Life is a journey on water. We spend our lives floating between the sunlit scenery of the conscious mind and the shadowy depths of the unconscious below. Dr. Richard D. Grant tells us our relationship to the unconscious is exactly our relationship to water.
1. We need it by the cupful to survive.
2. A plunge into it is refreshing. (Art speaks to the unconscious.)
3. Stay under too long and we’ll drown. (A psychotic break.)
4. There are monsters in the deep.
1. Limiting Factors – (factors that limit it. Impediments.)
2. Defining Characteristics – (characteristics that define it. Brand essence.)
Drifters on the ocean of life define themselves by their circumstances. Pushed here and there by the winds and waves of chance, their mantra is, “whatever.”
Surfers on the ocean of life define themselves by their activities. Riding the swells this way and that, they dream of “the next big thing.”
Drowners in the ocean of life define themselves by their limiting factors. Sad and mournful, they are professional victims, the walking wounded, a tragic story searching for an ear.
Navigators sailing happily on the ocean of life define themselves by their commitments. Navigators know exactly what they’re trying to make happen and they’re willing to pay the price.
Do you know what you’re trying to make happen? Are you willing to pay the price?
Lorian Hemingway chose not to drown in life’s ocean. In her marvelous book, Walk on Water, she speaks of childhood loneliness and a hollow stepfather who abused her alcoholic mother. But Lorian chose not to let these limiting factors become her defining characteristics. She chose instead to admire the toothless but resilient old black woman, Catfish, who cooked hamburgers at the café. Lorian was also shaped by encounters with her mother’s sister, Freda:
“At the age of thirty-five Freda had had a mastectomy. The bow and arrow was her therapy, to strengthen what was left of her chest muscles. Her body had been perfect, a sculptor’s model, and she’d worn her summer shirts tied up high under her breasts, braless most of the time. She still wore her shirts knotted at the rib cage, but now they were men’s cotton pajama tops, the material thicker so you could not see through; but often when she bent forward I could see the scarred bony place where the breast had been. I never knew if she was bitter for the loss, if she stared at the deformity in the mirror and wished for a time when she’d been whole. She never said. I never asked. She was not a woman martyred by tragedy, nor was she at all acquainted with self-pity…”
“Freda was a dazzle, a virtual watercolor of a woman whose moods and mannerisms were as electric as her wild black hair. Her grin alone, a flash of Ipana-white teeth, head tossed back, stopped men in their tracks, delayed them in traffic, and threatened their wives so completely even the milkman was not allowed to deliver at Freda’s house…”
“She’d tried once to kill my stepfather, whom she’d always referred to by his first and last names, Bill McClain, the two words run together in her odd accent so it came out ‘Bimicain,’ sounding like a fungal cream.”
– Lorian Hemingway, Walk on Water, p. 38-39
Limiting factors are outside you.
Defining characteristics are within.
Guilt is about what you have done.
Shame is about who you are.
Catfish and Freda taught Lorian Hemingway
not to internalize her limiting factors.
Be sure not to internalize yours.