The Outer Limits

26 01 2011

from "Metropolis"

We all have them—limits, that is—and knowing what they are is important. To live too far beneath them is to waste one’s potential; to exceed them is to invite disaster. And at times they need to be tested.

One’s limits can change as an individual grows and changes. There was a time when the very idea of going to a convention, of having to deal with all those people, all that stress, would have been unthinkable for me. I’ve learned how to manage that stress. And I’ve developed strategies for dealing with all those people. Sometimes those strategies work well, and sometimes not so. Knowing precisely how others perceive us is an art which perhaps it is a mercy not to perfect.

This past Arisia I definitely pushed the envelope. That’s appropriate. Arisia is all about pushing the limits: Of imagination, of costume, of defined roles and societal expectations. It’s good to be in company where geekiness and kinkiness are not only tolerated, but welcomed. Awkwardness and odd behavior are shrugged off. We’re all okay here. (Just don’t be a jerk.)

I pushed myself harder than I’ve ever pushed myself before, making arrangements and taking care of details instead of letting someone else do it and following their lead. Not only for myself, but for my two boys who got their first exposure to a SciFi/Fantasy convention this year. Added to that were the demands of tackling a project which required learning new skills, and the demands of preparing for and moderating events and panels. I know I made mistakes, failed to zig-zag properly, babbled at times like an idiot. But mostly I did okay. And I pushed my limits beyond what they were before, and I’m pretty proud of that.

There are those who would shrug, Big Deal. Anybody should be able to do that.

Wrong.

Much of the friction that snarls our relationships with each other is the failure to recognize that we can’t all cope with the same things. We each have different strengths and weaknesses, and the latter often render us incapable of meeting the expectations of others. The scowls and impatient criticisms that come when we fall below the mark shroud us in guilt. Why can’t we cope like everyone else? What’s wrong with us?

If you were blind, you would not be expected to navigate flawlessly through a crowded room without assistance. Nor would your blindness be looked upon as a weakness of character.

My New Year’s Resolution this year was to cut myself some slack. And to remember to cut others some slack as well. Just because they don’t come up to my expectations doesn’t mean they aren’t doing the best they can. There’s no shame in not being able to run as fast as the next guy. The key is to find out what you can do and focus on it.

And you can’t find that out without pushing your limits now and then, running the risk of exceeding them, maybe failing embarrassingly. That’s how you learn. That’s how the blind man, the autistic, the person in the wheel chair and the one with the phobias, figure out how to get through the crowded room. Or the crowded convention.

[here’s the click to my reflections on this year’s Arisia]

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