When Things Become Undoable, We Shall Henceforth Use This Phrase…

New Plan: When things become undoable, we shall henceforth use this phrase…


Last night, I was texting with my friend Heidi. She may or may not have had a few blackberry lemon drops from The Grain Station in McMinnville, Oregon, where the Very Best blackberry lemon drops are made, and I may or may not have been bored out of my mind at a college basketball game where I really just went to watch my daughter’s dance team perform.

I want you to know I am TOTALLY INTO BASKETBALL, but I only want you to “know that” because I feel like it’s cooler for me to be into basketball than into choosing alternative activities like blitz-texting my tipsy friend while fake farming on HayDay. {I harvested a lot of cotton, FYI, but I’m low on tomatoes.} In my defense, my kid, after losing all her blood over Christmas break, wasn’t dancing, and, although her dance friends rocked it, they were on for, like, 10 minutes of the 4 hours we were there, and the referees blocked them for at least 3 of those because refs apparently feel like timeouts are for conferencing with each other and not for being transfixed by dance moves. It’s a mystery, I tell you. Baffling.

Anyway. Heidi and I were discussing a Very Important Topic: The List of Things That Are Undoable

THE LIST OF UNDOABLE THINGS IS LONG, y’all; I DO NOT CARE WHAT RACHEL HOLLIS SAYS. I mean, bless Rachel Hollis to pieces. I’m a fan of the Just Do It philosophy of life as much as the next person. I know how to put on my Big Girl Pants and push through until I Have Accomplished the Thing. And I will defend to the death Rachel Hollis’s right to Wash Her Face and tell others to do the same if she wants to — go, face washing! — but I will also note for those of us who are struggling that Sometimes Facewashing is Really, Really Hard what with all the required steps like Standing Up, Walking to the Bathroom, Finding the Facewash, Forgetting the Towel, Going to the Laundry Room, Realizing There ARE No Clean Towels, Wondering What Fantasy World I Was Living in That I Thought There Might Be Clean Towels, Telling The Kid Who’s on Laundry Detail to Wash a Load of Towels NOW and NOT After the Next Level on Animal Jam, Walking BACK to the Bathroom, Tripping Over Someone’s Shoes, Being SUPER PISSED Someone Left Shoes in the Middle of the Hallway Again, Realizing They’re My Shoes, Seeing Whether There are Any Dirty Shirts Clean Enough on the Bathroom Floor to Sub for a Towel, Realizing One Shirt Might Technically Be Clean Enough But Can’t Absorb Worth Crap, and Deciding to Wash My Face Anyway Even Though I’m Going to Drip Water Off My Elbows and I Don’t Have a Towel to Clean It Up.

I’m just saying, friends, face washing can be hard, and there’s a lot of room for Both/And here. I can BOTH do hard things AND sometimes find them Undoable. K? K. #RealLife #GoodTalk

However, Heidi’d had a blackberry lemon drop or two, plus she’s a human, so the word Undoable became a little Undoable. Like, you know how you look a perfectly good word sometimes, and it becomes gibberish and makes no sense? That’s what happened to Undoable. And so Heidi wrote, “IS THAT EVEN A WORD?” And I was all, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ because that’s a hard question when you’re too busy not watching a basketball game + texting + fake farming to ask Google. But it turns out we didn’t need to know, anyway, because HEIDI HAS A MORE DESCRIPTIVE PHRASE, which is “Unable to Can.” All the drive of “can not” and “undoable” in more words, which makes it BETTER.

Cannot = unable to can.


I mean, yes, if we want to be complacent and boring, we can continue to say, “That’s undoable.” Or, “I cannot.” But I really feel that doesn’t have the same punch — the same feeling of urgency and exhaustion which are the driving forces in my life right now — as “I AM UNABLE TO CAN right now. LISTEN UP. I’m trying, but I am UNABLE TO CAN.”

For example,

Should I be doing the dishes?

Should I be scrubbing the toilet?

Should I be making a phone call that would literally take one minute and make my life infinitely easier? Say, a call to my doctor for a mental health check?
Obviously, but I AM UNABLE TO CAN. 

I think you can see where we’re headed here, firmly on the path to a far more expressive, pathetic, and suitably dramatic way of saying, “I caaaaaaaaan’t. I want to. I will probably in the future. But for right now, I am unable to can.” 

It is, in other words, one more way to say how things are, how we are, and that it’s OK. We’re OK. Exactly as we are in the moment. We can do hard things. And we can do hard things later if we’re unable to can right this second. 

Be gentle with yourselves, friends. Be kind. 

With love,

Don’t miss a post. Subscribe here

12 responses to “When Things Become Undoable, We Shall Henceforth Use This Phrase…”

  1. Well, you just came up with my new t-shirt! Thank you so much and thank you for the smile, I really needed it.

  2. I was unable to can all weekend, and really needed this phrase! Unfortunately, I was also unable to can about reading email as well, so I just got around to reading it now, on Monday morning… oh well, I have it for today!!!

    Thanks Beth, as always, your words ring true! 🙂

  3. That is a great phrase because it implies that I really, really would if I could but I am not able to right now. “Can’t” is often translated as a willful “won’t”, which is a whole different thing. There was a hilarious comedy series called “Little Britain” (don’t know if it was the sort of thing which would translate across cultures) where the unhelpful administrator would end any pretence at being helpful by saying, “Computer say no.”

  4. The Popcast’s Knox McCoy calls Rachel Hollis’ book “Girl, Wash Your Butt”. Which is better advice, really, and easier to get done. Unfortunately, now I can’t take Ms. Hollis seriously. Fortunately, I’d rather listen to The Popcast anyways.

  5. Oh you and Heidi are killing me. Thank you SO much for sharing that. I need to get back there for those blackberry lemon drops but even without them I can’t stop laughing. My sides hurt. Thanks again.

  6. I used to nanny for a little boy (before I had children of my own) and when I would ask him to help clean up, he would tell me, “I can’t want to,” which his parents thought was adorable (!!!) and made me want to punch him in the face.
    Now that I’m a parent, I totally get it, and would think it was adorable if my kid said it.
    Also, I say it all the time.

    “Mom, can you make us dinner?”
    “Mom, can you take us to the store?”
    “Mom, can you do our laundry?”

    “Nope, sorry kids. I CAN’T WANT TO.”

  7. Today is my birthday … for a lot of reasons , I find them very very hard to get through… spent 2 hours this afternoon in the bed doing nothing but breathing… more than that,unable to can… but the two hours helped and so did reading your blog. Thanks Beth.

  8. Beth, your words always resonate. We are within a week of marking a year since Mark’s death and I am anticipating that I may very well be Unable To Can for a bit. Thank you for the reminder to allow for space and grace.

  9. Someone or other in this house will often remark that they “cannot brain today”. Usually this happens the morning after staying up too late reading or watching Netflix or playing Xbox.

    Lately I feel like I am able to can with lots of things until suddenly, and seemingly without warning, I am unable to can. It’s so surprising! Today I have to order a cake. And I am feeling unable to can.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.