A new way to look at I can’t

How many times have we all said those words: I can’t. I don’t know about you but I do it all the time. I use those words constantly. About a lot of things. I am starting to realize the many facets of I can’t and what it is doing to my life.

First of all, there’s the I can’t when what I mean is I won’t. There’s a difference. Won’t is a choice. I’m making a choice. It’s what is right for me at that time. Nobody else needs to agree with my reason, or get my reason, or heck even know my reason, but the bottom line is I won’t, not I can’t. I need to start making this distinction so that I am reinforcing that I have choices in my life and I am making those choices.

Second is a very subtle thing, and to get there, I’m going to have to digress for a moment.

Do you know about self-talk? We all do it. We all have a voice in our head that talks to us all the time. This voice talks all the time and usually the favorite topics are negative things. We are not good enough. We are not loved. We do not look right. This voice drones on and on and on and it convinces our poor minds of horrific untruths. I have been on a journey to find out that the voice in my head is MY VOICE. I own it. I control it. I can tell it what to say. I can chose to change what that voice tells me. I am working very hard this year on changing what my self talk strategy is. This is not telling myself I’m going to be a supermodel, but talking myself through situations with purpose rather than letting the voice take over. Slowly, I am seeing a shift in how my mind works. It is very slow but I am seeing a shift.

Ok now to I can’t. I spent the most glorious weekend at the O’Flaherty Irish Music Retreat. I’m learning how to play a new musical instrument, at my age. HAHA. But adult learning is difficult. As adults, we have gotten very used to picking up things quickly. We rarely pick up something that is too far out of our comfort zone and for that reason, we gain a basic mastery rapidly. Anything that doesn’t fit this model is HARD. The attrition rate amongst adult learners is huge. Fear of failure, the length of time to see any measurable results and finding the time to put in the necessary effort to learn anything new, be it language or music or anything is HARD. But I want to do this so I embarked on a journey last year. And it was oh so hard last year. I literally cried from frustration the whole weekend. It was so HARD and I kept saying I can’t do that.

One of the big things is in the Irish Music Tradition, music is passed on aurally, you learn by ear. I am a classically trained musician who works from a score. I can’t learn by ear. I told myself that all weekend last year. I kept telling myself that last year but I did attend a workshop on the subject where I was told I could learn. So I worked on it for a year.

Fast forward to this weekend. At the retreat. I learned two new tunes by ear. TWO. BY EAR. I CAN. This is huge. I’m still not very good at it, it took all weekend and my teach is a saint of a young man but I DID IT. He also wanted me to tap my foot while I was playing. I told him if I had to move my feet and my hands at the same time, I would fall out of my chair. We all laughed and I said I can’t.

I got home last night and was playing my new tunes. I tried tapping my foot. It was the predicted train wreck. The cat got poked in the process when I lost my balance. Then something crossed my mind. A year ago, I had firmly said I CAN’T learn music by ear, but I had just spent the weekend doing that. I played a bit more, I apologized to the cat, and as I got ready for bed I told the voice in my head to start saying something different.

I’m no longer going to say I can’t. I’m going to say I can’t do that now, but I’m learning. Just wait until next year

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