“I Can’t” – A short rant

“I can’t”
“I don’t want to”
“I won’t”
“I shouldn’t have to”

I’m sure you have seen or heard me say this before, words have power. Many people use the above statements interchangeably and I believe it is to their own detriment. The statement, “I can’t” is particularly problematic. When I call people out on this they often dismiss their use of I can’t as trivial. Your brain stores this and over time it becomes true just by repetition. More accurate labeling of your emotion leads to better solutions and avoids the repetitive mislabeling.

Consider this, “I can’t take it any more.” What does that actually mean? Is there something that is implied but not stated? I often hear people using that statement when they are really meaning that they think they shouldn’t really have to do something or when they don’t want to experience something.

Not everyone will agree with me, but I think using I can’t instead of the other terms is a subconscious way, in many instances, to reject taking responsibility for whatever happens next. If I can’t do, tolerate, or handle something then I have more license to get mad, melt down, or avoid.

This isn’t always the case. There are times when I can’t is accurate. I really can’t bend my knee all the way. Multiple injuries and surgeries have rendered that an impossibility. I can’t handle scary movies is less true. More accurate for me would be I don’t want to watch scary movies because they make me uncomfortable and ruin my sleep.

The repeated use of I can’t can reinforce a victim mentality and disempower the user. What you practice will grow stronger. If you repeat something often enough, that belief will grow stronger. Perhaps it would be better to remember the Little Engine That Could. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. Or in some cases, I choose not to….I choose not to….I choose not to.

Attraversiamo

Attraversiamo literally means “let’s cross over.” I learned this word while reading Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I was captured by it with the first reading and it has continued to sit in the back of my mind ever since. Attraversiamo. This is actually pretty amusing since I am generally averse to change of most any kind. Changing sides of the road doesn’t hold any special appeal, but the thought of crossing over in a larger sense is strangely alluring. I think of crossing a bridge, changing life priorities, and pursuing new passions. This leads to my alternate title – What did you do during the pandemic? I chose to pursue some new attitudes and develop some new passions.

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia

I want to say a few more words about the book Eat Pray Love. Everytime I read or listen to it I recognize something new. It speaks to me in a new way. There are several books that offer a similar chance at new discovery. Perhaps it is because I blinked out for a moment when reading it the first time and missed something, but I think it is really because each time I read it I am different. I have changed. I have crossed over. Attraversiamo.

As I have mentioned in other posts, I seem to be in a season of change. Perhaps it is age, perhaps it is societal influences, or maybe I’m just ready. Simplifying things has become a priority. My life has generally been fairly complicated, with many irons in the fire. I previously liked it that way most of the time. But particularly since the pandemic, I have enjoyed the slower pace of life. In that way it was a blessing in disguise. Some people have really struggled with the isolation from other people. For the most part, I have savored the quietness. I’m packing up things I no longer need or want so that I can donate them and I’m only keeping things that still bring me joy. Attraversiamo.

I’ve started a practice of letter writing to keep in touch with my dearest friends. Admittedly, waiting for a response has been challenging since I’ve been used to almost instant gratification from my previous social media days. I’ve found that I enjoy choosing what paper I’m going to use as well as sharing the events of my life. Attraversiamo.

Many people have complained of boredom. I instead have had so many things that I truly love to do that it is often difficult to chose between them. And…..I have collected instruments. My passion for music has reignited. Not only have I continued playing piano and hammered dulcimer, I am now the proud owner of a mandolin, kalimba, steel tongue drum, and a bagpipe practice chanter (more on bagpipes in another post).

I took a class in choral composition, embarked on a self study of music theory, and I attended the Estill Voice Level I Training in July. The choral composition class with Elaine Hagenberg was pure joy and I have continued to compose almost daily since it finished. The Estill Voice training kicked my butt but was still wonderful.

You might not immediately see this as a change for me. How is this crossing over? In the past I was focused on the end product, but now I am taking pleasure in the process. Attraversiamo.

What changes are you ready to make in your life? Are you open to noticing opportunities? I haven’t always been open to the possibilities ahead, but now…Attraversiamo.

Mise en place

Are you impressed with my French?  Don’t be. Not only do I not speak French, I stink at mise en place.  I watch many cooking shows.  In fact, I’m somewhat addicted to them.  I’ve heard Alton Brown and others preach mise en place.  But do I practice it? NO!!! For example, one day I started putting together a great Tuscan Bean Soup but dumped the onions in the oil to saute long before I had even retrieved the garlic from the cupboard or the carrots from the refrigerator.

I’ve been pondering this personal deficit for a while now and it truly baffles me. I’m a person who makes lists.  My daily schedule in on an Excel spreadsheet and I dutifully remove things as they are completed. Usually the tasks are even recorded in order. The list might include thawing meat for tomorrow’s dinner, or staging the items I plan to take to the office the next day.  So my mise en place failure isn’t an inability to plan ahead.

I’m not a terribly patient person though. I can look patient, but on the inside I’m usually quite the opposite. I do find it hard to wait for the things I want or the activities I want to do. I’ve learned to cope with it though, so I can generally stay within a financial or time budget.

After reading an article about mise en place I think I may have found the answer. Mise en place can also be about attitude. If I fail to prepare my attitude or thoughts, the behavior is more erratic. I think this could be a lesson that far transcends the kitchen.

If you have a pre-cooking attitude adjuster that works for you…..please share.

Human Kindness

Christmas CupcakesAlthough I had promised myself that things would be different this year, I found myself standing at UPS with packages to ship with less than an hour before the cost would rise substantially if I wanted them to arrive before Christmas. As you might imagine, the store was packed. To my right was a woman filling out the paperwork to ship a package to her daughter who is stationed in the Middle East for the United States Air Force. She mentioned it quietly but the person behind the counter repeated some of the information to verify accuracy, and another worker got involved while trying to expedite things.

Because the worker was also trying to take care of my three packages while helping the mother of our service member, there were several short periods where I needed to wait. Actually, I’m glad I did.

The man to my left was shipping something large, but finished his transaction quickly. Before he left, he handed money to the clerk and gestured that it was to help pay the cost of the shipping to the Middle East. Then he quietly left. He said nothing directly to the mother.

I was still waiting when the mother was given the total cost for her shipping, then the clerk advised her of the man’s generosity and deducted his gift from her total and shared with her the man’s statement of gratitude for her daughter’s service to our country. She cried. The sales clerk cried. I got a bit misty myself.

It is easy to bemoan the lack of civility and caring in society today but that would be a mistake. It is still there. There are still people who demonstrate human kindness. I’m now challenged that if I’m not seeing it in others, I need to act it out myself. I know that the rest of that day I was just a little happier, a little nicer, and a little more hopeful.