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"I CAN'T DO THAT" - 1/30/2015

This article is not for those of you who believe the world is your oyster, unless you only talk a good game, but don't live up to it.  So, if your world really is your oyster, don't change.  Enjoy and live life as you have.  For the rest of you who underestimate your abilities are blind to your attributes, or feel that you’re always a day late and a dollar short, I have a question for you.  How many times have you been faced with a challenge and said, "I can’t do that?"  I know you believed it and that belief made it true. But it isn’t necessarily so.  Don’t accept it.  Doubt it and learn to say something to the contrary, such as, “I’m scared, but I’ll get it done.”  

Let me tell you three experiences I recently had, which gave me an emotional lift and whispered in my ear.  “What do you mean you can’t do it?  Be honest with you.  You’re frightened you’ll fail, but you’ve got to try anyway.”  I’m embarrassed to admit it, but occasionally I need a kick in my behind, particularly when I lapse back into believing what the little kid inside me feels; that I’m insufficient, haven’t done enough, or been enough to be of worth.  But, rather than go on at length about me, I’d like to share these experiences.

One of my favorite programs on television is on the Food Channel.  It’s called Chopped.  Four chefs are given ingredients that they have to use to make an appetizer, entrée, and a dessert.  They’re given 30 minutes for each course and a new basket of ingredients for each meal.  On one program, it was evident from his prosthesis that one of the chefs had lost his leg. Later, when his entrée course was declared lacking, he stated, “you know, I’ve been chopped before, because of cancer in my leg.  Although I didn’t want to lose that leg any more than I wanted to lose this competition, I discovered that, even when you’re chopped, there’s still life left to be lived and new opportunities to achieve.”  His words rang a bell.  I thought, “How many people have lost limbs, given up, and resigned to never try again?”  But that chef didn’t.  He chose to run toward his fears.   It made me believe that if he could, I can as well.   

My second story is about a patient I hadn’t seen in over two years.  She was a bright, articulate, but hostile obese human being, who, despite her appearance, was a successful professional, making a million dollars a year.   She called and asked for my earliest appointment.  I met her at my office at 6:30 am, but when I saw her I hardly recognized her.  I found myself staring at a very attractive woman, who looked like a different person.  I said, “You’ve lost an unbelievable amount of weight!” She said, “Almost 160 pounds.”  “How?”  “I did it by avoiding carbs and watching calories.”  I was impressed.  Even more, her hostility was gone, she exhibited a zest for life; and she had already gotten involved in a meaningful relationship.  It isn’t that she hadn’t been married before, but the individuals she previously sought out were all poor candidates for a healthy marriage.  

She said, “In therapy you taught me that the hurt I experienced early in life, I duplicated in my relations with the men I married.  I also realized that the pounds of fat I previously carried around served as a barrier to keep healthy men, away. “The problem was I gained so much weight that it overwhelmed me.  I couldn’t begin to think about losing it, because I didn’t want to fail again.  That’s why I left therapy.  I couldn’t face you or me.  To be honest, the words, “I can’t” controlled me.  The truth is, I needed first to change the words to “I won’t”, which, suggested I was in control of me.   That realization made the problem me, not my weight.  It’s crazy, but I thought even if I can’t change my weight, I can change me.”  

The last story really touched my heart and I hope it will touch yours as well.  It was told to me by my wife, who after teaching for 35 years, taught for another 18 years as a substitute teacher.   One day as she walked down the school hallway, she saw a woman in a motorized wheelchair.  As she drew closer, she realized that this was a woman she had taught with years earlier.  She recalled that the woman retired because she had a stroke, which caused her to fall to the floor; hit her head on the corner of a table, and to lose her sight in one eye.  The stroke also left her unable to walk, with a severe tremor of her hands.  Yet, there she was, motoring down the hall.  “What are you doing?” My wife asked.  Her reply was, “I couldn’t live the remainder of my life without doing something meaningful. So I went to the school and said, “Can I become a volunteer mentor to some of your more challenged students?”  “I’d like to mentor them, emotionally and academically.”

They agreed, and four years later, she was still doing her thing.  She proudly added that some of her students had gone on to return to regular classrooms and to demonstrate greater academic skills than they (themselves), or the administration ever imagined. Think about it.  Here was someone that most people would look at as a person who was in need of help, who was helping others. When life said, “you can’t”, she said, “I can! What I can’t do is live a life that doesn’t involve using whatever assets I have in a positive manner.”

I ask that you think about these three individuals, particularly on those days when you wake up disheartened, depressed, or resentful over the cards life has dealt you.  That’s when you need to recognize that despite what you may have lost, how large you perceive your problem to be, or how much help you may appear to need yourself, there are still opportunities for you to achieve, to address challenges, and to help and give to others.  Why, because you are of worth and have more to share with others than you may believe.  Please consider these thoughts, and stand up right now, no matter where you are and shout, “I may be scared, but I CAN.”

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