When someone tells you that you can’t do it….

….what do you do?

I have a tremendous amount of  “I’ll show YOU!” in my makeup/mindset, whatever you call it. Tell me I can’t, and I will show you I can. I’m not so charitable as to think that people who’ve told me I couldn’t do something were telling me that only to light a fire underneath me. There was one who didn’t think I could really go back to college and take good care of my toddler at the same time; another who was absolutely certain I would curl up and die if he left me (and was he ever surprised when I left him!)

And there were things I thought I couldn’t do, myself, until I realized I had no choice. I will never forget making myself learn to drive again. I’d been too afraid, for many years, so I simply hadn’t. Then came the day when I had to, no matter how I felt about it. Now I’ve reached a place where I enjoy it, sometimes, when I’ve no place I have to be and the music is turned up and I feel as if I’m soaring. And I think I enjoy it all the more because it was something  I conquered, so to speak.

It doesn’t mean, of course, that I can do everything. There are things I really can’t do, no matter how I’ve tried. Swim, for example; I can’t breathe deeply enough to stay afloat. I really have no athletic ability, even though I enjoy working out. And though I’m very good at basic math, I am hopeless with the higher forms.

But what it does mean is that I like this part of my nature. I do. There are things I don’t like about myself, but I like knowing that I have what it takes when I need it. It’s helped me get jobs I wasn’t qualified to do but that I believed I could learn, and convinced those hiring that I was the right one. (And I was.) It’s helped me go on when everything happening at the time said to just give up. I don’t give up, not easily, anyway.

So today….I was hard at work at the Y, just as planned (go me!) and enjoying it. For all that I can be lazy and come up with numerous excuses NOT to work out today, once I get moving, I’m glad I did. I’ve got a hot spot on one toe that wants to be a blister, and a couple of muscle protests (“WHAT? You did this to ME?”) but I know I’m going to feel just fine tomorrow.

And I was watching the other patrons. The girls who came in all their cute clothes and accessories, who were looking all around to be sure they were noticed, who giggled and shrieked to draw further attention to themselves, and who pretty much just went through the motions, with no real effort expended. (You must contrast this with me: black yoga pants, black t-shirt that says UNLESS YOU FAINT, PUKE, OR DIE, KEEP WALKING! and my hair in a ponytail, no makeup, no accessories, not in any way the kind of look that was going to draw admiring glances. Which is fine. That’s not why I was there.) Made me all the prouder of my daughter, who was hard at work on the elliptical, not trying to attract any attention, just focused on her goal. She is so strong and so beautiful!

There was an elderly man on the treadmill next to me who just kept right on, and I was thinking, “Good for you!” and on the other side of me, a gentleman I know from church and admire very much, who was working so hard on the arc trainer that his entire t-shirt was soaking wet. I like to see people really giving it all they’ve got. (I never want to come home until my own shirt is soaked through–which is why I wear black!)

Across from me was a man who couldn’t have been more muscular, and I was thinking he must really put a lot into his workouts…until I saw him sitting on one of the machines, texting. Well, maybe he had just got an important message and would then put the phone away and get to it, right? I mean, there are signs all over that tell you NOT to use your phone on the machines. He moved on to another machine….and did it again. He made the entire circuit without ever doing a single rep of any kind.  What was he there for?

Then I heard, before I saw, a young man who was making quite a lot of noise with every move he made. It reminded me of the heavy lifters who are very vocal, all but roaring with every lift. But this man didn’t look like that, and I wondered why he made all that racket. It didn’t look like he was working so hard it hurt; he never did more than five reps before moving to another machine.

But then I watched him move to the next machine, and realized he could hardly walk. And the walk was the kind that you could tell had been painfully learned–actually re-learned, I suspected, when I watched more of his motion. And just as I was thinking that he must have been injured, my friend from church leaned over and said, “Two years ago that young man was a complete quadriplegic. They told him he would never move again.”

That’s right. Someone told him “You can’t,” and he said “I’ll show you.” Maybe not in those exact words, but every move he made, every painful rep said it loud and clear. He looked up and caught my eye, and I gave him my biggest smile and a thumbs up, and his face returned a smile like a sunrise.

Tell us we can’t do it. Tell me I will never ….whatever it is…..and I’ll show you I can. And the next time I’m working out, if I even think for a minute that this is too hard, it hurts, I can’t do it, I’m going to think of this incredibly courageous man, who looked so fragile and yet was stronger than anything I have ever seen.


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