What I Can’t Do

“Clear your mind of can’t.”

–Dr. Samuel Johnson, 1709-1784

Tell me about everything you can’t do. Now, in a second piece, tell me about everything you can do.

3 thoughts on “What I Can’t Do”

  1. Amika Kemmler-Ernst

    What I can’t do…

    Two basic categories: one is due to Covid safety restrictions; the other is due to age! Most distressing limitations due to the former are that I can’t hug my friends or visit in one another’s homes; I can’t be in schools; and I can’t go to museums or theaters or restaurants, or travel! As for aging, I’m mostly aware that I no longer have the energy or strength/flexibility I used to – I can’t skip or run, can’t look around when I walk, and can’t go up/down steps easily without holding a railing.

    What I can do…

    I can do almost everything else! I can read, write, think, and talk with friends regardless of distance via phone or video app. I can watch TV, although it’s not really my favorite form of entertainment; I can do crossword and jigsaw puzzles; I can take walks in parks and around my neighborhood; I can clean and organize and tackle what feels like an infinity of tasks in my home; I can shop for food, prepare and enjoy meals; I can play with my cat; I can enjoy hug breaks and snuggling with my sweetheart.

    There are other things I think I can do, and sometimes think I SHOULD do, but don’t – meditate, take online classes, publish books/photos, create a website, &/or explore new ways to fulfill a lifetime passion for teaching and learning. Figuring out why I don’t do these things is another challenge, although mostly I suspect it has to do with energy. It is interesting that I have spent most of my life being productive, and that being “idle” makes me feel useless and boring. Retirement brought me an opportunity for a balanced life and time for self-care, which has been disrupted by this year’s combination of physical distancing and renewed awareness of racial injustice, exacerbated by the abandonment of social responsibility and attacks on our society’s democratic processes by the very people sworn to uphold them. I feel like I need to reassess my own commitments at a time when I’m most inclined to hibernate!

  2. What I can’t do
    I can’t fly an airplane. Even if I wanted to fly one which I don’t, I never will. When I was about six, Dr. Beale, the Northern California cataract specialist, found out I was blind in my right eye, that I had been since birth. My parents were shocked, said they’d call me eagle eye because I noticed things no one else did, such as a small bug crawling on the cement or a bird flying to a tree branch.

    But I did complain that the shadow of my nose got in the way a lot. In my mind, everyone had a nose shadow which got in the way. And sometimes I tripped and fell, but that was no big deal. So I was a little clumsy. I could still ride my red scooter down hills and around the neighborhood.

    My parents felt bad because Dr. Beale said I’d always be blind in that eye because they’d have to fix the eye before I was two and no one knew. That is until I tried to do the eye test at school. Instead of saying I couldn’t see when I covered the left eye, I’d try to guess which direction the E was. It was like a game for me.

    After my parents found out, they were afraid to let me ride my scooter though I did anyway. They said I couldn’t ride a bike because it would be dangerous. So I borrowed bikes from kids in the neighborhood and rode those and dreamed of my own stingray bike. My brother got a skateboard for Christmas when I was nine, and he wasn’t interested in it, so I took it and learned to ride it down hills and all over, even in golden gate park.

    When I was a little older, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to drive a car. Dr. Beale told me, you can do almost anything and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. There are only two things you will never be able to do. You’ll never fly an airplane or drive a giant semi-truck.

    I’m 63 and still blind in one eye. Been driving since I was 20, and there’s nothing I can’t do except fly an airplane or drive a semi. Other than that, I can still publish a book and do anything I want.

    1. I love the movement of this piece. My favourite part is the energy that comes through when you write about borrowing your friend’s bikes and your brother’s skateboard and riding all around, even though you no longer had access to your red scooter. I can just imagine the joy and adventure of riding all around despite fears that others may have for you. I really enjoyed your piece and the wisdom you share.

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