remember: the body’s pain and the pain on the streets/are not the same but you can learn/from the edges that blur O you who love clear edges/more than anything watch the edges that blur. ~ Adrienne Rich
Edges. Pushing edges. Hell, finding edges. Exploring, lingering, waiting, hating, resisting, relishing, resting, breaking, blurring, reinforcing, meeting – discovering the edges within ourselves, those far reaches beyond which is no-man’s land, perhaps even literally. This is a practice.
What does an edge even look like? I can only tell you what it looks like for me. For me, it’s the place where, when I am opening to vulnerability, right before it gets to be too much. That’s an edge for me, where I can operate in a way that feels safe and comfortable and easy (although not too cushy), but I can see that with a slight push I will be out of a space that’s comfortable. Your edges will probably look different than mine, but there is a universality to finding those spaces in ourselves where we reach a limit, beyond which is ever so slightly (or strongly) outside our comfort zone. And while I have long been a firm believer in the growth and transformation that comes from stepping outside one’s comfort zone, these days I’m exploring the edges. I am exploring the place just before I’ve crossed the line, perhaps in an effort to see if it’s totally necessary for me to push, push, push until I’m over the edge with nothing safe or familiar to cushion my fall should it happen. Trial by fire I guess. And that’s a lot of the way I’ve operated in my life. Jumping in – and disconnecting. Yup, that’s my clever nervous system at work. I take that step, push myself outside my comfort zone, and because it’s often scary out there, I check out, stop being present in my body and instead occupy the mental place that is ever so comfortable for me. Eventually, most times, I am able to come back, return to my body and resume the presence with which I am able to live my life when I recognize safety. But what if there’s a different way of doing it? What if I can stay with myself the whole time, instead of disconnecting and coming back? What greater depth would be possible if I didn’t have to take the time out to bring myself back into myself?
Because here’s the thing, while I will always place an enormous amount of value on the ways in which I’ve grown by crossing that line, I think the deeper change comes when we are able to stay with ourselves in these uncomfortable places. And I think that an inherent part of growing and evolving and transforming also means inhabiting yourself. Showing up for yourself over and over again. Trusting that no matter how uncomfortable or painful or grief-ridden or ecstatic or joyful a space may be, I’m not going anywhere. Developing that trust in oneself that comes from constancy. How much deeper the discoveries are able to integrate when we are present with ourselves – and isn’t that the point? To integrate our growth so that it becomes part of our very fabric, not dependent on an external influence.
A baby, as it’s learning to crawl will crawl away from a caregiver (parent, sibling, babysitter, etc), stop, turn around, check to make sure they’re still there, and then proceed on. Over and over again – testing the constancy, building the foundation of trust that there is a presence holding them, making sure they’re safe as they discover new movement. And so with exploring our edges: we find our edges and then check back in with ourselves to make sure we’re still present, and then return to the edge and see what happens next – all the while, checking back in, making sure we’re not going anywhere. But that means we have to find those edges, explore and be willing to go there, be willing to stay with that moment of anticipation, that moment when we could either step over or step back. And good lord, that’s hard.
If you choose to embark on this practice of finding the edges and hanging out there, let me throw in another piece – give yourself permission to step back. Geez. Seriously. Hang out for as long as it feels ok to hang out (find the edge within the edge), and then step back from the edge, take a deep breath, feel your feet beneath you, remember that you’re safe, remember that you have a choice in this. Always. You can choose to remain where you are, just as you can choose to explore the edges, and there’s no better than or worse than when it comes to those choices. Sometimes just knowing what those edges are is enough. And maybe if that’s enough right now and you just let that be there and hold gratitude for those edge, eventually, over time, you might find movement toward venturing out to them.
So, as I explore this in myself, in my own way, at my own pace (with a whole lot of backing the hell up) I’m discovering that in the process of staying with the edges, I find that they move, ever so slightly and every once in a while my edge is a little further away – my capacity has grown. And I rest into the growth, and then keep on keeping on, finding my new edge and hanging out there. Rinse. Repeat.
But, in this practice I’ve learned that nothing happens without gratitude. If I beat myself up for a limitation or an edge, all that serves to do is reinforce it. So to this (both in myself and you) I say: appreciate those edges – they have served brilliantly to protect you, helping you survive and function, given you a container in which to live and love and interact and engage all while maintaining a sense of safety. Thank them. And then ask yourself, what else is possible? Really. What else is possible? How can I do this differently? Give space for the edge to speak – the answer might surprise you. Or it might not. You might find you knew the answer all along.