The Brilliance of “I can’t”

The Brilliance of “I can’t”

Who thought I’d ever have anything good to say about my life-long complaint: “I can’t.” C’mon. Even the coaching approach I designed has CAN DOs.

But I’m starting to see its brilliance: it’s my get-out-of trouble card.

I’m currently in Carolyn Scarborough’s Backyard Pearls Writing Telecourse. I signed up because I always wanted to work with her and thought it would help me complete my second book (tentatively “How Kids Work”). I had no illusions of becoming a creative writer.

Not surprisingly with Carolyn in the lead, the class is turning out to be about so much more than writing; it’s more like an experiential study in “being present” – the source of creativity and joy.

So there I was, just having fun writing along to one of her prompts, incorporating my “mistakes,” changing direction, then weaving my lines of thought together, until all of a sudden I noticed that my unplanned paragraph was turning out pretty well. The second I realized “I can” do this, expectations started to creep in, and it was no longer fun. The shift was subtle but clear, and the pressure was coming completely from me.

I was stunned. If the feeling “I can” creates expectation and pressure, no wonder I turn to “I can’t.” It’s an unconsciously brilliant strategy for reducing expectations. After all, when I really can’t do something, I don’t even think about it. It’s like starting from 0; like I can’t fix a car. So? Or I can’t set a broken leg. No problem there either. It’s simply not mine to do, and anything I contribute is a plus.

So when I get overwhelmed and frustrated, what better place to turn than “I can’t.” It’s starting to show up as more of a wish than a complaint – a wish to return to a simpler state, to reset to 0, the natural state of being present and enjoying life.

No wonder our kids resist when they are trying to prove they can’t, and we say, “Yes, you can!” Kids are always right. All we need to do is listen to them and ourselves. What have you been hearing lately?

1 Comment

  1. Sandy,

    Love having you in my class and especially the way you can flip almost anything into a brilliant insight! Thanks for sharing as I know I can relate to this, and likely many others as well. Look forward to reading more of the creative writing you “can’t” do…



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