We all have limitations. It is how we approach them and handle them that makes the difference. The Serenity Prayer says it well:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.

A friend who is 85 has a lot of back pain. Although this has been going on for years, she has not admitted this is a limitation. To her it is only a temporary state. When her back hurts, she goes to her bed. She is now mostly bedridden and is losing function. She does not exercise or do physical therapy, but waits – in her bed – to get better. She talks about the trips she wants to make, but can’t walk comfortably and securely to her own dining room. She refuses to use a walker even though she gets dizzy and has fallen a few times. She has not used her courage to change the things she could, nor has she accepted her limitations as something she cannot change.

Another friend, 60 years old, had a head injury 25 years ago, and still suffers from it. She is in physical pain when she is around a lot of noise or vibration. She gets tired more easily than she thinks she should. She admits she has limitations and gracefully declines activities that will put her in crowds and around noise, like concerts and movies. When she hurts, she knows what to do about it: go for a walk, take a swim, or float in a sensory deprivation tank until the pain subsides. This friend has the serenity to accept her limitations from her head injury, and the wisdom to know what she can and cannot do about it.

This, then, is the art of living gracefully: accepting our limitations without fear, shame or anger, and then taking the appropriate steps to handle them without apology, whether that is working to change them, or learning to live with them. They are what they are. If my back hurts, I have to do my exercises to make it stronger. If I am tired, I must take a nap or lose productivity for the rest of the day. I have to love myself enough to take care of myself and my body in a positive way. If I can’t do all the activities I used to, I don’t have to put my life on hold, and I don’t have to be angry, guilty or feel ashamed about it.

Caring for our bodies should be the same as simply putting on our glasses: we do what we need to do to care for the body, without guilt or shame. If we don’t care for our bodies, they will not work, and without our bodies we have nothing.

It all comes down to self acceptance, and self-love. Do you love yourself enough to take care of yourself?

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