no ephs or cays

It’s so good to have po-friends. One of my po-friends gave me a copy of this:

from the Ann Arbor courier 2/23/1887; I found the image here

In my time, I’ve done plenty of thinking about limits. I think there’s something in the American psyche that says limits are to be fought. And some limits do ask to be fought: racism, sexism, injustice, and the like.

But other limits can’t be fought. Those who have been reading for a while know that I have a chronic illness that involves, amongst other things, arthritis and fatigue. If I had a nickel for every time someone said to me, “You have to fight it. You can’t let it keep you from living your life,” … . When, in fact, there’s no fighting it. It is part of my life. It’s not going away. Living well within the constraints of my condition is the only option.

But this post isn’t about me; it’s about no ephs and cays and a little boy I’ll call C. The story with no ephs and cays is that a long-ago newspaper’s printing press lacked the Ff and Kk. They went to press anyway. They worked within their limits.

Now, onto C. He’s a little guy in our neighborhood with developmental and physical delays, and severe autism. He’s swimming on the same swim team as my kids this summer (Sidebar: I call it the hippie swim team. Meets are optional. Practices are optional. It’s all about having fun.). I think this is C.’s first year on the team, and he’s just learning to swim. Nonetheless, C. raced in the 50-freestyle yesterday at our meet against the Sharks. Every stroke was slow and painful to watch. Many times I thought he wasn’t going to be able to finish the race. But he kept going, and going, and going, slow and sputtering, but on he went. By the time he made the turn after his first 25, every single person at the meet was cheering for him. Half-way through the second 25, he slowed to a snails pace, and we all sat on the edge of our seats, hoping and cheering. By the time he finally finished, I was weeping and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.

The Roccay Mountain Cyclone went to press with no ephs and cays. C. swam that race even though, by most standards, he wasn’t race-ready. Both are a reminder to me that we can all work within our limits, whatever they are. In writing and in life, we can start before we’re “ready.”

8 thoughts on “no ephs or cays

  1. I love that your kids were there to experience of everyone cheering for the kid who wasn’t normal. My boy J needs a moment like that.

  2. LOVE this story of C and the story of no ephs and cays! Thank you. And thanks for your own story of acceptance. So many people tell us to fight everything all the time. Some stuff is just here, just a given. If it happens to be a limitation, as you say, it’s good to know our limitations and how to work within them or around them…but not pretend they are not there. They are. That’s the wonderful, weepy thing!

    • You’re so right that it’s both wonderful and weepy. I’ve gained so much by learning my limits. So glad you enjoyed both stories. Thanks for reading.

  3. Sometimes, being limitless is far more limiting that finding ways to work within the limits. I’ve seen young people paralyzed by an “open” writing assignment, desperate for a framework to start from. I’ve also seen other people who exhibit brilliance in the face of boundaries and obstacles – an improv scene where one performer could use a maximum of three words per turn to speak rendered me awestruck.

    It is amazing, though, what some people don’t understand about limits. I heard a story of a young girl with some serious mental challenges. Her insensitive teacher said she simply needed to pull up her socks and failed to acknowledge what she was accomplishing every day. It took another teacher to say that she was pulling her socks up as far as they would go but she was given anklets and he was assuming knee-highs. So much hurt could have been avoided and was once he started celebrating her victories.

    • Wow, I really love the anklets analogy. I feel this way every time somebody says somebody should, “pull him/herself up by your bootstraps.” Well, some people don’t even have boots. It’s so important to see what is accomplished rather than what isn’t (for others and for ourselves). Thanks for your thoughts.

  4. Wow, great experience and some great insights. I love the newspaper clipping too…..such a perfect way to illustrate the point.

    It’s really nice to think that “things” are limitless, that we can do anything we set our minds to do, the latter of which I believe to an extent, but the reality is that everything and everyone has limits. Learning to work within them is what allows us to achieve, IMHO.

    BTW, I also suffer from fatigue and joint pain, I know exactly what you are talking about when you describe what people say, and your response to that concept.

    Lovely post, thank you.

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