One of my biggest pet peeves is, “I can’t.” Seriously, I can’t stand that ideology. Before you think ,”Well, isn’t she just Miss Perfect who does everything right and has confidence”, I’ll tell you that I have often had that loathsome phrase fall from my lip. I hate it when *I* say it, even more than hearing it from others.
“I can’t free motion quilt.”
“I can’t figure out fractions.”
“I can’t design my own quilts.”
“I can’t learn to knit.”
“I can’t learn a new skill at my age.”
My big one for a long time?
“I can’t parallel park.”
Years and years and year (and probably years) ago, I was taking my driver’s license test (for the second time.) When it came to the parallel parking, I started crying because I knew I couldn’t do it. I had tried and tried while still learning and just could not get my brain to process it all in the right order to park the damn car. You have to understand, I had initially failed my driving test when I was sixteen years old. (That’s a whole other story!) In this story, I was now TWENTY years old. I had kept up my learner’s permit the entire time from 16-20 to avoid paying to take the class again. So, this driving test guy knows this. I’m still thankful for what he did that day.
He saw me crying and said, “What’s wrong?” I said, “I can’t do it. I can’t parallel park. I panic every time and and the instructions all boggle together and I mess it up.” I must have looked and sounded dreadful, because what he did next was nothing short of a miracle.
“I will let you pass, if you promise me that you will never parallel park.”
Now, obviously making me promise to not learn how to do a skill in driving that can make getting around much easier is not that great of a thing. But at the time, it is what I needed. Getting my license started a process of finding a confidence and autonomy that I had not previous known. A process that led to November 16th, 2015. The day I freaking parallel parked a mothertrucking car. Not JUST a car, my Honda CRV.
I was meeting Flaun of I Plead Quilty for lunch, and there was only one spot left in an insanely busy Minneapolis parking lot. It was raining. The spot was barely big enough for me to fit. I just did it. I did it without thinking about how to do it really. And I did have to edge back and forth to fix it a bit once I was in there. But I damn well did it. (And I did it again a week later too!)
I think it helped that both times I was alone in the car. I panic when people are watching, and/or trying to “help”. But all the knowledge I needed was in my brain, I just needed the right moment and atmosphere to process and access it.
How does this relate to quilting?
When people are beginning quilters, they often say that they can’t do it. That they will never be as good as their teacher or idol. But, they are observing, taking classes, reading, looking at Pinterest boards of quilting, they are absorbing the information and knowledge they need to quilt. What they REALLY mean is that they can’t do it right now, that they aren’t as good as so-and-so yet. But one day, they will be at their machine, their mind will relax and settle a little and the next thing they know, they will be free motion quilting like a madwoman (or madman!) They will do it when their mind and body are working in synchronicity, they will get it when it’s just the right time.
So please, try not to say “I can’t” and stop there. Change your dialog to, “I can’t do that yet.” It’s so much more encouraging, and will likely help quicken your journey to mastering that new skill!