deviate from this.  These are my limits.  I make exceptions, but they must be just that:  the exception.

If we lived on Mr. Eliot’s axiom, we might indeed accomplish extraordinary things, but just as likely we would fail and be miserable because we didn’t respect our limits.  What’s much more important and valuable than dreams is knowing yourself.  Know your limits, know your strengths, know your weaknesses, know when to push it, know when to back off, know what’s important, know how to be content with the way things are, and know when it’s time to change your plans.



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