Can’t

So many people adopt the view that “can’t” is a dirty word.  I don’t.  I think we all have limitations: physical, emotional, mental.  I think it’s a good thing to know your limits.  That doesn’t mean you don’t push yourself.  Mental strength and willpower isn’t about being perfect and succeeding in everything you attempt.  It’s about being able to know that you can push yourself further than is comfortable and then doing it to the best of your ability.  

Today, I said “I can’t” at the gym.  I was doing weighted squats with more weight than the other women in the class.  I was doing burpees with full form pushup modifications.  I was giving it my all.  But then I hit a wall.  My arms were shot.  I had been doing dreaded pull-ups all through class, but at about the fourth circuit, I couldn’t make my body do it.  I tried and it wasn’t happening.  I just said, “I can’t”.  I was more disappointed in myself at that moment in time than I had been at any point in my life as an athlete.  Maybe it’s because we’re trained not to quit, at any cost.  It made me think of Tough Mudder.

I remember when I thought I might not finish Tough Mudder.  It was after I had jumped in the ice bath, submerging myself in a slurpee for a few minutes, and thought I might die, literally.  The two or three miles that followed were the most uncomfortable, painful, awful miles of my life.  I could not overcome the freezing cold coursing through my body.  But I looked around me and everyone was pretty miserable.  Maybe I was a little more miserable than most, but still.  This time, I could not get it out of my mind.  I could not do the “mind over matter” trick that my track coach used to burn into our brains in high school.  We got to about mid-mountain and I stopped.  I looked down.  I thought to myself, “Are you really going to quit?”.  The answer couldn’t have been clearer.  I was never actually going to quit.  This was too important and I knew I was capable.  It was a situation where I saw my limits and I knew I wasn’t there yet and I could keep pushing.  I’m so glad I did. 

So today I quit.  Ten miles over the mountains of a ski resort, running through live electrical wires, swimming through an ice bath and dragging myself through sand and mud, I could do.  One more chin-up after an intense hour workout, I could not do.  Sometimes your limits make no sense.  That’s why it is important to listen to your body.  Being 92 pounds and 5’2” puts limitations on me physically.  Some things are easier, some are harder.  And sometimes, I can’t do the things that other people can do.  It’s such a hard thing for me to admit, since I’ve always lived my life embracing the possibility that I could compete with others that seem much more capable than I.  I also think that women are much more capable physically than they are given credit for.  I also think that whether you’re a 92 pound lawyer or a 230 pound professional athlete, you will always have limitations.  Things you can’t do.  I wish it weren’t the case.  The sin isn’t not being able to do something, it’s not trying in the first place.  Maybe the dirty word isn’t “can’t”, it’s “won’t”.

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