I Think I Can’t, I Think I Can’t

The past six months have been, well, let’s just say… interesting. Mainly because an accurate description would be rather expletive filled and that’s just not a polite way to start out a post (but here is your warning that later on in this post I may be using them in earnest).   I won’t go into details, just because that just makes me sound whiny and pathetic but I can say that I have learned 2 very important words in these past 6 months and they are “I CAN’T”.   Wait, is that 3 words?  Do contractions count as more than one word?  Oh never mind, that is not the point.

In our society, we put a premium on the words “I CAN”. We tell our children that they can do anything. We read them stories about persistent locomotives and winning tortoises that instills in them this idea that we are like super heroes that can leap tall buildings and save the world all while maintaining perfect hair and a happy-happy smile. I grew up on these things and I have to say that up until recently, I thought that was right.   I could do it all. I could do everything I wanted and more.

Then life got fucking complicated.   I mean really fucking complicated. (Not whining, just saying… and I warned you)

And I learned that it is okay to say “I can’t”.   I can’t be the bestest den mom ever, heck I can’t even be a bad den mom right now. I can’t bake a 1,000 cookies and then show up with pearls on, not that I ever wore pearls. I can’t pull off the most sunning public speaking presentation ever.   I can’t be all that and a bag of chips.   I just can’t. And you know what, that is ok. I am not Super Mom and Master of The Universe wrapped all into one. I am a woman with kids, a business, a house and a garden.   That is damn impressive enough.

At first, using the magic words “I can’t” is painful.   After all, you are disappointing the locomotives and tortoises of the world and let me tell you from first-hand experience,  tortoises can look very disappointed in you when they want to.   But the more you use it, the more you realize that they are words of power. It is how you come to take control of all the things that really matter and discard the crap that everyone else made you think was important. The words “I can’t” are the 1-800-GOT-JUNK of your hoarders like time schedule.

And now it is spring (well not really, but if Mother Nature seems to think it is spring, then who am I to argue with her?) and the question for me now is what do I say “I can’t” to in the garden.

But while asking myself this question, I also realize that “I can’t” can also be a transformative phrase.

For example, due to my circumstances this year, I can’t start seeds in the house (well, I could but they are likely to be made into a toddler facial) but that does not mean I can’t start seeds. A quick search on the internet reveals directions for handy homemade greenhouses.   “I Can’t” is not a failure, it is an invitation to be creative.

I can’t get out in the garden as much this year either. But, there are a lot of things I don’t like to do in the garden.   Weeding is nice in moderation, but having to do it daily sucks. So how can I remove weeding from the equation and focus on what I really want to do in the precious little time I have in the garden?  I am personally thinking of hiring a hot, young gardener to do it for me, but I think the hubby may take exception to that. Regardless, “I can’t” is not a defeat,  it is a light shining bright on my time.

It’s been a tough (but rewarding) six months. I cannot tell you what the next six months will bring either. But I can say that I am now fully armed with a few choice words to get me through it— the 4 letter kind and I can’t.

17 thoughts on “I Think I Can’t, I Think I Can’t
  1. It’s nice to think “Oh, yes, I CAN do this.” But most often I find that “I can’t – yet”. Is a much more realistic way of looking at what I can do. I have two toddlers myself (and another baby on the way) and I understand completely about “I can’t”. A lot of what I would like to do, will realistically have to wait until I have at least one, if not all, of the children in school.
    Do what you can, ignore what you can’t.
    xXx Helen


  2. Hi Hanna,

    Welcome to the JNRN – just not right now society. Easily amended to just not really(!)never for those spontaneous cases that must be ejected from the schedule ! Schedule !?! Sorry did not mean to let that double expletive slip into the conversation.

    So are those milk containers the super instant greenhouses ? Just add water, dirt, and seeds. Then cast aside into partial shade where the dog can get in trouble ? I think those seeds will do fine ( and the dog ).

    I await the break out blog.

    I can hang in there to garden another day. Just not today. ( I gotta paint – ewww ! )


  3. I’ve learned to love “I can’t” and even better is (respectfully) saying “No.” It’s nice learning how to turn down requests from people.


  4. Great post! Over the course of this last year I have struggle mightily with this myself, at work more than at home, but not saying ‘no’ of course causes everything to bleed into everything else.

    I particularly like the interpretations of limitations as invitations to creativity. That is so true!


