The Time I Thought I Couldn’t Do Something . . . But I Learned Otherwise

Recently we had our first district writing assessment. The prompt that we responded to was a narrative prompt, specifically a personal narrative. The prompt asked students to think about a time they were discouraged and believed that they would not be able to accomplish a specific task; the prompt also asked them to write about how they overcame that initial doubt and accomplished something that they did not think they could. Students have now received their scores back on this prompt. I asked them to type in their response and publish it on their blog. So, in the spirit of being a good model blogger, I am re-publishing my response to that same prompt. Enjoy!


One of the things that becomes obvious to others as they get to know me well is that I am an incredibly pessimistic person. That is, I look at the world from the “glass is empty” viewpoint. I am apprehensive in new and novel situations, sure that something will go wrong. I am able to catastrophize. (This a real word in the dictionary to describe how one can take a seemingly normal scenario and draw it out in his or her mind to a very depressing conclusion — something that, in all probability, would never happen.) For example, let’s say I got sick. Playing the “What If Catastrophizing Game” this is how it might go: I would go to the doctor and find out I had a chronic illness that was not easily treatable. This would cause me to have to take off work. Maybe I would get fired because I couldn’t work. Then I would have no money, and no way to pay for health insurance. I would use up any money I had in my savings account, and maybe have to sell my house to get money for my care. I would be destitute and become homeless. It would be awful.

This is how I think.

So when my husband, who was in the Army, sat me down one day shortly after 9/11 and told me that he was being deployed . . . well, I went into a tailspin. My mind immediately began to race and catastrophize as I began to cry and wonder how I was going to get through the next (scary) year all by myself. I was sure I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t be able to take care of all that I had to do. He was going to go off and he was going to die. Then my baby (because I was expecting) would grow up and never know his dad. And . . . and . . . and . . . This was going to be a long, trying year. I didn’t know how I was going to get through it. I was sure I wasn’t.

One of the first things I faced alone was a broken water heater. A broken water heater isn’t the end of the world — one simply calls a plumber and gets a new one — but to me, the fact that I had literally just dropped off my husband at the armory and had come home to a broken water heater was an omen of things to come. It confirmed my worst fears that this deployment was not going to be easy. It was going to take everything out of me. Then, about three weeks after he left, I faced having to fly to New Orleans for his brother’s wedding. We were supposed to go together. It was my first visit there. He was going to show me where he went to college, and it was meant to be a time with family, but I dreaded having to go now. I was afraid to fly, for one thing. What if they hadn’t managed to corral all the terrorist cells? Was there an air marshall on my flight, incognito, ready to subdue any hijackers? I ended up flying to New Orleans without incident. I even managed to enjoy myself. I thought of my husband the whole time, though.

My husband left shortly after 9/11. This was not a regular Army mobilization, where he has advance notice of a year or more that another deployment is in the works. He left very hastily. Because his deployment was meant to be a year duration, he would be missing all the major winter holidays. That was the next thing I had to face alone. I am already a person that intensely dislikes winter. I loathe that the days are shorter — a full four to five hours less sunlight sometimes! — and I abhor the stress of holiday shopping. There is no “getting into the holiday spirit” for me; I merely try to survive the holidays and get through them. I am a Grinch. This holiday season would be doubly difficult. Luckily, I was able to fly to visit him over Thanksgiving. He was stationed in the United States, in Utah, for homeland defense. Though it was wonderful to see him, and I got to see it snow for the first time, it was one of the most depressing Thanksgivings I have ever spent. We were away from home and both of our families. We had nowhere to eat. (He didn’t want to eat on base.) We ended up having a meal at a Denny’s in Salt Lake City because it was one of the only places open on a holiday. I was baby-sick on top of everything, and depressed, so I didn’t eat much. It tore my heart apart for me to say goodbye and go back home, even knowing I could fly back in four short weeks to spend time there over Christmas vacation. It was even harder to say goodbye then.

To help me cope, my husband bought me a dog, which I named Patton. (George Patton was a famous World War II general, so I thought that was an appropriate name.) Taking care of a puppy was good training for taking care of the baby I was expecting. Patton got me busy taking a daily walks, and I was so busy taking care of him that my mind was kept occupied on something positive instead of focusing on all I was unhappy about. I wasn’t crying as much and I started sleeping soundly. I began to feel slightly better. It was especially imperative that I eat well and take care of myself; it wasn’t just me that I had to worry about, after all. I found out that our baby was a boy, and began to prepare for his arrival. My bump got bigger daily, and I spent a little time each day cleaning out and organizing the room that would be his. I enrolled in “Expecting Mother” classes with my mom, who was going to be my coach when it was time to go to the hospital. I didn’t feel as sick anymore. Instead of losing weight, I was gaining weight like I was supposed to. This was turning out not to be as horrible as I thought it would be.

Spring came, and the days lengthened. That alone brightened my spirits. Then, at the beginning of June, I called my mom. “Mom,” I said, “I think it is time to take me to the hospital. Can you come get me?” Thing 1, our son, had decided this was the day! My mom raced to pick me up at work, take me home to get my things, and then take me to the hospital. I called my husband, “The baby is coming! I’m going to the hospital!” He said that he would try to catch a flight into Los Angeles as soon as he could, but he wasn’t promising anything. I arrived at the hospital and things proceeded rapidly from there. It was finally when I was in the hospital having a baby that I realized I could do anything — even survive a deployment I was sure was going to mean the end of my world and all my happiness. I was having a baby on my own, for goodness sake! (My mom was more interested in taking pictures than being a coach.) If I could do that, then there was no limit to what I could accomplish.

In the end, my husband made it just in time. His sister brought him straight from the airport to the hospital, and Thing 1 arrived 30 minutes after my husband did. This whole experience, though, taught me that I am much stronger than I think I am. I don’t give myself enough credit when it comes to getting through the tough times. I am far more resilient than I feel. This realization was tested not two years later when my husband sat me down again and told me the Army was deploying him AGAIN, this time to Kosovo in the Balkans and for a longer length of time. I cried, and I was upset. (I was also expecting again!) But this time, even though I knew the next two years would be difficult, I knew in my heart of hearts that I would be okay.

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