Karen wrote this recently:

Too often we think we CAN’T do something. What we really mean is we can’t do it by OUR rules.

I can understand that. On our recent trip to Prague, for instance, we spent one day out of the city, visiting Karlstejn Castle. Following our tour of the castle (given by a young woman who sounded as if she was bored sick of guiding tourists) we decided to follow a path marked by a signpost pointing to Beroun, the next station along the line. 13.5 kilometres, it said. Fine, we said. Not having purchased a map, we didn’t know what to expect. The path went up and down all the time – mostly up, it seemed, although we expected to go slightly down overall. Maybe because we began the walk at 1 in the afternoon, or because we only had an apple each and didn’t find a restaurant until near the end of the walk, we found the walk a bit tough. But still, it was doable.

What if you’d asked me to do the whole thing running without stopping? I’d have said no, I can’t. Possibly, if I spent a long time practicing running, I’d be able to do it. That’s just not something I want to do. That’s what Karen means when she talks about doing it by our rules: I’d only be prepared to run those 13.5 kilometres if I could do it without working at it. However, I’m sure there are people who wouldn’t be able to do that run, however hard they worked at it. There are people who wouldn’t be able to do the walk I did. I don’t mean those who are too lazy to do it or just don’t enjoy walking enough to try. I mean those who aren’t physically able to do it. What’s wrong with saying CAN’T in such a case?

Once, I worked with someone who was brilliant at telling stories of things that had happened to him. When he told a story, people would gather round to listen because they knew they’d enjoy it, me included. And I thought, I want to be like that. I enjoy giving presentations, being the centre of attention, and I want that to happen more often.

One time, he talked about his youth, about wild parties that he and his brother held every evening at their house. I thought about my youth, which was so different from his and I realised I could never be like him. I missed out on the experiences that could have made it possible.

There are enough things I struggle to do without trying to do the impossible. I feel better for saying, not that – I CAN’T do it and I’ll never be able to do it.

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