What you CAN do

This is what I wrote on the side of our fridge Saturday afternoon:

Focus on what you CAN do,
Rather than what you don’t know.

It came out of an interaction with Elisha that morning, where he *PANICKING!* was running out of time to finish emptying the dishwasher.

“Where does this go?” he’d gasp, running from the kitchen. “What about this?”

And I kept telling him, with increasing irritation, “There’s a whole dishwasher of things you do know what to do with. Save what you don’t know for later.”

It was weird because I always put away the esoteric stuff anyway, like canning funnels or flour sifters.

But it was that fridge line that became the mantra, to the point that I wrote it where we’ll all see it 16-times each day.

It’s a funny (odd) line to think on, as there’s not the parallelism you’d expect.

Image courtesy of Sue Byford via stock.xchng

But is wasn’t until the kids were down for the night, and I was alone in the house (Jay was gone for the weekend, catching salmon to stock our freezer.) that I saw that morning conversation as foreshadowing.

Have you ever seen foreshadowing in your own life? I’d love to hear about it.

Alone with my thoughts is not always a safe place to be, because (like my darling children) I have the ability to escalate.

And as a fairly intelligent adult, my escalations have the terrifying ability to be plausible.

Over the last two years (maybe I’ll tell that story someday) I’ve discovered the tar pit of anxiety, along with depression. It’s a tricky place for me, because my understanding of intellectual honesty is that you don’t pull back from an idea just because it gets uncomfortable.

So I’ve assumed for years that being uncomfortable is part of the process of being honest.

I ran into trouble when there were so many variables that a specific, concrete truth was not knowable.

That’s something I saw Saturday night.

A new data point entered my world, with a kaleidoscope of refracting possibilities. I could actually feel the tension in my chest preparing for take-off. Then I walked by

Focus on what you CAN do,
Rather than what you don’t know.

For the tiniest instant it felt like lying to myself. It felt like sticking my head in the sand.

But no “truth-telling” or looking closer at the problem would have resolved it.

What can I do? I asked myself. I could do what needed to be done. Things that data point may eventually effect, but won’t this night.

I canned salmon. Made room in my freezer for the new catch that (Lord-willing) would be arriving in a few days. (It did. And how!)

There will always be more we don’t know than we know.

Image courtesy of Pedro Ignácio Loyola Frota via stock.xchng

 But the fear of not-knowing has been crippling to me.

What I learned that night is that my antidote for (potential) fear is to focus on what I can do.

Which explains (to some extent) why I see competency as so important.

If there is nothing I can do, I have no armor.

Yes I recognize this is leaving out the spiritual side of things, but hang with me and we’ll get to that.

It is this relationship (of ability to protection) that makes competency so important.

Many times over the last two years I felt an intense, at times almost painful, need to write. It was something very few people seemed to understand. I didn’t completely understand it myself, I just knew the relief once I’d taken the time to write.

It could be described as boredom (merely wanting to do something different), but I don’t believe that’s what it was.

I was desperate for a change in occupation, but it wasn’t (exactly) for escape. I think it was a form of muscle exhaustion. My detail-tracking, awareness-managing, conscientious-keeping-up muscles were overworked and not being refueled.

Turning to writing was the only way I knew to rebuild my confidence (where I draw most of my energy from). I had to prove to myself that I had power, that I had competency in at least one area.

This wasn’t about ego, or even wanting a weary, introvert-mom’s time alone. It wasn’t longing.

It was drowning.

And I received well-meaning (or, at least non-malicious) tut-tuts about my “perceived need” as if those thoughtless individuals would have denied me the air I needed to live.

Because, honestly, is the person delaying (or challenging the need for) air any safer a companion than one who causes drowning?

Now, for that corner of readers who ask, What about God? Isn’t he supposed to be your source of all things right and good? I must in return ask, How many times have you begged God to Do or Act or Be, and discover him doing exactly what you needed in a way you never expected?

I’m confident it was my writing that anchored and kept me level as I was. It was my connection to God (written prayers) my way of reaching out to others (blogging, commenting or emails) and my naming of true issues that needed rehearsed before I could deal with them in real life.

I’d read it was true of children, and I found it to be equally true for me: to be truly effective, humans have to believe they have something they do well. It is an anchor and a starting place from which to explore the unknown.

It is a fortress to return to when the new or unexpected proves too much.

It is a good and perfect gift, from our generous Father

One thought on “What you CAN do

  1. Pingback: It’s all… Just Enough | Untangling Tales

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