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The Donkey

Over the weekend, my husband and I watched the new version of Annie.  There was a moment in the movie where Annie says that people say no because they are too afraid to say yes.  While I agree in some ways, I really think the word we use that puts up that wall is “I can’t”.

I have had many people say to me “it’s so amazing you can do xyz, I never can do that”.  They act as if I have more talent or more time or more something.  The reality is I work very hard not to say “I can’t”.  Instead I say “how can I”.

I can’t turn myself into a duck.  Nothing I can do about that one but I could hang out with ducks.  I could learn to swim.  I could spend time at the pond.  I could figure out what is it about being a duck I really love and work towards that.

Then again, maybe that’s a terrible example.

I can’t fly a 747 – not today.  But I could take flying lessons.  If it was really important to me, I’d find the time and the money.  If I can’t start today, I could go to the library and get a book on flying planes.  I could go on youtube and watch videos.  I could start saving money for lessons.  I could call a place that offers lessons so I can make a plan on taking lessons.

Saying “I can’t” is a defense mechanism.  It’s something we learn as children.  How often do you tell your child you can’t do something at that time because you don’t want to?  “No, I can’t take you to the park, I’m busy.”  I’m tired.  I just plain would rather have bamboo shoots stuffed under my nails instead of spending the next hour chasing you around the park.  We lie because we feel it’s kinder.  It makes us feel less crappy as parents.  Let’s own the moment.  We are human and there are many times when our children want our attention when we are just too emotionally and physically drained to give it to them.  It doesn’t really make us bad parents.

What it does is teaches our children (and us when we were children) that ‘I can’t’ is a reasonable excuse.  This must have been something my mom didn’t say because I really dislike when people say ‘I can’t’ to me.

“It’s amazing how you volunteer your time to xyz, I just can’t find the time.” (Except they were just talking about how they binge watched 12 episodes of Grey’s Anatomy over the weekend.)  It’s not about time.  We all have lots of time.  We just don’t use it effectively.  So why not say the truth  – “I am so glad you volunteer because the idea of serving punch to a room full of kindergarteners makes my teeth hurt.”  or “I’m so glad you are the chaperone for the boy’s camping trip because I desperately need a night without fart jokes and smelling boy feet.”

I know – it’s not really polite to tell the truth.

How about this one (this is the worst of the I can’t pet peeves) – I can’t paint because I don’t have the right brushes.  I can’t dance because there are no lessons for my age group.  I can’t finish this project because ….

Know what – I probably have the wrong paint and the wrong brushes.  I definitely have the wrong paper but I paint because I want to.  I love to.

I dance – probably horribly, because I like to dance.  I watch videos and do a little research so I can learn new things about dancing.  I’m not going to be a prima ballerina but who wants all that pressure any way.  I dance because it makes me feel good.

If I am missing something for a project, I figure out how to get it or how to do without it.

I, often, have to remind myself that there was time when all these tools didn’t exist.  Crochet hooks exist because it made the work easier – not because someone said hey if I take this hook, I can make things.  Someone was sitting around thinking, this work sucks – what can I make to make it easier?

Painting existed before expensive artist grade paint, special brushes and fancy paper.

We say “I can’t” because it allows us to not fail.  It keeps all the hard things at bay.  It keeps us from embarrassing ourselves.  If we can’t do it, then no one will criticize our work.

I say – knock it off.  Instead of say “I can’t”, let’s say “I don’t want to” or “I want to but now I need to figure out how”.

On the same note – stop worrying about what other people think!!!  I had a talk with a woman the other day who had a lot of “I can’t” because she doesn’t like the way she looks.  She can’t go swimming because she doesn’t want anyone to see her in a bathing suit.  She goes shopping in the middle of the night because she hates that people might talk about her and her food choices.  She’s a beautiful, wonderful light in this world and she puts a huge tea cup right over it.

So I say – so what!!!!  Let them talk.  Let them stare.  You are beautiful because you are you.  Don’t let other people be the reason you can’t.   Remember so many ordinary people did amazing things because they didn’t listen to the can’ts.

I just thought of a story (and this is my final note) – Drew Bledsoe is from my area.  His dad had the best story.  When Drew was in junior high, he announced he wanted to be a professional quarterback.  His dad smiled and encouraged him even though he was pretty sure Drew would never live that dream.  His football coach couldn’t see it ever happening either.  Drew was small and not the sort of boy you pictured growing up to be a quarterback (to be honest, I know so little about football that I, honestly, have no idea why they were sure he wasn’t built to be a quarterback).  That didn’t stop him.  He planned out his dream.  He gave himself goals.  He strived and didn’t listen to the noise that said he wouldn’t make it.  At age 22, Drew became the youngest quarterback to play in the NFL Pro Bowl.  He went on to have an amazing career as a quarterback.  All because he refused to let “I can’t” into his dreams.

If a boy from Eastern Washington can do that – you certainly can to.

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