The Joy of Edges: How Limits Keep Me Unbounded


I love edges. I like to know where something starts, where it stops, and what’s fair game within those bounds.

At some edges, I choose to linger. I live on the edge between air and earth, or if I’m swimming, between air and liquid. And beachside or riverside, I’m drawn to the interface where waves crash or roll; or where waters rush over brown rocks.

But to most edges, I will never go. They are boundaries or limits that define the units where I wish to tarry.

Messy toenail polish? Ick. Clean the edges and have a neat colored dot. Shaggy hair? Trim the ends, and the rest looks nicer. The edged lawn. The garden border. The pruned back shrub.

Edges of conversations? “I’m home.” “I’m taking off now.” “Good morning, how did you sleep?” Without edges, I put relationships on idle. These words give boundaries to when I’m responsive, when I’m responsible—or when I’m on my own.

Edges of relationships? How far do you go, how far do I go, when, and under what circumstance? When such edges are worked out, a comfort bathes me.

And the workday. How nice it is when the workday has no ragged edges. To say, “I’ve shut the door, I’ll pick the work up when the workday begins again” gives freedom to open another door, to be present for what I see next.

~ ~ ~

But just because I love edges doesn’t mean I have to hold to them, or that I can. It feels good to work at home sometimes, and it’s a good break—or sometimes simply unavoidable–to take a lunch or exercise break or to deal with other business. Then, the edges let me assess what I have done.

I don’t want to see borders in all gardens, or know the boundary of every park, or be aware of all my limitations. Sometimes I want to believe there are no boundaries, or that boundaries are irrelevant.

Other times, seeking out boundaries is the most fun thing there is. Can I do a certain feat? Can I tell stories in front of strangers? What boundaries will I work out with a new friend? And within those boundaries, what are the potential dimensions of our relationship? How different will life be when I travel, learn some of a language, read a book? What boundaries will shift if I bring home a new skirt—how will it change how I use the rest of my clothes? Can I ride my bike in it? Does it travel well?

Edges hold the world in, so I can live here. And yet the pursuit of edges pulls me out of my world to see what else there is.

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