There is your Edge, and there is your Limit. The differentiator is space. When you are at your Edge, you can be challenged, nimble, creative, and brave. If you are at your Limit, there is no space to maneuver; there is no forward, no backwards, no left or right. There’s just you hanging on by your fingertips clinging to life. Survival is all there is.
In the Summer of 2011, I found myself at my Limit – sitting in the HOV lanes outside Washington, DC with two hysterically crying babies in the backseat. I had never felt more trapped – physically and spiritually. With literally nowhere to go, I realized that I was existing to simply get through the life I had so carefully created for myself. Any sense of thriving and enjoyment had disappeared.
Outwardly, everything appeared to be grand. I had a wonderful family, two healthy kiddos, a career where I was challenged and respected – there was even a picket fence around our yard. All that was missing was the dog. But I was up before dawn, and every day was a marathon run at a sprinter’s pace. Frantic racing had become my routine. As a result, exhaustion was creeping in. Nothing ever had my full attention; I was constantly working towards the next bullet point on my list. All effort was focused on maintaining this insane norm I had inadvertently created.
What was wanted most was a life where I could live at my Edge; at that place where being busy came with a sense of calm and joy and adventure; where I could choose to participate in activities that nourished my family, not drained us.
On that traffic filled day, I remembered my own childhood – growing up with my family in Tampa. We lived within two miles of my grandparents, and my sister and I rode our bikes endlessly through the neighborhoods after our snack of Deviled Crab and other Florida favorites. Sundays centered around family and football. My Grandma Georgie’s famous Cuban chicken and rice was always on the menu. This was what I wanted for my children. The question was simple and yet overwhelming…
How could I raise my kiddos under the palm trees in Tampa, surrounded by their family and history while maintaining my DC-based career that I adored?
For the first time in my life, I dared to go after exactly what I wanted. I spoke with my employer and arranged to telework. I gathered up my laptop and our life and hopped the auto-train south. Within six weeks we had moved from Virginia into a new house in Tampa – just two miles from my parents. I enrolled my children in the elementary school my sister and I attended; a quiet little school with a view of the bay. And we started to thrive.
With the change of scenery and a lack of measurable traffic (love South Tampa!), life now included time to think; time to tackle the spiritual change that I knew was so desperately needed. But instead of embracing this opportunity, I ran from it. I filled every spare moment with activity and people – noise to drown out the voice in my head that was telling me that I had only just begun.
And before I knew it, there I was again – at my Limit. I was again miserably moving at a frantic pace. The only thing that changed was the view. And finally I broke. One “fun” Friday night, I found myself alone in my bedroom, hiding from a house full of people that were doing nothing but draining me of every last resource I had cobbled together. Filled with absolute panic and an overwhelming need for peace, I knew it was time to take a brutally honest look at my relationships; which ones were giving me joy, which ones needed realignment, and which ones needed to be ended all together.
And with greater confidence than I thought possible, I inched back from my Limit. Some steps were smaller – distancing myself from people who weren’t contributing to the life I envisioned. And some changes were giant leaps; I divorced my husband and worked with him to develop a new version of our relationship that worked better for our family. By living apart and parenting together we were both able to create the lives that we had individually dreamed of but weren’t able to realize together.
In the midst of all this, Change decided to impose itself on me – as it is prone to do. The company that I had worked with for almost 17 years abruptly ended their telework program. And just like that, I was out of a job. Doubt, anxiety, and straight up fear started to rule my days and nights (especially at 2 in the morning when sleep was nowhere to be found). I found myself at my Limit almost immediately. But one night as I lay there, I took stock and realized just how far I had already come, all the work that I had done, and most importantly – how truly powerful and valuable I was.
I took a very deep breath (or seven) and decided to treat this unexpected development as yet another opportunity to better my life. I started the evaluation and the work again – this time with a laser focus on my Edge and what I needed to stay there. My previous practice and habits gave me confidence, and success came quickly in this case. I joined an organization that truly encourages and celebrates success both in and out of the office. They don’t just talk about work / life balance; they allow each employee to create the individual environment needed to be their very best.
With the support of my friends, family, and my new company — I have been able to organize my days so that my family and health are a priority and not an afterthought. I exercise every single day. I pick my kids up from school. My parents still provide Deviled Crabs for after school snack along with homework help. And their great grandmother’s Cuban chicken is our favorite Sunday dinner. We are all thriving at our Edge.
While conscious dedication to my Edge has become the habit, and I remain vigilant about creeping towards my Limit. There are times, of course, where the busy turns to frantic (usually when we have 10 minutes to get to school and no one will put on their socks!!), but they are just moments. By actively practicing life at my Edge – in a place of strength and creativity and renewal, my busy life continues with a sense of purpose, calm, joy, and appreciation- just as I had always hoped that it would.