An Element of Futility

In ballet class today, we spent almost half an hour on a step that I have never been able to do and will never be able to do, no matter how much I try. As I stood there, feeling utterly frustrated and foolish beyond belief, it occurred to me there is a strong element of futility in my life. I spend too much time trying to do things that are truly impossible for me, such as some parts of dance class, the whole hiking the Pacific Crest Trail thing, or trying to get my poor deformed arm to perform tasks it simply cannot do any more.

I once knew a woman who got upset with anyone who used the word “can’t.” “I can take you to the store and show you a lot of cans,” she would say, “but I won’t be able to show you even one can’t.” (She never appreciated my pointing out that if she can’t show me can’ts, then there was something she can’t do.) Still, there does come a time when we really can’t do things, and refraining from using the word doesn’t make those can’ts any more possible than if we told the unpalatable truth.

It’s important to try new things, but once you reach the point where you know for sure you can’t do that thing, is the frustration of continuing to try to do the impossible worth it? I don’t know. I used to like (or at least not mind) the struggle to do what I can’t do, but now . . . not so much.

Stagnation is not something I appreciate either. Nor is giving up.

Someone pointed out the other day that a common thread with my blog posts is that I have no idea what is around the corner, and this is certainly true with this post today, because I sure as heck have no answer to this conundrum.

Maybe I’ll go take a nap. That, at least, is something that comes without the added element of futility that seems to be haunting me lately because I sure could use the rest!


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

23 Responses to “An Element of Futility”

  1. Deborah Owen Says:

    Very good article! It is empowering to know your limits and expand your capabilities as far as possible. Knowing your limits is part of contentment. If I could do everything, I wouldn’t need anyone else! God made me to be ME and I want to be the best ME possible. Developing my skills and offering them back to God as a gift nearly parallels the Biblical story of the three men who received talents. When the master returned, he was not so impressed with what they DID with their talents as with how safe and developed they kept those talents. (Matthew 25:14-29) Of course, other meanings and applications are there, too, but this makes my point. In another Biblical reference, one sows, another waters, and yet another reaps. I have found my place in life. I am a sower. I have learned to be fully content in who I am and what I can become.

  2. LordBeariOfBow Says:

    Can’t recall now; It was a big sign started
    I got an email today for the latest post I have no idea whats going on.
    I’ll go back see what happens now

  3. LordBeariOfBow Says:

    Well that went through ok might be back to normal

  4. Betty B Rountree Says:

    Extremely intelligent people are often unable to relate to the world as most others and must have alternative ways of managing expectations and allow their ”exceptional being” to emerge. To try to do things like others isn’t always possible, because bodies and minds all operate differently. “Can” & “Can’t” are of no significance because every person is different, unique, and special in all areas. High intelligence leads to disappointment, frustration, and disillusion in abilities. No two people should require something of themselves that’s unreasonable. Perhaps the dance move that frustrates you is because you are uniquely different, and instead of trying to perform exactly like others, perform as your body wills you to do.
    My cousin is a famous ballerina at age 22. She dances all over the world for famous people. However, although she can almost twist her body into a pretzel, and can fly higher through the air than others, thee are certain dance moves that she feels are not appropriate for her statue, her height, and her ankles. When the Nutcracker opens in in NY at Christmas, …… during a big group performance, if particular moves are involved, she will dance of away from the troupe and be spotlighted as she dances alone in her own unique and beautiful. You are only respecting your own self when you honor your unique abilities and explore them according to your God-given specific gifts. A great acronym is S.C.A.M.P.E.R. – which could easily apply to dancing. Whoever choreographed the dance moves did them as examples, and one size doesn’t fit every dancer. Instead of thinking you can’t do it, make it uniquely your own. Dance, to me, is an art form for self-expression. Substitute a different dance move, and satisfy yourself. Adapt or adjust actions and concepts to meet your own abilities. Minimize any short-comings, ignore them, and magnify your strengths.
    Below are some of the coping mechanisms I taught to those highly intelligent, highly talented students who were independent, right-brained people, who would be frustrated by the need for everything to be exactly the same for all students, when they were uniquely and beautifully different from the others.

    Please don’t feel that you must ‘dance like the others’ or hike the same trail the same way others do, or camp in a certain fashion. Are any of the other students in your ballet class writers or authors? If they write a blog, do they write a description of their day, or do they write about the concepts and interactions that created their feelings or experiences? Obviously you are a ”deep thinker” and very independent, which won’t fit into the molds others may set for you! Dance to your own tune, hike your own trail, and let your higher level of thinking run it’s own course. Dance class is to give you form and training. HOW you dance is your personal expression of feelings! Hike a path less traveled and blaze a new trail at your own pace and time, respecting your need for joy and fulfillment. Let your own light shine through!! I doubt there is another person in your dance class who writes books! Therefore, they don’t even begin to see activities and experiences through your eyes. Your thoughtful reflections on everything you do certainly stand apart showing that you have a unique view of everything that no one else can experience the same as you!! *****Dance as if no one is looking!!*****

    S – Substitute, Satisfy, Sense your individuality
    C. – Change, Combine, Contradict
    A – Adapt, Adjust, Accentuate,
    M. – Minimize, Magnify, Modify
    P – Put to other uses, Purify, Pursue another route, Put yourself first
    E. – Eliminate, Educate others, Evaluate it’s appropriateness for youself
    R.- Rearrange, Refuse, Re-purpose

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Wow. That is a great response, so thoughtful, and helpful. Thank you. Next time we spend so much time on a move I cannot do, I’ll do my own version and dance as if the teacher isn’t watching. It certainly will minimize the frustration. One of the problems recently, and why I have an especially hard time willing myself to do things that are nearly impossible and am having a hard time caring about remembering the steps to new dances is that I have this new book in my head. Rethinking eight years of grief is a monumental task. Thank you for reminding me about letting my own light shine through because this book certainly needs the best I can give it. And thank you for all the support you’ve given me over the years.

  5. Terry Jean Allard Says:

    Yeah…sounds like a question I’ve asked myself “Am I just spinning my wheels?” as it pertains to any number of things. I can now look back over many years and say that I spent time wasting time on futile endeavors. As is often the case for me, there is a danger in “all or nothing” thinking which leads me to conclude these afore mentioned activites were not entirely futile.
    I did gain something from each when I break the entire “thing” up into smaller components.

    PS…Your “no such word as can’t person” sounds very judgemental. I love your answer to her… “She never appreciated my pointing out that if she can’t show me can’ts, then there was something she can’t do” LOL You sure CAN have a way with words!!!.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      To be honest, my actual thought was that my life had an element of stupidity, but I thought, though truthful, it might seem too denigrating. I hadn’t realized it, but I too am an “all or nothing” thinker. I really wanted to quit, but since I promised a friend I wouldn’t (it’s the only time I get to see her), I’ll have to figure out a way to handle it. I like Betty Roundtree’s comment above — do my own thing when they are doing things I can’t.

  6. Judy Galyon Says:

    It’s not futile to try new things. It helps to keep the brain going in good directions.

  7. rami ungar the writer Says:

    What was the step? Entrechat? Brise?

  8. Constance Says:

    You amaze me on all the things you know. You are a very interesting person.
    I could not do the things that you do. Everyone is different and have different talents.

  9. One Star Review. Eek. | Bertram's Blog Says:

    […] hasn’t yet been written, I need to believe that it will be a success, otherwise my old friend futility will begin banging on the inside of my head, and the book will never get […]

  10. SheilaDeeth Says:

    Ah, but I’m jetlagged. Even trying to take a nap is an exercise in futility just now.

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