Knowing My Limits

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Written on the 9th of January 2020, as I mused about knowing my limits:

Today I made a big call, at least for me.

I have been working at the front lines of the bushfire recovery efforts for 9 days now. Not in a laborious position, but as a group, we are one of the first teams to visit a property after the firefighters have left.

Silent questions are run through your mind, as you look over the wreckage of what feels to some, as their whole lives. Questions like:

Who lived here? What was their plan? And did they get out?

When we came across a homes that survived the devastation, sometimes it was just lucky, sometimes months of planning and hours terrifying work went into protecting the property.

There is Trauma Everywhere.

Occasionally, especially in places like Mallacoota, where most people have been evacuated out, we meet the residents of the homes. Some can describe everything that went on, the neighbors who stayed and those who evacuated earlier, or at last minute.

Some have just come back. They often bring a loved one for moral support, to find out what is left of the places they lived and worked.

They share their tales, often inquiring what we are doing there.

Those questions that are often followed up with more questions like:

‘When do you think we’ll get the power back? Do you know when the roads will be open? Are they bringing fuel for our generators? When can my insurance come and do an assessment?’

Often we know as little as they do, other times we can offer some insight into what is happening.

But it doesn’t matter, mostly they just want to been seen. To be heard. To know that someone is listening and is interested in their trauma. Someone knows that they are suffering.

There was great satisfaction and fulfilment in the roll. While doing it, no thought of my limits crossed my mind.

As we go along we meet or hear of people that need to be checked on. They are running of supplies, sometimes medications. They need further support.

So one of my fearless leaders, suggests on a day where weather conditions prevent us being too close to the fire lines, that we follow up with some residents and do further welfare checks.

I hesitate.

He is passionate to help, serve and be useful, but something in me holds me back.

It gives me pause.

I love to help and care for people. I am normally excellent at seeing needs and finding ways I can help. Normally my limits are so big I don’t even know where my capacity ends.

But those thoughts aren’t coming to me.

I realise I have reached limit with my emotional investment.

I am in preservation mode.

In that location, I already had a specific job to do and I was comfortable and so glad to be of use. Doing something practical and fulfilling but it’s also not draining the little capacity I have left to function.

I have spent the last 5 years pouring into a little boy who is no longer here. Now I am grieving his loss, I am hurting from the pain that brings my family.

But have also spent the last 3, going on 4 years pouring into some of the most beautiful families, families I have had the privilege to journey with.

I have limited capacity. I’ve already decided what I am willing to invest myself in.

One can still serve and be useful without needing to cross that line.

I said “I Can’t Do That.”

So I make the statement:

“I won’t be doing welfare checks. I am as emotionally invested in this as I am willing to be.”

Do you know what happened?

The world didn’t implode. I didn’t get thrown off the team.

Someone else said ‘Yep, I am in the same boat.’

Our boss responded, ‘That’s great, thank you for telling me that. No worries, we’ll find something else for you guys to do.’

It was a victory and learning experience for me. I had never really expected my limits to trigger me to say ‘no I can’t do that.’

But now that it had, I was proud of myself that when the time came, I could care for myself. I had even made it easier for another person to say that they also were at capacity.

People often tell me I am doing too much or taking too much on, putting myself in too many vulnerable situations emotionally.

These comments and voices sometimes nagged in the back of my mind. Would I know if I have reached my limits?

Would I be able to tell it was time to stop before I pushed myself too far past my limits?

The Answer is Yes.

I often hear conversations where people discuss another person in ways such as:

“They’ve taken too much on.”
“They expect too much.”
“They’re going to run themselves into the ground.”

I have probably thought it and maybe even said it myself about someone else.

But where does that thought come from? Where do I get off thinking I know more about what another person’s capacity is?

The only person that can answer the question is you.

Deep down you may even know you’ve long past it and you’re still keeping on. How does that feel?

What do you think might happen if you were to listen to yourself? To say ‘No, I can’t do that.’

Even before it happened?

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