Thursday, April 12, 2012

Mount Should

It's funny how a casual conversation can lead down roads one completely does not anticipate.  Theoretically this can be thrilling....sometimes horrifying, and often in my case, linger for days like a kettle of soup on the back burner of an old dingy stove.  It sits there, simmering.  The bubble and splatter a hiss behind my thoughts, dripping through my consciousness, marring the ordered harmony I'm striving for.

Thus a recent afternoon and a discussion of roles.  Ah now, I can nearly feel you pull back from the screen, such treacherous ground I broach.  Responsibilities and chores and territory and earning potential.  Parents, children, lovers and loners...who does what and when but perhaps most importantly, why. 

It was a long talk.  Hours that meandered the way true friendship does, through tears and laughter, swearing that would shock the non-present children.  Sighs.  The world isn't as neat as it used to be, it seems.  I fear this may have more to do with my age than anything else, but it unsettles me.  We covered marriage and  lack of sleep and sisters.  Easter fiascos, financial pressure....and I became suddenly aware that the word "should" was inhabiting nearly every sentence.

 "I know, I should do it because..." "I shouldn't get angry...."  "Maybe I should..."

And I paused.  Who wrote the shoulds?  Don't get me wrong, within the should lies the foundational difference between the mature and the idiot.  Somewhere in the process of "you should brush your teeth" you begin to want to, right? (the benefits of such action are appreciated by yourself as well as the people around you) And though going to work is a choice--you should.  Well, if you want to eat, that is.  But rather than a should, I think that is more just one of life's equations, the reality that is. (one plus one does indeed equal two)

But what of the shoulds that haunt us.  I should want to hug her.  I should be happy with this.  I shouldn't be upset about that.  Where the hell did these shoulds come from?  Is it my conscience?  The voice of my mother perhaps?  Society? (you shouldn't make eye contact with the attractive man checking you out, you're married)  The neighbors? (you should mow your lawn)  Co-workers? (you shouldn't say that)  The old lady at the bank? (you should wear a bra when you're depositing checks)  I feel as if this mountain of shoulds is towering over us, its shadow a dark thing. 

Could this be why anti-depressants are now the third most commonly prescribed drug?  Are we twisting ourselves into knots of flesh and sadness, attempting to accommodate the shoulds?  I've listened to so many people in the last five years or so, who feel broken.  Disappointed.  Frustrated.  They somehow aren't living up to everyone's expectations, even their own. 

It's time we stood our ground, grappled with the shoulds.  Instead of "you shouldn't be mad over that," how about, "well, dammit. I am."  So deal with the mad.  Admit the mad.  Bring it out in the light and parade it around the room.  Cramming it under the blanket of should, squashing it deep inside, is battering our souls.  Are we loving like many go to church?  Because they should?  What happened to wanting?  If you no longer want to....perhaps you need to face why rather than just continuing to do what you should.  Wanting isn't everything, but it is a crucial ingredient in true joy.

How strange in this modern era filled with gender-neutral fashion, stay-at-home dads, and the cracking of the glass ceiling...we still cannot seem to manage the shoulds.  They scrape our minds and cling to our backs.  Do you recognize the shoulds that chase you?  I am going to challenge mine.  I've had enough of them. 

I have absolutely no intention of ever wearing a bra unless I want to.



Robbie Grey said...

I loved that opening paragraph, and the whole meditation was quite intriguing.

I could say I have no intention of wearing a bra, but anotomically, that shouldn't be surprising ;p...

Anthony said...

Great post.

Anonymous said...

"should've, would've could've, sketches all our regrets."
- Flotsam and Jetsam

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I think, at least in my case, the 'shoulds' come from guilt. I normally find myself using that word AFTER I've neglected my duties somewhere. I recognize I didn't give 100%, then the guilt hits, then the realization that I SHOULD have done this, or that, or more, or whatever. I have been trying so hard this year to be more aware, to notice each thing and person in my life, and do my part in hopes that I'll be eliminating those pesky 'shoulds'.

Shea Goff said...

In my opinion we all should be asking your same questions but maybe not. ;)

Loved it, as always!

Mom et al said...

I feel like I can accept my shoulds (on most days) because every should-not was a choice. The problem I have, which you have articulated so well, is with the shoulds that are directed my way.

