Liz Marsh
Liz Marsh

I have an "I can" problem. Whenever there is even a hint of a challenge, the immediate response to fly out of my mouth — before my brain has even caught up with the conversation — is, "I can do that." It's probably an oldest-child affliction, coupled with a deep sense of self-confidence and a desperate need to prove it.

My "I can" attitude has brought me to a great many things that I would have otherwise over-thought my way out of. It made me move to England when I was 19. It made me go cliff diving, kayak with alligators and skipper a sailboat race. It made me pierce my nose, run a half marathon, eat crazy foods all over the world and learn how to drive a forklift.

It made me buy a house, and now that I am a homeowner, "I can" use a chainsaw, be a beekeeper, relight my furnace, fix my lawnmower, grow a farm and move that couch by myself.

In general, it seems to be a great attitude with which to approach life. But it does get me in trouble from time to time. A few years ago on my friend's boat, her dad asked someone to tie off the anchor and throw it down. "I can do it," I said immediately. When people looked at me skeptically, I replied with renewed confidence, "I know how to tie a knot. I went to sailing school." It was true, I had gone to sailing school, 20 years earlier. But I can't say I retained much from the morning knot-tying lessons. So I found myself in the position of being a little drunk, a little overconfident and responsible for keeping someone else's boat from drifting away. I managed an acceptable knot and then I prayed until we were ready to lift the anchor up and move on. It turned out fine. But it could have backfired.


As I get older, I'm more aware of the potential for backfiring. Recently, a friend asked if I wanted to run a half-marathon with her in Napa and go to a wine festival afterwards. Even though I haven't run more than 5 miles in years, I immediately said yes. Then I waited a beat for my brain to catch up, "but I can't drink a bunch of wine afterwards or I'll die."

A "can do" attitude is a great thing to have, but it should always come with a healthy dose of realism to match.

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