To dos, the doing, the shoulds, the should'ing. What happens when you stop? What happens when you create space? What happens when you live your life the way you want to?
Should is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as being "used in auxiliary function to express obligation, propriety, or expediency".
It is the obligation and expediency associated with "should" that I personally struggle with, although I do not feel that this is my struggle alone. I anticipate that many folks struggle with the list of shoulds that they likely are (unconsciously or consciously) preparing and comparing themselves to daily, if not moment by moment.
Maybe your list of shoulds looks something like this:
I should wash my hair.
I should pay off my student line of credit.
I should save for a down payment.
I should not buy another (overpriced) latte.
I should not ignore my mother's voice mail.
I should call my nana.
I should volunteer more.
I should have coffee with that friend from high school who messaged me.
I should go to yoga.
I should wake up earlier tomorrow.
I should meal prep this week.
I should not.
You probably have your own list that you did not even realize was there, ticking itself off in the back of your mind. Or maybe you did realize and it slowly dictates how you live, day after day after day.
And I am not saying that the things on this list are not good for me, or that they may not "better" my life. Hell, so many of the things on the list I actually love and enjoy doing-but the moment I place the should in front of the statement-this obligation and this immediate need to complete the task-I can sense the resistance rising up within me. The beginning of an internal temper tantrum and/or rationalization-
WELLLLLLL, I used dry shampoo yesterday so I don't reallllllllly need to wash my hair today (and I could press snooze two more times if I don't).
WELLLLLL, I paid my minimum payment this month so I could use this extra money for something fun (or something that is just more instantly rewarding and desirable).
WELLLLLLLLLLLLLLL, I get points for ordering another latte which will eventually get me a free latte and I'm tireddddddddddddddd.
The should of the task is self-imposed-I am telling myself that I should do the thing (perhaps because of my internalization of society's expectations or assumptions...alas, another rabbit hole to dive into). And the temper tantrum that this self-imposed expectation creates is an internal debate that results in me wanting to simultaneously rebel against the obligation and meet the expectation and 'achieve' the success of accomplishing the task. This being said, my ability to internally rationalize and talk myself out of anything that comes with a "should" at the beginning is incredibly impressive, if I do say so myself. The internal tantrum is not always in my best interest or in alignment with my values, and yet, it rages on against 'should' and 'should' statements continue to explode out of my mouth in conversation and internal dialogue.
So if the imposition of the word "should" in front of the statement makes me want to run for the hills and do anything but the proposed task, how can I create more function in my life? How can I stop should'ing all over myself? My friend Raegan wrote a blog post recently discussing her transition into the second half of her twenties and she was pondering the question of financial stability in this transition and what it means. She wrote something that applies to more than just financial stability and it applies to the daily list of "shoulds" that runs through my head- "anytime a question has a 'should' at the beginning I ask myself if I actually care about the answer or if I feel like I'm *supposed* to care about the answer".
Do I actually care if I go another day with dry shampoo in my hair? No. Do I feel like I should care? Yes. Well, sometimes. Do I actually care if I return my mother's voice mail? Yes. I value my relationship with my mom. Do I actually care if I call my nana? Yes. I am so grateful I have the ability to call her and talk about my day. Do I actually care if I go to yoga? Most of the time, yes. Asking this question is about releasing myself from this space of obligation-the space that keeps me in the hustle, in the busyness, in a space of disconnect- and into a space of intentional action and slowing down.
As we approach the holiday season, this message seems especially pertinent-release the shoulds, let go of the obligation, give yourself permission to be. What would your day look like if you released some of the need to complete your list of shoulds? Would your day begin with a to go latte from a drive through on your way to a job that you may not enjoy to the fullest? Or would your day begin with a mug of tea, curled up on your couch while reading a new book? Or would your day begin with a walk outdoors with your favorite humans and furry friends? Maybe you are not in a place where you can create an entire day doing exactly what you want, when you want, absolutely free of shoulds. Regardless, you have the ability to create the life you want to live-moment by moment. You have the ability to create more moments of connection, celebration, and compassion in your daily life if that is what you want. Maybe you cannot start every day curled up on the couch-but maybe it is one day off? Or maybe it is five minutes before you shift into the next step of your day? Maybe you just pause and ask yourself the question-do I actually care? And maybe, just maybe, you listen when your heart says no to the should you have proposed.
Where do you create space to breathe, live, and let go when you stop should'ing all over yourself?
In darkness and in light,