Gifts and Limitations

In a recent morning meditation from Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening, I read of his playing basketball during high school and college. He assessed his performance with this stunning sentence: “My gifts were enough to hide my limitations.”

In immediate response, my mind sorted its archives to a job interview I had in the late ’80s; I interviewed for a library KMHuberImage; librarycataloger position with the library system’s director. Her impression of my resume was, “You’ve had many positions that most people would consider careers.”

Forever naïve, I welcomed her comment as a compliment, freely admitting how wonderful it was to experience as many careers as possible. Not only did I miss her point but I’m not sure that I fully appreciated my own response until I read Nepo’s sentence.

In other words, my gifts were sufficient to let my heart go elsewhere.

The ability to enjoy more than one career seems to be much more accepted in the 21st century. In fact, it may be a necessity. Regardless, there is an emerging awareness that exploring our gifts to their fullest allows us to let go of the dreams that are mere moments of brightness for the one light that is ours alone.

I have been incredibly fortunate in my work as a journalist/editor, a college writing instructor, an administrator and in between, I worked clerical jobs that taught me the immense importance of detail.

For as long as I can remember, writing was in my heart but I never had the courage to experience it. I believed one secured a job to support one’s writing, which wasn’t working out too well for me. Never did I consider “the succession of life’s trials is precisely the unfolding we need to find our bliss and rightful place in the order of things” (Nepo).

Not surprisingly, I did not get the cataloger position but I was later hired as the branch librarian and went on to become the director of the library system. I loved those library years but I could not make them be my dream nor was I the library system’s dream, ultimately. We both looked elsewhere.

It is not that I have not considered my careers from time to time for I have. I am grateful for all that brought me to this moment, for all the unfolding of my gifts that gave me each dream until another dream emerged. I think it kept me curious.KMHuberImage; Library gazer

What I never experienced in any of the dream jobs was the joy I experience every time I write. For me, there is nothing like it, and I am completely serious when I say that I come to the writing to find out what happens next. Whatever happens in the writing, I experience it. No longer clinging to what the writing may or may not be, the words and sentences open into the field of infinite possibilities, where joy resides.

Every career brought me moments of happiness but never joy for I was KMHuberImage; writingclinging, which is very like trying to touch the wind.

“The truth is that what we want to dream of doesn’t always last. It tends to serve its purpose… And then fades away, losing its relevance. And we can do enormous damage to ourselves by insisting on carrying that which has died” (Nepo).

Only in pursuing our gifts do we meet our limitations, which, I suspect, is the stuff of dreams.

22 thoughts on “Gifts and Limitations

  1. I think I feel the same about my painting, which has never been something I have made much money from but means more to me than anything. Interesting to follow your ‘career’ path especially as I spent so long as a librarian/archivist/cataloguer! I enjoyed most of it and it did make me what I am now! Actually I have also found a lot of joy through my blog too.

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    1. Later, I realized I had not mentioned the real joy of blogging. I find it challenging but it is immensely satisfying, and I always learn something. For instance, this post brought together four cataloguers, two former, one current and one almost but all librarians at one time or another. That is what I find so exciting about blogging, the constant discovery of connection in ways we would never know. Thanks, Diana!
      Karen

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  2. Hi Karen, another insightful post and one I very much enjoyed reading. I guess my own philosophy as far as roads travelled, or not travelled, goes is that everything we do leads us to where we are now. I don’t mean that in a facile sense, but in a more accepting way. It is easy to look back at opportunities lost, jobs not awarded or whatever; but if they had been followed then the ‘moment of now’ would be different. Would it be better? Perhaps not. And I think that if we have due direction, whatever ‘now’ we are in will likely also be the best ‘now for us.

    When I look back on my own life and career so far, I can see decisions I could have made, or should have, but didn’t. All with hindsight. Realistically, I did the best at the time with what I knew. And if it didn’t pan out – well, it all led up to what I am doing now. (Looking back, I also realise that virtually everything I’ve done has been geared towards writing, one way or another…but that’s maybe another story).

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    1. I agree, Matthew! A lot of this looking back certainly has to do with my exploration of awareness and Eastern traditions; I suppose that is its umbrella. However, as I begin to put together a draft of a new novel about aging and awareness, I find myself reviewing certain decisions. I don’t regret them nor does it sound as if you do–neither one of us strikes me as a spilt milk kind of person–in hindsight, I find more curiosity at the way the pieces came together, which is what hindsight does best, perhaps. In other words, I would never have imagined my life in that way but how interesting that is the way it occurred.

      Thanks, Matthew!
      Karen

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  3. Great post, Karen! Your last line is very inspiring. We can’t grow unless we overcome our limitations, right? Everything I’ve ever done or worked on has put me on the path to where I am now, and I’m incredibly grateful for the journey.

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  4. Hi Karen,
    Another fantastic post, I always look forward to starting my week with your wonderful insights. This one really spoke to me as I wondered if you had recently been going over my resume. I too have held many positions that could have, possibly should have, become my career but something kept me moving along. Until I began writing on a regular basis I never felt completely satisfied in my pursuits, no matter how successful. The joy you describe is evident in your writing as sentence after sentence seem to follow a thoughtful, light and gentle path; possibly a combination of your love of writing and your meditation practice. I agree with Adrian, this was no doubt one of my favorite posts and I thought the pictures were perfect. Thank you for a great end to a very hectic Monday.

    Stephanie

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    1. Thanks so much, Stephanie! Sorry the Monday was so hectic but that seemed to be last week’s mantra, among others. It really is Joseph Campbell’s “follow your bliss” as when you do, everything else falls into place, which you know already. Good for you. And I think the writing is more for the meditation. Thanks for making that point.
      Karen

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  5. Karen, how did I not know that you had a stint as a librarian? I’ve been a librarian/cataloger for 26 years now, although now I’m far more manager than cataloger.

    I love the quotation about hanging onto a dream when we should have moved on. There’s a lot to ponder there.

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    1. In all that we have exchanged, how did we not cover this territory? When I read 26 years, I thought “she’s too young” but then I remembered us both referencing the late 1980s. We add yet another layer to our somewhat parallel lives.

      Nepo’s daily meditations are incredible; this is my first year with The Book of Awakening but it won’t be my last.

      Karen

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  6. Freedom! Loved this. The other night my daughter went out about ten o’clock. I was sitting on the sofa, writing. When she came home I was in the same position. I had no idea what time it was. Four hours passed in what seemed like moments. I may never earn a dime from writing, but that little detail won’t stop me.

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    1. Hi, Tina!

      Thank you for your kind words regarding the post. As to your question, no is the short answer but the route to where I am now with my writing is a bit more circumlocutious, meaning my careers played only one part. Of course, you know how hindsight is…. Always good to see you here.

      Karen

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  7. The light we choose to carry changes as we go through life–but seeking for and believing in the light, even if it is just the light of the moment is what makes life life. This is one of my favorite of your posts.

    I too managed a library (mine was the branch library in Key Largo). The Monroe County library board and a I also found that our best answer to the question of how to manage our particular enterprises lay elsewhere.

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