For me in particular there is one voice that stands out, which also brings with it a lot of apologies in the form of ifs. "You should do this." "I'm sorry if I did that." That holds no sway or respect with me. One has no right to judge another's actions if they cannot take ownership of their own.

Crack You Whip said...

I love posts that make me think! It gets difficult sometimes to not think that I should have done certain things to make my life go differently.

Overall, I love it, but there are just some things I wish I had a time machine for...

Lyndsay Wells said...

I didn't think it could any better, and then you hit us with that last line. You need to publish your blogs as a series. Nothing so mundane as Chicken Soup for the Soul - more like Savoring the Narrow. Loved this.

Lyndsay Wells said...

I meant "Marrow" - I am wearing Broadway Nails - they are having an impact ;)

Shrinky said...

"Are we twisting ourselves into knots of flesh and sadness, attempting to accommodate the shoulds? "

Ah, dearest Chantel, I want to condition my hair with your words, it's like jumping into an invigorating hot spring, each time I take a dip into one of your gorgeous posts, I so, so love your unique mix of wisdom and metaphor!

Bra's are only meant to be worn on very special ocassions, ones that require high heels - to hell with the old lady at the bank queue (smile).

I usually qualify my "should's" with a great bit "BUT" after them, it's amazing how wafer thin you can squash the guilt with a heavy dose of careless repetition (grin)..

Mary said...

I love this. It took me years to stop doing things because I should do them instead of doing things I actually want to do or not do because I don't want to even if I should.

The Loerzels said...

I should have told you how much I love your writing before now.

Brian Miller said... this..and this is def the kind of thing i like to wrestle with as well....shoulds are pretty dangerous...a lot of potential but falling way short...roles are a tough one as well...there are things i do because i should but there are far more i do because i want to...

Shelly said...

"Wanting isn't everything, but it is a crucial ingredient in true joy."

Bingo and amen! This is a great post to ruminate. Really enjoyed it!

Chantel said...

Robbie--not surprising in the least! lol

Anthony--thank you kindly.

BamaTrav--"sketches all our regrets"...I like that.

Sarah Kate--your focus on being more aware will do much to alleviate shoulds, I think. You inspire me. :)

Shea--lol! xox

Maria--absolutely true! And yes, those shoulds can weigh much...but I'm left thinking perhaps we decide their weight?

Whip--oh my, a time machine sounds lovely...but Dr. Who would tell you it spells trouble! :)

Lyndsay--lol! I may give that idea some thought, and I adore the notion of you with Broadway Nails!

Shrinky--lands, you do make me laugh! I've never been likened to hair cream but I'm rather pleased by it. Bras...bah humbug!

Mary--lol! I had to read that like three times...

Loerzels--ha! Thank you huge!

Brian--as long as your ratio of wants to shoulds is weighted right...dang, if you hadn't read the post--these comments would make NO sense at all! lol

Chantel said...

Shelly--you snuck in while I was typing. :) Thank you! (and adore the word 'ruminate')

Murr Brewster said...

I saw someone today about whom I thought (insert old lady voice here) "he should pull his pants up." You will be pleased to know that he has already come to grips with his shoulds, and mine too.

Mary: said...

Hi Chantel,
Well, I'd love to say that I've become liberated from the should haves in my life. . . but I'm still battling the monster, especially in the late dark hours when my sweet husband is sound asleep and I know my other loved ones are wide awake on the other side of the world. There must have been something I SHOUD have done differently, but what could I have done? It's a mouse racing round and round in his wheel, it's the caterpillar crawling round and round the rim of a glass, it's so many things other than productive. So, praise God for morning, and His new beginnings each day. For love and joy in the present, without yesterdays regrets and tomorrows fears.
As said the wise Shel Silverstein:
:“Listen to the 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.”
Love from Astorga.

Chantel said...

Murr--lol, so glad I'm not the only one!

Mary--I love Silverstein, and mornings. More than both, I love "anything can be."

You do good for my soul, Mary, xo

Anonymous said...

well-penned essay, Chantal. for me the shoulds are just judgemental
critical inner{self-critic and outer{society} meant to disable us from joy and let negativity take

Chantel said...

Paige + Shauna--so true, the question is, which is louder--the inner or outer? Society is something we chose to bend to or not...the inner voice? That is a battle I still fight.