Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I think you can do this

My teacher friend once shared that learning is like a spiral.  We continue to move out and upwards by revisiting familiar concepts, and stretch our range of understanding in ever-broadening circles on the climb. 

For some of us, riding new learning curves takes great courage, combined with the belief that extraordinary achievements are possible.   As a child I was thrilled by rollerskating in the basement, taking the same route over and over again like a hamster on a wheel.  This activity made me supremely happy.  It didn't matter that three feet of snow was piled outside, I was sweating and flying around listening to the vinyl version of Jan and Dean's Dead Man's Curve.  I never wondered about taking lessons or imagined that I could challenge myself by switching to ice skates and learning spins and jumps.  If someone had said these magic words

"I think you can do this"

My life would certainly be different today.

This post isn't really about how I regret not making skating my lifestyle.  It's about understanding how to get the mule inside me to move on, to take action towards something that I'd really love to do.

I was thirty seven before I learned that in the south, female donkeys are called Jenny.  My ears might not be quite as long, but the stubborn part is right on.

Five years ago I was required to make a web module for my senior capstone class.  I had no trouble with the research and writing portion, but when it came to working with Front Page, I choked.  Anxiety dominated my days and sleepless nights.  I experienced periods of anxiety so fierce that I lost my ability to listen to my family members and have telephone conversations.  At the time, Richard was recovering from knee surgery and I was useless as a caregiver.

In desperation, I finally called my professor and asked for help.  She suggested that I contact one of my classmates to set up a tutoring session.  Feeling comfortable with the person she suggested, I found a scrap of courage and explained my situation to this fellow student.  He was kind and agreed to meet me in the computer lab on the lower level of the library.  When I sat at my screen I was wondering how to explain that the only things I knew how to do were to perform searches, write papers using Word and check email.  That was the entire extent of my ability.  I think I just said,

"I can't go forward.  I don't understand how to do any of this."

And he said, very quietly,

"Jenny, I think you can do this."

And then, the donkey moved forward.

Was or are there things that you needed to learn but never did?

Friend, I think you can do this.

 This month I need to learn how to set goals. Yet I'm stuck here at the screen, completely resistant to pen, paper and a calendar. (The IRONY!) Maybe there's an online tool for goal setting and planning that might help.  Maybe you have learned how to do this well.  I'd love to hear what works for you. 

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