Hey, I Can Do That! Or Can I? Wait. Scratch That…Or Will I?

We were visiting an art museum. I don’t remember which one. Our family trips almost always included a museum of some sort. There were a series of pictures by Josef Albers. Homage to a Square.

“What’s the big deal? A bunch of squares,” I said to my dad, “I can do that.”

“But you didn’t,” he replied.

“I know. But look. A square within a square within a square. I could totally do that.”

“But you didn’t,” he said again.

There have been many times when I’ve read a book and thought, “This isn’t even very good. I could do better than that.” But I didn’t. And I still haven’t. Written a book, that is.

And just tonight, while reading some blogs I had bookmarked for “further research” I stumbled upon a blog and she was a published author. (Don’t start guessing. It’s no one we know and no, it isn’t any of you.) And the blog wasn’t even that great. Topics of posts were a bit boring. The look of it was pretty professional but I spotted a grammatical error. It was just so-so.

And I thought, “Hey, I could do that.”

And yes, I have. Started a blog. And it’s ok. I feel like I could do better but I also feel like I’m still learning the ropes. But it’s not what I want it to be. Not yet.

I can do that.

I’ve said it a million times. But I haven’t done it. Haven’t written a book. Haven’t pushed a singing career. Haven’t gone to that audition. Haven’t gone to law school. Haven’t finished my Masters. Haven’t taken that cooking class.

When I’m feeling as if I haven’t accomplished anything in the course of my day my sister will ask, “OK. Well, what HAVE you done?” And I’ll list them: I loaded the dishwasher. I did 3 loads of laundry. I took the dog for a walk. I went to the grocery store. I fixed the boys xBox control. I unloaded the dishwasher. I started dinner. And she’ll say, “See? You got something done today, after all.”

So. What HAVE I done?

I got married. (Way too young) I tried out for a movie and got a small role. I sang in a major Symphony Chorus. I finished college. I adopted a beautiful baby girl. I got divorced. I taught for 12 years. I started my Masters. I volunteered. I presented seminars on laptop programs in schools. I got married again. I helped my husband grow his business. I became a stay-at-home-mom. I adopted a sweet baby boy. I got pregnant. I had another sweet baby boy. I’m raising three amazing children. I started a blog.

So, yes. I have accomplished something. But why doesn’t it feel like enough? What will it take to push me into overdrive so that I can write that book or go back to school? Or is it enough? Being an available, present mother is very important to me. And I am accomplishing that.

But I still have a nagging little ache of desire. A tiny voice, deep inside that still says, “I can do that.”

(“I Can Do That” from A Chorus Line is the song I want to share. This was the best version I could find. Please ignore the House references.)


Filed under Ponderings

28 responses to “Hey, I Can Do That! Or Can I? Wait. Scratch That…Or Will I?

  1. I’ve seen A Chorus Line five times. Love, love, love it.

    You were in a movie? That’s cool! Even cooler, though, is that you fixed an Xbox controller–now that is impressive.

  2. I know how you feel. I often feel that I could be “more,” but how to go about it? I think my big fear is putting so much effort into something only to see it come to naught. (Okay, I don’t “think”–that IS the fear.) I’ll regret all the time wasted. But like you, I often think, I could do that. (And you surely could, Jane.) My other assumption–and maybe this is unfair–is that a lot of people who make it in difficult fields have an “in”–someone who helps them out, a family member, a boyfriend, something. Do you think there is anything to this assumption? (Other than me making an ass of myself?)

  3. suzicate

    Sounds like you’ve accomplished many important things. I think our problem of not doing is that we want to do it perfectly. I haven’t completed a single one of the novels I’ve started. I could do that. But I haven’t. There’s still tomorrow, next week, next year, or the year after that. For now, I’ll live in the moment…until motivation and inspiration kicks in!

  4. I have yet to become famous for anything I’ve done. So I’ll have to stick to being a mom and all the other things I do during the day (I haven’t even touched the dishwasher yet today).

    However, I did recognize the Josef Albers’ print and I thought the same thing when I first saw his work.

  5. angelcel

    A theory suggests that to become an expert and be successful at anything, you need to spend 10,000 hours at it. (‘The 10,000 hour rule’). Every time you put pen to paper, pick up a camera, paintbrush, pencils, practise the piano etc. you’re contributing to those 10,000 hours in any given subject and you’re potentially one step closer to your dream.

    Your writing, for instance, is something that you practise every time you blog. Right now your life is filled with family but you’re still putting in those 10,000 hours at something you love. So you have already started that journey. You *are* doing it.

  6. I think everyone wishes they could have more than one life, be more than what they are. Especially today — what’s that book about no one wanting to be average? I loved what your guest blogger said — something about focussing more on who you want to be and less on what. Since I was little I wanted desperately to be a published author. At some point I realized that I was going to have to, um, write some stuff for that to happen. I did try that, but the fact that I read so much and studied literature meant that I couldn’t write a sentence without comparing it to the great writers and finding it terribly, terribly wanting. At some point I realized that being a published author wouldn’t make me any happier, or more confident, or a better person. I concentrate on the smaller successes, and keep looking for the next one. And I know this is kind of trite, but it’s kind of like what I tell my mother when she complains that time is going so fast (when I say that that’s better than having it dragging and hanging heavy): if you actually got to a point where you thought you’d accomplished everything, well what would you do then? (And I wouldn’t lose any sleep over not having done that squares painting:))

  7. It is okay to want more. And if you really do want more, than you need to go for it. But it is so important to be kind to ourselves throughout it all. To recognize what we have accomplished – the little things as well as the big.

