aqua fortis

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Freedom from "Should"

I've been thinking a lot about that word "should" today. I realize that it lurks in the back--and more often the front--of my mind almost constantly. I don't know if that's a healthy or a good way to live. I do know that it's been that way since I was a child. Maybe it's my dad's fault and maybe it isn't, but he has always spent long strings of words telling me what I should and shouldn't do.

Whether it's his voice internalized in me, whether it's years of childhood spent being told about my gifted potential that created even more shoulds, or whether it's just my own inherent perfectionistic tendencies, my mind is filled with the word should. At any given moment, some thread of thought is unraveling in my head, a string of things I should be doing or should do later or should have done. I should have done the dishes earlier. I should be writing right now. I should do X hours of work on the computer later. I should be more successful/more relaxed/more physically fit/more ambitious/more hardworking.

I thought, what if I took a day off from "should"? What a mental vacation that would be. Then the folly of this thought occurred to me. I don't think it's even possible for me to take a day off from shoulds and shouldn'ts. I can't even spend fifteen minutes of sitting meditation without shoulds invading my mind's ear. Even thinking that I shouldn't be thinking about "should" becomes a problem. How does one rid oneself of that pesky word, that pesky concept? I think it causes me a lot of heartache, headache, and mental/spiritual fatigue. It's out of control. If I could only un-enslave myself from that idea, make it so that everything wasn't a should or a shouldn't. I could rephrase everything. Would that really change things? Would changing a word really reshape my thoughts? Or would it just be disguising reality?


Chris Cope said...

Gah. Stop. I'm feeling equally overwhelmed by the constancy of should. Last night I came to the startling revelation that I have not felt relaxed in almost two years.

a. fortis said...

That's my problem, too! I think that's one big reason why I broke out in hives that won't go away. Something Must Be Done.

TadMack said...

I'm going to come right out and blame my Dad for all the shoulds-oughts-why-aren't-yous in MY head, thank you very much! When I'm feeling wound into my usual coil I start spouting Silverstein, which is supposed to give me perspective. Doesn't, mostly, but a darn good poem anyway:

Listen to Mustn'ts, child, listen to the Don'ts.
Listen to the Shouldn'ts, the Impossibles, the Won'ts.
Listen to the Never Haves, then listen close to me.
Anything can happen, child, Anything can be.

-Shel Silverstein