My daughter was born blind. When she was three-years-old, it was hard for her to learn self-help skills that come more naturally to sighted children. Putting on socks. Using a fork. As a sighted person, it was hard for me to know how to teach her, and as a parent, it was hard to watch. If independence was my goal for her (it was and is), I had to insist she learn. I had to hold her toes to the fire a little bit. But I also had to acknowledge that it was hard.
Growing up is hard anyway; we ask children to try new things every. darn. day. "How do you know you don't like it if you don't try?" My brain would implode if I was asked to try half as many new things as the average four-year-old. Do something that I haven't mastered? BUT I MIGHT FAIL. That's like asking me to play a team sport. I break out in hives thinking about it.
Growing up is hard. Learning to put on shoes is hard. And it was hard for Madeline.
A phrase I used every day, was
"You can do hard things."
She wasn't allowed to say "can't."
She could say, "I need help." She could say, "This is hard." She could say, "I am frustrated," or "I am tired," or "I am sad." But she couldn't say "can't," and she couldn't quit.
(I hold myself to the same standard of language and toughness. It's always okay to say, "This is REALLY HARD. I am tired. I need help." But I try not to say can't. I try to do the next right thing. Gotta go through it. Inch by inch.)
For her entire life, I have been telling her, "You can."
You can do hard things. And here's the thing - she has.
I believe in the power of not quitting. I believe in the power of "You can do hard things." Thomas Edison said, "If we all did the things we were capable of, we would literally astound ourselves." I believe that. I believe that there is a divine spark in each of us, and that that spark can ignite courage and perseverance and creativity and great compassion.
Here is what I hope for Madeline (and for you and me and everyone):
I hope that I am not the only one telling her that she can. I hope that a whole host of people rally around her and remind her that she has a divine spark in her, and that just because a thing is hard, doesn't mean it's wrong.
I saw these two commercials this week, and both of them made me cry. I'm thankful for the little insurgence of messages like this in advertising. Alone, they don't negate all of the terrible messages we get from the people that are trying to sell us things, but there is something inside of us that springs to life when it hears the truth. Like there is a sleeping cat in our hearts, all drowsy and curled up - but when it hears TRUTH, it shoots its head up, the way cats do, like they are spring-loaded, and it locks eyes with that truth. There's a knowing, isn't there? My inner cat wakes up in church a lot of times - I'm sitting there listening when he shoots up, and I think, "This thing I'm hearing right now is THE REAL DEAL."
So I hope that when people - men and women alike - see commercials like these, their inner truth cats sit up. I hope that in the constant stream of promotion and consumerism and materialism and idolization of beauty, sex, pleasure, and comfort, these messages ring so true that they are downright startling.
ALL THAT TO SAY:
Girls can. We can do hard things. Wake up, little truth cats.
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*and eat them myself because you live too far away.
"Don't be delicate. Be vast and brilliant." -Shinedown Kate