Last December my friend, Edana, and I found ourselves separated from the other seven gals who had traveled with us to New York City. We two had visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art and planned to meet the others for dinner. When we found ourselves too many blocks away to coordinate, Edana guided us to an intimate restaurant: Rotisserie Georgette. Once situated in our booth amid the succulent aroma of roasted chicken, Edana momentarily left to use the restroom. I perused the menu. The hostess guided a couple into a nearby booth. Flabbergasted, I found Sally Field in my direct line of vision.
I excitedly, but discreetly, relayed the sighting to Edana. In recent years Sally Field had co-hosted, along with Robert Osborn, the Turner Classic Movie feature, The Essentials, honoring classic movies basic to film history. From regular viewings, I recognized Field’s current appearance, as timeless and pert as ever. Her male companion did not sit directly across, but to her side against the wall. So during our entire dinner I had a clear view of the celebrated actress. On my way to the restroom I came within a gnat’s eyelash to asking for an autograph. Nonetheless, I resisted, knowing how celebrities appreciate rare occasions of privacy. Perhaps my restraint led to the next opportunity.
It’s a Go
Last week Edana sent me a message lamenting the fact that I would not be in Nashville to hear Sally Field give a book talk on her recently published memoir, In Pieces. Edana’s message went something like this, “Darn, I wish you could go with me to this.” I made one quick query to Paul regarding the muskie-fishing schedule and replied, “Why can’t I?” Tickets purchased, plane flight reserved. I know how fortunate I am to have the time, the resources and the opportunity to orchestrate this visit.
Obstacles and Impediments
Why-can’t-I motivated me for three decades through advanced education and career changes. Before beginning my doctoral studies, I interviewed with Dr. George Beiger, coordinator of the program. I bemoaned the fact that I would turn 50 in the first year of classes. “You’ll be 50 anyway!” He dispelled the age obstacle I had placed upon my answer to the question “Why can’t I get a doctorate?” Invoking the why-can’t-I mantra inspires a way around impediments, real or imagined. Our adventure living in the 1000 Islands resulted from the question, “Why can’t we relocate to northern New York, closer to our son and granddaughters?” Followed by, “Why can’t we have a boat?”
Limits and Parameters
I did not always push limits. I wonder how life would look if I posed such questions as a young woman: “Why can’t I be a journalist? Why can’t I be a surgeon? Why can’t I be a federal judge? Why can’t I be president?” I knew the parameters of the 60s and 70s. Now women have achieved all but one of those possibilities thanks to those who asked, “Why can’t we own property?” “Why can’t we vote?” “Why can’t we run for office?” I credit my mom and my mother-in-law for modeling the why-can’t-I attitude. Both of those women pushed the boundaries of their generation becoming financial and decision-making partners in their marriages.
When I married Paul I had completed one semester of a master’s degree program at a college 28 miles from our hometown, where we planned to make our life. I never asked, “Why can’t I commute and continue with my degree?” Instead, I suspended the pursuit and looked for a teaching position. If I had asked, I know Paul would have supported finishing. He’s been the reliable enabler to every one of my why-can’t-I goals since then.
Something Will Happen
Since I’ve become a senior my why-can’t-I attitude has only intensified. Curiously, that outlook parallels that of my grandchildren. Of course, children have not yet developed a sense of convention or propriety. They are just being schooled in society’s codes of behavior. I resist inhibiting my granddaughters’ why-can’t-I notions. Only if they might get hurt, become sick, or their parents would disapprove, do I put a halt. I never accepted the retort “Because I said so,” and why would children? With life perspective, I recognize the ambiguity and irrelevance of many arbitrary limitations.
Why-can’t-I? Should the inner voice answer, “Something might happen,” remember, that’s the whole point. Why can’t I learn to oil paint? Why can’t I write a blog? Why can’t I publish a book? Why can’t I become friends with Sally Field?