It’s probably no surprise that a family of six with a single income can be strapped for money at times. It was one of those times recently, and I was feeling stressed about it. I had a prayer in my heart to find some guidance, and it wasn’t long before I was inspired. I had the privilege of hearing Gary E. Stevenson give a talk during General Conference. In his talk, he expressed his agony over all of his inadequacies, and then said, “I received a distinct impression which both chastened and comforted me: to focus not on what I can’t do but rather on what I can do.” While he was speaking in terms of his personal insecurities, my mind quickly applied this to our financial situation. Then, as the week progressed, I saw how I could apply it to every aspect of my life. Having a can do attitude is one of the ways I’m striving to accentuate the positive, as I wrote about last week.
This is not a ground-breaking idea. We’ve heard variations of this same concept countless times. I’m sure I’m not the only one who needs reminders of simple truths, then finds them lying in plain sight. When I was in therapy years ago, I would have these “ah-ha” moments and come home to tell my husband about it. He would respond, “Isn’t that the same thing that I’ve told you for months?” I would respond back to him, “Yes, but she somehow said it differently and it clicked.” Or perhaps it’s just my belief in the “two makes it true” theory? Who knows? The point of the matter was that THIS quote clicked, and I’m going to share how all-encompassing this concept really can be.
My weakness is eating out. Oh, how I love it. A good cheeseburger is practically therapy for me, and so much more affordable. But when money is tight, nothing is considered affordable, is it? So, instead of feeling glum about not eating out, I thought about how awesome it was that we had enough money to get all the groceries we needed. I began to think about how cool it was that I had dishwasher detergent already, so I didn’t have to hand-wash my dishes. The more time that went by, the more opportunities I saw that I DID have in my daily life. I could take my kids to the park and play. I could go to the library and check out as many books as I wanted. I could go on a walk with my friends. There was so much that I could do!
Then, I went and did something dumb. Well, it wasn’t dumb at first, it started out quite awesome! My daughter was the “Super Hero of the Week” at school and each day provided something special for her to either share or do. Friday was “Bring a Buddy to Lunch.” Guess who got to be that buddy? And guess who COULD be there for her daughter? That’s right – me. Lunch with my second grader and playing with her on the playground was the awesome part! I happen to love going on the swings, so I made a point to get some swing time in. The thrill of being so high that I go above the bar is the real highlight for me. I was feeling pretty proud of my skills. As I was slowing down, I underestimated how high I still was from the ground. It should be noted that I do not normally jump off swings. I’m a wuss that way. I totally thought I was lower when I made the leap off the swing. Oh, how wrong I was. I landed unsteady, stumbled a bit, spun around, realized my fate included landing on painful wood chips, and fell flat on my back. All I could do was laugh. I was mortified. I’m pretty sure only my daughter and a couple of kids saw me (or at least that’s what I told myself to keep intact whatever bit of my ego I had left). My sweet daughter helped me up and brushed all the wood chips from me. Thankfully, it was time for me to go, and I was able to escape my embarrassing moment. Unfortunately, I could instantly tell that I had injured my big toe. So, you see, it all started out awesome until my one dumb move came into play.
I quickly began cursing myself and realized that I had a painful situation on my hands (or more literally, my foot). Walking became more and more arduous, as the adrenaline of the event wore off. That’s when I fell into the wicked trap of “can’ts.” I began to focus on all the things I could not do with the injured toe (like those walks with friends that I mentioned above that I could do even with low funds). How grateful I am that the quote above was still fresh in my mind. I decided to focus on all the things I could still do instead. The most important of them being that I could still get down with my boys and wrestle that night. I could still sit to fold laundry the following day. I could still kneel for bedtime prayers with my family. There were so many “cans” left that didn’t involve pain in my toe.
I’m finding that a can do attitude truly is a beautiful way to look at life. It doesn’t need to be used simply as a source of motivation, it can be used as a method of comfort. I suppose that’s the difference I found in Stevenson’s quote versus any other variations I had heard prior. What I can do does not have to be limited to achieving goals or benchmarks. A can do attitude can be a pulse check to all the good that already exists in one’s life. I know that’s the affect it’s had on my life these past couple of weeks. It hasn’t always been easy to avoid thinking of the “can’ts,” but it’s amazing the level of peace I feel when I recognize how many more “cans” are in my life. I even got to thinking about how this month’s First Friday Find: Zach Anner was another great example of a can do attitude in motion. He may very well be the epitome of this way of life.
Honestly, it’s been pretty fun to acknowledge all the things that I can still do despite tight funds and a sprained toe. I really have a lot going for me. So, the question is, what CAN you do?