    I was a little down in January, feeling like I had wasted 2009. So, like your sister suggested, I made a list of what I accomplished in 2009. When I was done, I sat back and let it all sink in. Wow. I kinda rock. I learned how to make several kinds of soup from scratch, I hiked more than I ever had before in my life, and I took a writing class. It totally jazzed me.

  8. unabridgedgirl

    What a wonderful post, Jane! I am guilty of this, too. Only I am also guilty of “I can’t”, and I get all silly about things. But I think that you’ve accomplished a lot, and I your blog is one of my favorites. I read it, because it inspires me in many different ways. I have no doubt that you can and will.

  9. Oh, Jane! You took the thoughts right from my head. My very next post is going to be about doing, accomplishing. That is, if I ever post it. My very biggest fear is regret. Looking back and wishing I had done different or more. But I want to do things out of desire rather than feeling like I should. This whole blog thing has now become so interesting to me and yet I haven’t made it a priority. Sadly, sometimes cleaning the bathroom just has to come first. When I start to get on myself I have to stop and remember this is for fun, for me.

    Same goes for the career and trying to figure out what my next step will be. But as Rebecca said, “it is so important to be kind to ourselves”. I am good at many things, but being kind to myself is often not one of them. But they say acknowledging it is the first step, right?

  10. Being an available, present mother is, in my opinion, is an accomplishment that outweighs all the others. Congrats on this major life achievement…worth 10 Masters and a PhD (piled high and deep) degree thrown in on top. And, like the saying goes, “you can have it all, just not all at the same time.” There will come a day when your house is quiet. Will you look back and regret being available and present? I think not. 😉

  11. I know the feeling. I’ve got so many stories and characters rattling around in my head that I’m just a step away from multi-personality disorder. Every year I say “This is the year I publish something.” Every year I realized I’ve hardly put pen to paper. The busier my life becomes the more I want to do. And God bless Angelcel. Those were great words of wisdom.

  12. It’s so hard to see past the perpetual pile of dishes waiting to be done, isn’t it? I’ll risk cliche and share one of my favorite Emerson quotations:

    To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
    to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
    to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
    to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.

    And if you are able to write a book about it someday? All the better.

  13. Oh, Jane, you so clearly can do ANYthing! But you do have 2 small boys and that is consuming. Along with the family, husband, blog and the rest of it. It’ll come, Grasshopper, all in good time….
    I say this from the vantage of my baby being 15 and actually starting to peek at that light at the end of the tunnel…

  14. I’m the king of grammatical errors!! I think we can all look around us at things and people and think we could do that or be like them. It’s not just about finding time to do something among the chores, it’s about having something unique to offer too.

  15. What a great post. It’s so true!!

  16. It sounds like you have done alot in your life. But I know where you are coming from. I visit that “place” my self on/off. It’s only natural. Hang in there.

  17. ck

    I’ve thought that many, MANY time. Like I’m waiting to feel important, or accomplished. And that no matter what I do, I can’t quite reach it. I blame it on being first-born. 🙂

  18. I think we all feel that ways sometimes, like no matter what you do you haven’t done enough. I think you should be proud of all you have accomplished!

  19. Before I started blogging myself, I remember reading a post of Aidan’s in which she wrote: “No, we can’t have it all. But we can have some. The challenge is to convince ourselves that some is indeed enough.”

    (Clearly, I liked it so much, I thought to write it down; sadly I didn’t write down which post it came from.)

  20. Love this post. So much truth to it! And I love that you started from the Joseph Albers. And modern art epitomizes the “I could do that” syndrome.

    People forget that while something may seem somewhat mundane to us today, it may have been very new when it was done. In the field of fine art, there is both the aesthetic and the conceptual at work, and I personally find Albers geometric works contemplative and quite beautiful.

    As for writing, and reading so-so writing, we all know we don’t always put our best writing out there (if we even could say what that was). We live in a “real world” of many conflicting realities. But our dreams – and desire to do it – are no less uplifting.

  21. Oh my goodness, do I hear you. Between the “what have I accomplished with my life” and the “why can’t I do it all like so-and-so seems to” I can drive myself into a sorry state of worthlessness. And then I think of that scripture about there being a time to every purpose under heaven, and I think that maybe right now the time isn’t right. It might be the same for you. Raising young children and focusing on home stuff is what you’re doing right now. Pretty soon, all too soon, they will be grown up. Maybe then will be the time to do things that right now aren’t easy to fit in. I don’t know, for sure, but I’m comforted by that thought many times.

  22. I totally empathize with this post. I’ve done some things I’m proud of, but my list is huge. And the list of things that are half done and I may never finish is really painful some days.
    So I try to prioritize. And those days there is a terrific mess in the house and my husband doesn’t see me, but I write a little. Or I ignore my child as long as he’ll tolerate and I get a client project that will make me feel like I’ve accomplished something.
    I think part of the problem is that the unpaid work we do is not recognized as the only way society will ever continue…so we undervalue the contribution of raising decent citizens.
    Still. Day care could, hypothetically, raise them to be decent and we could finish another degree or book.
    I don’t know the right answer. I do know I’ll feel unsatisfied no matter which path I choose.

  23. I struggle with the same questions on a daily basis. There is so much that I want to do, to accomplish. However, looking at what I have done with my life so far leaves me feeling a little better. There’s nothing wrong with having goals, though!!

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