Haiti Journal: Pushing Past the Can’t

Jun 18, 2009

What’s your pain threshold?

I’ve been told I’m pretty tough … for a girl. I can work physically hard (I’ve landscaped, drywalled, remodeled, etc.), can rough it without a shower or hairbrush for days in the middle of the Colorado wilderness, will eat just about anything (and I’ve eaten some weird stuff, peeps), and can endure nearly 24 hours of childbirth to bring a 9 ½ lb boy into the world. Without makeup or a manicure.

After Haiti, I’m not so sure anymore. Two or three days into our trip and we discovered the two bottles of bug spray we’d been dousing ourselves in weren’t working. By then it was too late—the damage was done. Although Ryan and Troy had a few bites, the bugs held a particular fondness for Jacob and me. At one point I counted 30 welts on one lower leg, some of the size of golf balls. I’m guessing I had near 100 on my entire body. Hard to imagine, but Jacob’s condition was even worse.

The bites became severely inflamed by the heat and humidity, aggravated further by the daily hiking through lush banana groves, marshy swamps and sugar cane fields. The water and dirt were polluted by animal and human waste, making the risk of infection high. Multiple times a days we had to clean the bites and treat them with topical antibiotic. Add to that the constant itching and burning and the general exhaustion … and I hit my threshold. At that moment the tears came and I uttered words I’ve said only a couple times in my whole life:

I can’t do this.

With the admission came a wave of disappointment. Had I come all the way from Colorado to Haiti to give up that easily? My dad taught me early on that “I can’t” is never an option. But this time circumstances and misery pushed me to the max. It was only Tuesday with a week left in our trip. I didn’t know if I had the mental toughness to take it.

I had a decision to make. I could stay in my room, nursing my wounds. Everyone would certainly understand. Or I could suck it up, pray like a mad woman and find beautiful Haitian faces to absorb my focus.

I chose the latter. I wish I could say it was smooth sailing from that moment forward. It wasn’t. Over a week later and I’m still dealing with lingering physical ailments related to the trip (be grateful I’m keeping details to myself). But, by some miracle (thank you, God!), I managed to push past the “can’t” and take a small step forward toward “can.” And before you know it, I was having the time of my life. Uncomfortable, yes. Worth it, a bigger yes.

What’s the “can’t” that’s keeping you from the “can” … and, are you willing to push past the discomfort to get to the other side?


  1. Chrystie Cole

    Wow, powerful and challenging question! My “can’t” that is getting in the way of my “can” has to do with writing and pursuing my dreams. Glad to see that you pushed past the discomfort and experienced the blessing on the other side! Thanks for the post!

  2. Michele

    Writing is such a difficult journey, Chrystie, but worth the determined pursuit. Don’t give up on your dreams! And if I can ever help along the way, please let me know.

    (P.S. Love your blog! Thanks for visiting … it’s wonderful to make a new friend.).

  3. Helen

    One of my tough ones was climbing the Manitou Incine, down here in the Springs. A mile straight up – 2400 railroad ties of steep climbing. My son challenged me. He said that if I got fit enough to climb it, he’d quit chewing tobacco. It was the hardest physical thing I’ve ever done. I couldn’t let myself cry, or I’d have stopped moving upward. I’d lost almost 40 pounds to even be able to attempt this! In the back of my mind I wanted to quit, but I refused to even let the words surface. Amost two hours later, I stepped over that top railroad tie and danced. Filled with exhileration, I called my sons fiance to announce that I’d made it! She got a hold of him, over in Iraq, and informed him he now had to give up the chew! … And he did! : ) It was so worth it! -And I’d finally set a goal and accomplished it! What’s the end result of saying yes? That’s what pushes us!
    It’s amazing though, how we sometimes let littler things make us say, I can’t……


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