Doing What I Should…or Not

I should. Those two words begin an embarrassing number of my statements each day and a truly astounding number of my thoughts.

I should clean the litter box and the guinea pig cage.
I should decide what’s for dinner.
I should check the bank account and juggle the funds.

Some of those shoulds are merited. The cat box does need to be cleaned regularly, and the guinea pigs really require daily cage cleaning to stay off hazardous waste lists. Dinner, if my boys are here, is another item needing daily attention, along with its brothers, lunch and breakfast. While the boys are gaining independence, the more able and older doesn’t really care enough about food to prepare it for himself very often and the younger, who has enthusiasm and a healthy appetite, needs supervision with fire and sharp objects. And the bank account? That’s on the “must do” list, too.

I should email the piano tuner and set a date for that free tuning the piano needed in February.
I should schedule my own routine health care appointments.
I should dust. And vacuum. And clean the bathrooms. Even the shower.

Some shoulds are a bit more, well, flexible and timing. Yeah, I never had our new (in January 2010) piano tuned at the six-week mark. Obviously it isn’t an emergency today, but I feel remiss not having this routine service done. My healthcare? I’m a healthy woman, aside from a temperamental neck and thoracic spine and surrounding musculature, and I do see my chiropractor for that stuff. The mammogram is done, but the other…not yet. The housework is omnipresent, and it’s not a health risk. But company comes soon, so attention before too long is warranted.

I should make more time to write. I should write for publication submission and work on the book that can’t escape my head and become pixels on a page.
I should read far more, more breadth of subjects, more news, more often in front of my children.
I should run, walk, swim, or something more active that will fight the muscle loss that comes to us over-40 types if we spend too much time writing and reading.

This is where the shoulds do more harm than good. Yes, I want to write more. I spent summer convinced I’d have more time in the structure of fall and the school year to write. Ha. If I really wanted to, I’d find the time, I chide myself. And despite the precarious tower of books on my nightstand, I rarely feel I’m reading the right book, article, blog, newspaper, or magazine. Should I read what might better me or better my children? Do I read the fluffy novel and skip the news? And why am I laying about reading when I should be sweating hard and preserving muscle? I’m not young anymore, and while right now I’m not too flabby, I know that stone is rolling downhill with disturbing velocity.

I should stop saying, “I should.”

That’s the conclusion I draw the mornings after a run of sleepless nights, the nights when I weigh the contents of my day, judging how I spent my time the previous day, month, year, or decade. It’s the conclusion that comes after living so much in the future and past that I’m not even sure what’s happening NOW.

It’s not a matter of dropping what needs to be done. Paying bills, doing laundry, taking care of my health (including my mental health with that fluffy novel): these are all things that need to be done. But it isn’t the needed-tos that are causing my problems. It’s all those shoulds that are really coulds. I could write, run, knit, organize, or, gasp, just be. And with change of a few letters, some tension melts away. Life seems a bit more manageable and less oppressive.

With a bit of work, I could keep it that way.


One thought on “Doing What I Should…or Not

  1. This was a thought-provoking post, Sarah. Perhaps the secret to accomplishing more is turning those “shoulds” into either “want to do’s” or “must do’s.” We, of course, find it easy to do the things we want to do, and also find a way to get those things done that we know we must do. As for those pesky tasks that that don’t fall into either of these categories, they tend to end up by the wayside. But I think your point–well taken– is not to judge ourselves so harshly 🙂

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