My mother always insisted I could succeed at whatever I wanted to if I tried hard enough. For a very long time, I believed her because not believing her was unthinkable for me. She was knowledgeable about many subjects, strict but encouraging, and offered helpful advice. Adamant about her rules, she believed firmly in accountability for one’s actions. Her life was marked by generosity to others and me, and I never doubted her love.
High school sophomore year, plane and solid geometry was my nemesis. My mother’s theory about succeeding at anything if I tried hard enough was tested beyond its limits and found to be a fallacy. Contrary to her positive thinking, her daughter was never going to understand even basic geometry let alone the more advanced version. My fragile self-esteem became nearly non-existent and stress entered my life, although I didn’t know what it was called. I just knew my stomach hurt each morning. Fortunately, I went on to live a happy, fulfilled life even without comprehending the mystery of various angles and confusing designs.
My mother did not allow, “I can’t” as a reason or excuse for not doing something. To this day, when I mentally or verbally say, “I can’t” her voice is what I hear. Perhaps she would have considered the expression, “it’s not possible” to be more acceptable. She hoped to encourage her less than confident daughter to take calculated risks and try new things.
Her efforts eventually paid great dividends for me, and I am thankful for her never-ending words of encouragement.
Last month, a dear and adventurous friend was sharing humorous details about taking three grandchildren to Chicago for a mini-vacation. She drove them to and around the Windy City. Such a feat is not within my capabilities. My directional competency is severely limited and does not extend to such distant destinations. My grandchildren would think I’m a fun chaperone, and we’d have a grand time, but I wouldn’t be driving. Hello trains and taxis!
The evening the story was told, I immediately eased my mind into respectful self-acceptance, refusing to engage in negative self-talk. It worked. The “can’t” word crossed my mind, but I never flinched as I knew my mother in her eternal enlightened state would agree with me.
Recently, I visited a business and ordered various food items for carry out. The young staff person was personable and helpful. My total cost was $14.50 and I gave her a twenty-dollar bill. She immediately used her smartphone to figure the change, explaining she wasn’t very good at math. I could do the math instantly, but would struggle with the electronic device. I wanted to offer some shortcuts in making change, but other people were around and I didn’t want to embarrass her. It’s interesting how a challenge for one person is a simple matter for another.
Learning to ask for help or admitting one’s shortcomings is understandable. Refusing to try new experiences isn’t. Different ideas and adventures are exciting to me, as my mother hoped would happen. She’d concur that geometry skills and directional abilities are not my forte. And she’d accept, as I do, that it really doesn’t matter now. Other skills and interests compensate nicely for what I “can’t” do, and for that I’m grateful.

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