I like interesting questions. I like to marinate in them while I run, take a shower, prepare dinner, or do yoga. I like when I dream about them or when I wake to feel them parading gently across my brain.
The Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) recently asked me an interesting question (that they did so in the form of jewelry is an added bonus – they sent me a bracelet). What does it mean for me to Live Unlimited?
If you had asked me this I was twenty I probably would have said something like having money to do anything I wanted and someone I loved to spend it with. To Live Unlimited would mean living without boundaries or constraints – and to look fabulous while I was doing it.
As it does for most of us, my perspective has changed dramatically since I was a young adult. Losing both my father and my mother to cancer by the time I was 40 showed me that life does have very real limits – absolute ones. Having children only reinforced this notion of course. It’s pretty easy to feel limited when you are responsible for the care and feeding, not to mention the emotional and intellectual well-being, of other human beings. So it might seem like my view of an unlimited life is that it is unattainable.
But as I thought I about this I realized something. In spite of the fact that life’s very real and persistent limits have become more clear to me as I’ve gotten older, I actually feel less bound by them.
So what does it mean to me to Live Unlimited now that I am 46 – only a decade younger than my mother was when she died – and the mother of a teen and a tween?
To live in an unlimited way means showing up for my life every day and realizing the boundless love and beauty to be found in my relationships – with God, with my husband, with my children, with the Earth, and with my friends.
I could of course write for days about each one of these relationships – how lucky am I to have so many? – and how for me travel is a way to enhance pretty much every single one of them. But I’m going to focus on the last one.
The inspiration of my friends to Live Unlimited
I’m especially lucky to be inspired by all the fellow writers and travelers that I’ve met through this site and the opportunities I have had to travel. Because I’ve been fortunate enough to overcome the limits of geography time and again I’ve gotten to meet many people who were once only avatars on Facebook and Twitter, and they have become true and lasting friends. Among the very dearest to me is Jen Leo.
There are actually a lot of mundane limits to my friendship with Jen. She lives on the West Coast of the U.S., and I’m on the East Coast. She has a young daughter named Cora, plays a very active role on the PTA at Cora’s school, and has several of her own business and creative concerns, with new ones always simmering on the back burner. I work part time at a communications job, am working on a book, maintain this site, and have kids entering the extremely busy middle- and high-school years. And of course, both of us love to travel.
But despite the distance that separates us and despite the constraints on both our time Jen’s warmth, curiosity, and enthusiasm for life are a constant inspiration to me. She is truly someone who sees the world in terms of what is possible. Her favorite question has to be “why not?”
Jen and I never know when we’ll see each other next in person. But thanks to her persistence, we routinely talk on the phone or text. We help each other develop new projects and hold each others hands (virtually) when we feel discouraged or need to change course. I tend to be cautious with new projects – but when Jen gets an idea she is all in, and her enthusiasm is infectious. Jen has given me the courage to submit my writing to new publications and to speak my dreams out loud. And she always makes me laugh.
And the best part about Jen is how she is raising Cora to view the world in this same way. MDA was kind of enough to send Jen a bracelet because I said she was my inspiration for an unlimited life. When Cora and Jen looked at it and discussed what the word unlimited meant, Cora said “It’s like having gelato for breakfast in Italy,” which is just about as perfect a definition as I’ve ever heard. Like me, Jen is committed to spending as much time with her child as she can and to live an unlimited life together exploring the world.
Jen and Cora give me faith in humanity. They make me happy to be alive, which is the ultimate way to Live Unlimited.
Help the Muscular Dystrophy Association #LiveUnlimited
People who have muscular dystrophy, ALS, and other muscle-debilitating diseases must live within the cruel and arbitrary limits that their bodies impose. That so many of them – and their families – face these limits bravely every day is an important example to us all. I’m honored that they asked me to share my story.
And I love that I now have a Live Unlimited bracelet to remind me of the things I treasure most: my family, my friends, and this beautiful planet that I have the privilege of exploring whether that’s by setting out on a 2400-mile road trip or simply doing yoga in my backyard under an oak tree that’s seem more than a century of human endeavor. When I feel the constraints of my aging body or hectic schedule I will look at it, smile, and remember that the only true limit I face is my own acceptance of my life in each given moment. And I will honor those who face the much more serious limits of chronic illness with grace and strength.
Interested in helping out? There are a couple of things you can do.
Purchase an Endorphin Warrior #LiveUnlimited bracelet and $6 will go to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA).
Visit mda.org/LiveUnlimited and create a custom graphic to show how you #LiveUnlimited to share on social media. For every share up to 30,000 before July 31, 2016, a generous sponsor will give $5 to MDA.
How do you #LiveUnlimited? I’d love to read about it in the comments.