"I can't lose weight," "I can't stop smoking," "I can't cut 700 words out of this 1,000-word letter to the editor."
"Can't" is not a word I like to recognize. It is a word that limits human potential with just a thought. A word that stops creativity in its tracks. It is a word that just doesn't cut it in my book.
If I said "I can't" as often as I hear some people saying it, I wouldn't have achieved half of the things I have achieved, nor would I have found my passion -- Highland games.
You may not know this, but in my spare time, I -- your humble small-town, small-newspaper editor -- enjoy lifting and throwing boulders, weights and shafts of wood resembling telephone poles ... while wearing a kilt. The heavier it is, the more fun it is for me to lift and throw.
I spend many weekends each summer running around a hot, dry field with other kilt-clad competitors picking up, carrying and throwing these heavy objects. I wear my injuries from the sport with pride and have been told I look my happiest when out on the field, sweat pouring down my face, as I flip a telephone pole through the air.
I would never have discovered how much fun this sport is if I said, "I can't ... " I am so glad I said, "I bet I could do that."
I shouldn't be able to do this sport. I should be sick, tired and in pain, because I have Crohn's disease.
I was diagnosed with the disease the summer I started competing in the Highland games, 2003. Crohn's disease is an autoimmune disorder where the body basically turns on its digestive system, leaving the patient with horrible stomach pains, fatigue, weight loss and -- this is the most polite way I can come up with to describe it -- the inability to stray far from a bathroom. While it can be treated with medications, there is no cure and you have it for life.
Many patients with Crohn's become "professional patients," spending a lot of time sick and in the hospital. But some patients are able to tell the disease to bug off and lead active lives. There are Crohn's patients who are in rock bands (such as Pearl Jam's lead guitarist Mike McCready), act in movies and television (Shannon Doherty of "90210" fame) and play in the Superbowl (Matt Light, offensive lineman with the New England Patriots).
When I was diagnosed I went through a horrible bout of depression. I felt my world had come crashing down on me, that I wouldn't be able to enjoy an active life. But, I was wrong. After a while I starting regaining my strength. I realized with patience and determination I could be just as active as I was before the disease, if not more.
I even began to use the disease as a source of strength. Using the pain and fatigue it brought as a way to anger me and push me to train and prove to myself there was nothing I could not do.
Note: I wrote "prove to myself" there. I don't care how good I am at an activity, the sole purpose of me trying it is to end any thoughts of "can't" in my brain. This isn't about trying to prove it to other people for me. What other people think doesn't matter to me. What matters to me is I didn't "give up" and let sickness rule my life.
There are people out there much sicker than me. People who truly can't do what I do, sure. But, even so, I implore them to not give in to "can't," and keep pushing forward with life as best they can.
"Can't" is giving up before even trying.
Yeah, you may fail. But at least try.
Besides, life is so much more fun when you say, "Let's try it and see what happens." You may find yourself in a wool kilt on a 90 degree day, trying desperately to flip a tree, and grinning the whole time.
See videos and pictures of the Highland games on Jeremy McBain's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/jermcbain