Lately I have been thinking a lot about limits, and noticing how people seem to put limits on themselves. Limits on their happiness, limits on the blessings that life has to offer, and limits on their own potential and success.
Many people seem to put limits on their own happiness. I hear all the time people say things along the lines of "I'll be happy when..." and then fill in the blank. I'll be happy when-we have more money, I get a new job, I get pregnant, our adoption is finished, I have a new kitchen, I find a man, I finish school, I move, the kids are older, I lose 20lbs, I can retire, etc. etc. etc.
I am well aware that life is often stressful and that there are always challenges. And often it seems like "if only" we can get past a current challenge and reach a new milestone, goal, or success that life will be so much better and THEN we will be happy.
Well, I think that line of thinking is flawed. I have found that often when we get past one challenge, life just tends to throw us a new one. If we are always putting off our happiness until things are easy or everything is perfect, we very well may never be happy. And I believe with all of my heart that our happiness should not and can not be conditional. We always have the choice to choose happiness, and while choosing to be happy may not eliminate our problems and life's challenges, it will certainly make our days more enjoyable (for ourselves and those around us) and our burdens easier to bare. I have never seen anyone be better off for being stressed out, frustrated, upset or depressed.
Look around you. Focus on the good in your life. Smile. Live in the moment. Choose to be happy today.
Another area I see people limiting themselves is in the blessings life has to offer. I hear people say SO often, "I could never" or "I would never" when I share that my husband and I have 13 children, 10 of which we adopted. I hear it a lot in regards to adoption. "I could never adopt" or "I would never adopt an older child" or "I could never parent a special needs child". I am well, well aware that adopting an older child or a special needs child is not right for everyone. However, I believe strongly that many, many more people "could" than do, and that many are missing out.
Yes, adopting older kids, especially kids with difficult backgrounds, can be challenging. Being a parent is never easy and adopting older kids definitely brings along extra issues and challenges. And yes, parenting a special needs child can also certainly be challenging. There are many extra things to think about, extra responsibilities, extra demands on your time, extra worries and extra stress. But I cannot say enough that those "extra" challenges are so far, FAR outweighed by the extra blessings these kids bring with them. I know first hand that easier does not mean happier or better.
It is not hard to look at my life and imagine how it would be if Josh and I had chosen the "easy" route. We could have just had our three sons and stopped there. We would both be working full time so we'd have a much bigger income and we'd "only" have three (healthy) kids so our expenses would be a lot lower. We would have lots more free time, "spare" money, luxuries, and freedom overall. But you know what? It's horrible to me to even think about it for long.
Our life is so rich and special and amazing and FULL of love and joy and blessings. If we had chosen a different path we would be missing out on so very much. All the extra money, freedom, luxuries, and time in the world could not even come close to replacing the blessings that each one of our kids has added to our life, the things they have taught us, and the love they have added to our hearts.
That is not to say that everyone should go out and adopt a whole bunch of kids (I am definitely not saying that), but the next time you are talking about your life and you catch yourself saying, "I could never (whatever)" just stop and think for a moment that maybe you COULD, and maybe your life would be better for it.
And finally, since I have become a runner and especially a marathoner, I notice how frequently people limit their own potential and success. I would be rolling in cash if I had a dollar for every time someone said to me, "I could never run a marathon" or "I could never run faster" or "I could never lose the weight". Guess what? YES YOU COULD. When I first started running I could not run two miles without walking. For the first year I was running I was thrilled with any pace under 11 minutes per mile and I got nervous just contemplating running anything further than three miles. I did not lose 70lbs and I am not able to run marathons and run at faster paces now because I am lucky or because I have any special abilities. I am able to do it because I have worked really freaking hard the last seven years.
I fully and completely realize that not everyone WANTS to run a marathon or even run a mile, and that is fine (and not the point). But to all of those who say "I could never", I say "you sure as heck could". It wouldn't be easy, but if you wanted to, and set your mind to it and put the work in, you could do it. And the important thing (and the point I am trying to make) is that that doesn't just apply towards running. It applies towards any goal or challenge in life. I think if more people starting saying "I can..." or "I am going to..." instead of "I could never..." that there would be a whole lot of people amazed at what they are able to achieve in all areas of their lives.
It's not easy to reach beyond what is comfortable and familiar. It is not easy to challenge ourselves or take on something we know is going to be difficult. It is not easy to look on the bright side, especially in the face of adversity. It is often scary to dream big. I am definitely still learning. But I have learned that often the things that challenge us the most (emotionally, spiritually, physically) have the greatest rewards.
Don't limit yourself. Don't limit your happiness, the blessings waiting to come to you, or your own potential. Choose to be happy today no matter what life throws at you, and quit saying, "I could never...." Life is meant to be enjoyed and lived to the fullest.
Erin Henderson is a mom to 13, competitive marathoner, adoption advocate, and certified running coach who does it all with the love and support of her husband Josh. She lives in the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming after being born and raised in New York. Erin and Josh have adopted children from the United States, Vietnam, South Korea, Ethiopia and China.
Erin worked in adoption for five years as the coordinator of an HIV+ and special needs adoption program, and has been an advocate for adoption for many years. Her heart is very much with all orphans and children in need, but especially those with special needs. Erin is excited to be joining the RainbowKids team as the Special Needs Outreach Coordinator, working with both adoption specific and non-adoption advocacy groups for children with medical and developmental special needs.
When she is not changing diapers, cooking large amounts of food, doing laundry, braiding hair, helping with homework, or driving around kids, Erin can often be found running in the early hours of the morning, training for marathons. She blogs about her life and adventures at mydaringadventurelife.blogspot.com