"I can't even" (How to Communicate Capacity)

Looking back on the past few weeks, I've gotta admit, I've had more than my fair share of "I can't even" moments. 

What is an "I can't even" moment? 

According to our trusted friends at Urbandictionary.com, it's the complete, sudden onset of the cessation of brain activity, brought under the presence of acute stress, which fully affects the person only a short time after it strikes them. Said person, under the duress of the symptoms, demonstrate their affliction by alerting to others that they "can't even," in reference to their inability to deal with the symptoms, or their inability to perform simple actions which have been made impossible by their afflictions.

Basically, it's a feeling of overwhelm, a lack of desire to deal with something, or a disbelief about something or someone to the extent that you "can't even" (deal with it). 

Mind you, I've also had many "I've totally got this" moments over the past few weeks as well. I, and many of us, seem to oscillate between these two momentary phenomena multiple times a day, while hitting every place in between too. 

So, what's one to do and say when one "can't even?"

In part 2 of the "A Series on Desire" workshop I led last week, this conversation came up. We explored how to communicate one's capacity to receive information. One participant, Chris, shared a verbal format that blew the minds of everyone in the room, myself included. Obviously, I took notes.

He shared that when he wants to communicate something major with his partner, he'll ask her if she's feeling resourced to receive such information. Similarly, when she's sharing something with him and he doesn't feel he has the capacity to engage in the conversation with presence, he may say something like: "I want to be present for this conversation and show up fully; I'm not feeling resourced at the moment; can we talk about this in an hour after I've had time to unwind?"

*Mind blown* It's so simple that we may wonder how such words escape us in the "I can't even" moments. What usually ends up happening in these moments is we become some variation of defensive, frustrated, non-communicative, etc. 

What I love about this format is that it has us:

  • Acknowledge the other person by stating our desire to be present and engaged with the other and what they want to share

  • Acknowledge our experience and/or lack of capacity to receive information/have a conversation in that moment

  • Agree on a new day/time to follow-up (so all parties can feel complete in the interaction)


These are super simple words that can have us showing up for ourselves and others and deepening intimacy through clear, honest communication.