  5. narf7 on

    I discovered your blog through “The Soulsby Farm. You have to love all those 4 letter words but “I Can’t” is amazingly hard to start saying but incredibly liberating when you do. Moving from the urban constraints of less than 1/4 acre out to a 4 acre property covered in weeds, my anal need to have everything “just right” dissolved and “I Can’t” suddenly became my new mantra…I am starting to come out from under the bed to face up to all of those messy things …hens… MESSY…clay…MESSY…sigh…alright life isn’t easier in the country folks…just messier 🙂 Cheers from Australia and I will be eagerly awaiting your next post


  6. It took a chronic autoimmune disorder to teach me the words “I Can’t”. On the outside people can’t see what I struggle with daily and really I think that I must make it look easy to maintain a similar load that you bear. I hear from friends and some family that they could never get half the things accomplished that I do. Yet they don’t realize that our family has learned to work as a mostly well oiled machine. When I learned to say “no and I can’t” it was liberating. We can’t carry the whole world on our shoulders and we’re fools to try. However we can do what we can and keep moving forward if only putting off what we can’t now for another day. The stress relief can be felt almost immediately.


  7. Hannah,

    I too have learned the value of saying “No.” I tried to remember this quip: “I can only spend a minute once. In order to say ‘yes’ to one thing, I must say ‘no’ to many other things.” I like your idea that being thwarted in one area can spark creativity. My mom was a good example of that.

    You mentioned how time-consuming weeding is. Have you watched the video, “Back to Eden”? You really ought to if you haven’t. It’s a couple of hours long, but definitely a worthwhile investment of time for someone like you. Also, check out our family’s blog to see how we’ve been implementing what we learned from the video. (Our blog was featured on Back to Eden’s facebook page!)




  8. I seriously laughed out loud several times while reading this. I really appreciate your honestly and I can totally relate. Thank you for this post. It made me smile!


  9. Thank you for such a wonderful post. Your honesty and frustration are just what I needed to hear on a day when I was beating myself up for not being “good enough.”

    Love, love, love your passion.


  10. Hey,

    Love the blog, you def have a new follower.

    I was wondering if you knew what kind of plants are good for heavily shaded gardens? we have a tiny tiny city garden, but it is surrounded by big oak trees which i suspect are sucking the life out of everything, couple that with it not getting an ounce of sun and me being a complete novice, i’ve no idea what to plant in there, everything from last year died.

    thanks for your help!!



  11. Kelly on

    Hanna, I loved your blog. I have become weary in doing well and as a journalism major I understand the importance of the spin you can put on your statement to help put it into perspective so here goes. I CAN… say NO. Giving ourselves permission to focus on a few things and take pride in those things, even if they only benefit our needs, is survival tip #1 to being a succesful mother and a succesful human being. These days I feel that I am blessing people with my presence if I am actually dressed and I didn’t burn the cookies I am offering for that umpteenth bake sale. “well” I think to myself, “at least I’m not naked..with my pearls on”. Now that would be exciting and then mabey they wouldn’t ask me to bring the damned baked goods to school again. Mmmm there’s a thought.


  12. Sue J on

    I really enjoyed reading this. I like to garden, but not all aspects of it, like
    you 🙂 ‘I can’t’ is very useful, especially when in the habit of letting ‘Yes’
    come out of your mouth before your brain is in gear. Well done you!!
    I will be back 🙂


  13. Jamie on

    Aaaaahhhhhhhh…………..I needed to hear this right now.

    Thanks for making it real.


    robert glenn Reply:

    are you able to provide info with out all the f words or are they that important to the message?


  14. Well there you have it!

    Can’t get more honest than this and even a few “f” words thrown in to make it complete.

    I share your thoughts totally even though I would consider myself an eternal optimist. Admitting that you can’t do something is actually a strength in my mind.

    We all have our own strengths and weaknesses.

    Anyway, good to see real feelings coming out in an interesting article.


  15. Therese on

    Wow! You are a powerful writer. I have to say, “I can’t,” because I fight with depression and become overwhelmed very easily. I’ve dealt with feeling guilty for 25 years, but now I look at the good things I have done and will continue to do. I “Pay It Forward” whenever given the chance to do so. The movie made me cry and I wish it had an ending that was more appropriate for kids so they could show the movie to younger children in school … it could have been a classic.. Sometimes it’s the little things people do that make the biggest difference to one person who then helps someone else. Since I’ve learned it’s best for me not to volunteer since I may not be able to “handle” it .. I will donate money instead of time. At least I can do that so someone who has more energy can use it to make an event better. I always ask to be anonymous because I don’t care what other people think of me … I know in my heart I’m a good person. May your life become better each day. Share only if you feel you can help someone by doing so … or even it it’s just to help yourself. I was jealous of those “Aunt Betty” type people .. .but thank God they are out there to compensate for those of us who can’t pull it all together like they can. I am now able to live with my not so perfect life and find the good in everything. Sometimes it may take a day or so to feel that way, but I strive to be “happy” with my life. Thank you for helping me.


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