When the Easy is Impossible

What happens when everyone tells you something is easy, but you still can’t do it? In this post Robynn Bliss explores “easy”  If you haven’t yet read any of Robynn’s posts you are in for a treat!


English: A photo of a propane gas grill.

Two years ago we bought a grill. Some people might call it a barbecue but here in Kansas we pride ourselves on our barbecue. What our family has is a grill. The grill is attached to a small propane gas tank. Two years ago we bought that grill. And two years ago we grilled all summer long. We made chicken tikka and hamburgers, we grilled lamb kebabs and vegetables. Nothing is as delicious as food cooked outside. One year ago we grilled. We grilled pork chops and zucchini, gourmet pizzas and roasted mushrooms.

Up until June. In June our propane gas tank ran out. It was empty. There was no more grilling.

I wasn’t sure how to change the tank. I didn’t know where to go or how to do it. I asked several people. Their responses seemed heartening,

“Oh it’s really easy.”

“You just take it to the store.”

“Oh, no big deal!”

“You can exchange those anywhere!”

Everyone said it was so easy. They acted like it was so commonplace. But I had no idea how to do it. It became a momentous thing for me.

So I kept asking. I asked a couple of friends if they’d take my tank in and exchange it when they exchanged theirs. Everyone was agreeable and yet – it never happened. The tank sat empty.

I moved my cooking indoors. We fried hamburgers on the stove in a frying pan. I baked tandoori chicken in my oven in my kitchen. The kids would smell our neighbours grilling hotdogs and burgers. They’d ask if we could grill too. I just shrugged.

I couldn’t figure it out.

Last week some of our dearest friends from India were in town. She grew up in Kansas. She understands how things work here in the Midwest. And yet she’s crossed cultures and she empathizes with the trepidation of crossing into the unknown. She suggested we grill. I shrugged. She took charge. She sent the men out to get a gas tank. And they did. My husband actually went out and got us a new tank. Why hadn’t I asked him to do it earlier? Why hadn’t I communicated how hard this was for me? It really was as easy as that. 

Last Sunday at church a new Indian auntie was in church. When it came time to leave she couldn’t figure out how to open the side door. She tried pushing on the lever. She tried pulling on the latch. She pushed in the button and then pulled. No matter how hard she struggled, she couldn’t get it open. I was sitting at a table nearby. When she turned I saw from her face that she was stuck. She couldn’t figure it out. Her eyes met mine and she asked for help. She was specific and told me what she needed. I was on my feet as quick as I could. I rushed to her aid. I showed her how to push firmly on the cross-bar thingy and how to get out. She was so grateful.

It was so easy. It was no big deal…. If you knew how to do it. But if you don’t know it’s impossible.

I’m planning my next meal to grill. Should I make veggie kebabs? Should I grill up some meat for fajitas? As I cook I hope I always keep my eyes open for the person who doesn’t know how to do the easy. Because nothing feels as difficult as the “easy” when you don’t know what you’re doing!

Other Posts from Robynn:

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Third Culture Kid - Grew up in Pakistan, lived and worked in Pakistan and Egypt as an adult. Moved to the United States and learning to live away from curry, Urdu, Arabic and the Pyramids.

16 thoughts on “When the Easy is Impossible

  1. I remember coming back from overseas and having no clue how to use those self-scanners at stores. My heart beat faster and I started sweating at the sight of them. Not long ago I heard the story of a TCK back in the US for college who didn’t know how to use those. He was to embarrassed to ask. Eventually, he decided to switch to a non-native accent to ask for help and people understood his confusion and politely helped. Great strategy!


    1. That IS a great strategy! You perfectly described the way your heart beats faster and you sweat – those physical symptoms that come on like a wave. For me it was pumping gas and ordering coffee.


  2. This makes me think about being the new kid at school. Growing up as a TCK, I was the new kid many times, and I know how difficult that is. So whenever I saw new kids, I would always go and ask them if I could help out. I would look out for them and if I ever saw one who looked lost or lonely, I would go introduce myself and offer to help them find their way, or just simply talk to them. Like was noted in other comments, you can see it in their eyes, especially since you know you’ve had that look in yours before. Often the smallest gesture makes the biggest difference, especially when you’re feeling lost or alone. Great post, and I’m happy someone helped get the grilling going again! :)


    1. I wish I had someone like you every new place I’ve been…. the new and the impossible would be a lot less daunting with a friend.
      Thanks for commenting today.


  3. Reblogged this on Communicating.Across.Boundaries and commented:

    Robynn from Fridays with Robynn is taking a break today. I’ve reblogged her post “When the Easy is Impossible”. It’s a great post that she wrote a year ago and still serves as a great reminder to me– what I think may be simple could be incredibly difficult for someone else. Thanks for reading!


  4. We were stateside when we had a visit from an MK. he watched me load the dishwasher with great interest and shyly asked, “Aunt Bettie, how does this work?” I was only too happy to show him. More than that I told him how intimidated I had been when I had to deal with the dishwasher. For months I wouldn’t use it, telling everyone that I’d rather wash dishes by hand! He cracked a big smile because I think he knew that I’d been right where he was. BTW, that young MK is a graduate of MIT and can explain a lot of things to a lot of people! We do get over it and go on to find other obstacles that try to slay us, don’t we?


  5. Marilyn, wonderful story by Robynn Bliss. I had the same experience with a grill that was given to us by a kind Christian friend. Once the propane tank was empty, I experienced the same helplessness. We eventually gave the grill away. Hopefully someoneelse was able to figure it out. At the time, I wondered if there was some truth to the gender bias assumption: “women are good with the stove and men are good with the grill.” Appeared so in my situation, Petra


    1. Petra…I seriously regretted buying the grill when we reached the end of the tank! I’m sorry you ended up giving yours away…. if I were closer I’d show you how to change the tank!


  6. This is a great post Marilyn! I am well aware of the unkindness by people sometime who might mock that another cannot perform a task or achieve doing the easy. To me it is the fear of rejection or being taunted that makes me anxious and uneasy about asking for help. I too, lend a hand and try to explain to another when I see that look of panic, not knowing how to go about something. What a gracious act of love to help another… and to do it in a kind and informational way! You rock, Marilyn!!


  7. Wow, this is so, so good! You bring to mind all of the times I’ve seen that look of “impossible” in the eyes of a newly-arrived refugee. They accidentally lock their front door, or need to buy a prescription at the pharmacy, or just simply want to turn on the light … and, dropped in this alien country where everything is unfamiliar, it’s impossible. I love how you said it, Robynn – “I hope to always keep my eyes open for that person that doesn’t know how to do the easy.” Yes!! What’s so easy for us, is a insurmountable task for someone that has never done it. Thanks for the lovely post!


    1. Thanks Jessica for your kind words…. You’re right –the look appears first in the eyes of someone. You can immediately see the panic and unease. I see it often in my own reflection, so I know how it looks in the eyes of a fellow foreigner.


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