Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Birthday Reflection: It's time to shed "I Can't"

I turned 35 a couple of weeks ago. Gulp. It kind of feels like a big deal. Not 30 or 40 big, but still a milestone. I can remember when my mom turned 35, and that seems significant. On my birthday, I felt like I had aged. Sure, the tiredness was more likely due to the fact that we have an infant in the house or that we were all recovering from the virus from hell (and subsequently nursing the visiting company we passed it on to, sigh.), but still. I did not feel like partying.

And that works for me. Birthdays are more a time of reflection; a time when I can take stock of where I've come from, where I'm going, and - most importantly - what I've outgrown. It's been a hard lesson for me to learn (and I'm still working on it!) but I'm appreciating, more and more, the importance of letting go of those things that bog me down and keep me from growing.

When I turned 30, I tried to do so gracefully, but I was still plagued by goals I hadn't completed that I was sure would have been accomplished by my 30th birthday. I constantly felt like I was playing catch up. I wasn't comfortable in my own skin.

I made a decision at that point to let some things go. I had to let go of old deadlines and, instead, just keep marching forward. I had to let go of the goals that belonged to someone else and determine which goals were really mine (and then make space for them.) I need to start getting out of my comfort zone and make things happen instead of waiting around for the perfect circumstances or opportunities.

Once again, I'm taking stock of where I am and, even with the tiredness, 35 is feeling much more graceful than 30. I'm not exactly where I thought I would be. This place is better. There are some big changes on the horizon - big enough that I have no idea where I'll be a year from now. Amazingly, I'm still sleeping at night (other than waking to snuggle with a certain 7-month old, of course) and, 99% of the time, I have complete faith that everything will work out and things will just keep getting better.

So, what is it time to shed? Well, with the big faith-walks ahead, I think it's time to shed the fear that masquerades as the words, "I can't."

This was made by someone who "Can't Bake."
In the not-so-distant past, I regularly uttered the words, "I can't bake." Followed by all the reasons (excuses) I was doomed to failure any time a recipe included measuring, timing, and/or yeast. The truth, now, is that baking brings me tons of joy. I love working through a challenging recipe several times to get it just right. Even more, I love working through simple recipes with my daughter and seeing the satisfaction she gets out of it - the joy grows exponentially.

I didn't become a competent baker overnight and there were some major failures. For example, my first attempt at Chocolate Babka resulted in three tooth-breaking, heart-breaking bricks. I brought them to my parents' house for Easter, eager and proud to share them with extended family. Sigh. After the teasing subsided, my aunt gave me some pointers and I resolved to try again the following year. The Chocolate Babka has become an Easter tradition.

Also in recent history, I claimed that I couldn't keep plants alive; that I was surely not a gardener. However, I just used the last of the tomato puree in our freezer, made from last year's surplus of tomatoes from our garden. And this weekend, we enjoyed the first salad of many which will come from our 'greens patch.'
Keeping us in salads, all Summer long...

There are other 'can't' beliefs I have held (some of which I still hold):  I can't do a handstand or a backbend. I can't finish the projects I start. I can't run. I can't lead. I can't break a bad habit. I can't stick with a good habit. I can't make it through another Summer without central air conditioning. I can't let anyone know when I've failed or when I'm in over my  head. I can't maintain a clean house. You get the picture...

It's so easy to become defined by the things you believe you can't do. And it can be incredibly comfortable to hold some of those beliefs. If you know you can't do something, you stop trying and you don't have to deal with failing. But then you also miss out on the surprising successes and unanticipated joy of achieving what seemed like an impossible dream.

So, it is time to be mindful of the times I say that I can't do something and recognize that, actually, with practice, patience, and the willingness to fail, I absolutely can.

Okay. Now I feel like partying. Or at least eating another cake. :)

Image credit: By Joey Gannon from Pittsburgh, PA (Candles) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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