A friend once asked me, “Donna, is there anything you can’t do?”  My response was an unwavering, “Yeap, everything I haven’t tried yet!”


As a dyslexic kid who went undiagnosed till high school, there were many limitations put on my ability to learn and prosper emotionally.  In school, every subject introduced to me became torture as I challenged my brain to adhere information and concepts that were far beyond my capacity to understand. 


The normal teachings of childhood became life struggles, but I noticed, with each year that went by, my brain became stronger.  I taught myself how to learn, gleaning information from teachers and “rerouting” it where it would stick in the tundra on top of my shoulders.  I did not know at the time, but my body was manipulating what normal brain function I had, compensating for physiology that was impaired and could not be changed.


Realize that tying my shoes took years to achieve.  Each new subject introduced was actually painful, as I tried to understand what everyone else seemed to be “getting”.  Even finding my way around school was a challenge as dyslexics are known for having no sense of direction.  As a result, I spent my youth feeling lost and lonely, and asking for help was not even considered.  First through fourth grade I was in Catholic school and when I didn’t understand something, the nuns would just hit me on the hand with a ruler.  Later in public school, I learned to “fake it” as teachers of that decade lacked the information and skills to guide me correctly.  Instead of realizing I was learning challenged, they considered me lazy and inattentive.  I once had a teacher announce in front of the class that I had “diarrhea of the mouth and constipation of the brain”.  No, my only choice as a child was to keep quiet, get as much information as I could, and then try to figure it out later.


My early challenges made it impossible for me not to go beyond my abilities.  If I did not manipulate myself and continually struggle to accomplish, I wouldn’t have been able to function in society.  What seemed like a nightmare back then, however, has been my most tremendous gift as an adult.  Because everything was a challenge, eventually, nothing was a challenge.  The need to constantly push beyond my limitations was a “no choice” decision, and once I got good at it; I kept implementing the same techniques in every aspect of my life. 


My past made me realize there are no confines to what I can do unless I place them on myself.  I am acutely aware of what challenges I still have, but I refuse to not find a way around them.  The “I’m not good at this and I’m terrible at that” does not prevail in my mind.  Lucky for me because I would need to hire a crew of people to compensate for what I fondly refer to as my “neurological misconnections”.


Let’s not confuse, though, my propensity to push beyond, with an innate ability to do all tasks well.  My challenge is to try everything, but I dare say that I am great at everything I try!  For me, writing a chapter a day is a job well done, and giving a successful presentation in front of 20 people is a natural high.  But when I force myself to find my way downtown on the maze of subways in Manhattan without getting lost or asking for directions more than 5 times, I am in a euphoric state for hours.  Even the most mundane task is an effort for me, (the proverbial can’t walk and chew gum at the same time applies here) so the smallest accomplishments become soaring feats.  Recognizing that my only failure is to not try, I will always acknowledge my feelings of discomfort (like fear and anxiety) about a new experience and then take on the challenge anyway.No, it's not me....yet!


On the contrary though, whenever I believed I could not do something, I certainly could not do it.  When I had no choice but to do a task, I somehow managed it in spite of the obstacles I may have encountered.  There were times when I still used the learning difficulties to pardon myself from tasks I thought were impossible for me, taking on jobs that required little challenge so I could remain comfortable.  I was still using my childhood instinct and the “I must do this to survive” attitude as my only precursor for challenging myself. 


At some point, though, I put the ‘must dos’ in with the ‘why nots?’, and as the formidable tasks became easier, my innate abilities emerged.  With each challenge I attempted, regardless of the outcome, my disheveled and previously languished self esteem was lead to soaring heights.  I started to realize; no limitations meant no boundaries on what I could accomplish.  No perceived boundaries freed me to believe I could do it all.  “Why not” became my new mantra


Since each new day brings with it a new challenge, isn’t it wonderful to believe we have the power to manipulate ourselves to get the result we desire, irrespective of what we believe our weaknesses to be?  If we are responsible for our own lives and the perception we have of our abilities, then we own the challenges and we can decide whether they are “doable” or not.  Challenges should have no power over us.  We have the power over them.  So the next time you think you can’t do something, don’t tell yourself why you can’t.  Instead, convince yourself of why you should, then go ahead and just try everything you haven’t tried yet!


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