We cut to the middle of the night where we find Caroline in the midst of a blissfully wonderful sleep. Windows open. Husband not snoring. Their 14-pound ginger cat nuzzled up beside her. It’s as if nothing could awaken this sleeping goddess…
<Caroline suddenly sits straight up>
Shit. I should set a reminder to put dinner in the Instant Pot at 2pm tomorrow.
…nothing, except for the laundry list of things that should get done.
The shoulds are a real thing!
The shoulds wake us up in the middle of the night. The shoulds keep us in unhealthy relationships. The shoulds put our to-do list ahead of our body begging for a break. The shoulds interrupt quality time by nagging you to answer your phone. The shoulds tell us that anything other than stainless steel appliances are lame and Dottie next door will not be impressed by your renovations unless they are stainless steel, dammit!
“That’s a very bright, yellow kitchen, Caroline. When will you be renovating?” – Words actually spoken to me.
Phew. Did you get all that?
We’re in the middle of a pandemic, in the middle of winter, after a deadly insurrection and you’re worrying about the shoulds?! (Don’t worry, I do too still.)
Here are some daily or weekly shoulds that run through my mind to make you feel a bit better:
- I should get up, but my sleep sucked last night.
- I should start dinner, but I’m mentally exhausted and just want a sandwich.
- I should call that person back that drains me, but I don’t have the energy.
- I should be more organized, but my desk looks like piles of pure chaos.
- I should be able to fit into pants I wore 2 years ago, but the pandemic puff is real.
- I should have every minute of my day planned out to ensure maximum efficiency, but sometimes just showering is a win.
- I should stay on track today and make sure my Macros are totally in line otherwise my whole diet is thrown off and the big bad food police will haunt my dreams and make me feel like shit.
Let me tell you about those shoulds. NONE feel good. NONE are life changing. NONE will contribute to the moral arc of my life.
And yet, we are all pulled into this secret societal Should Circle that somehow determines if we get a gold star for the day…or life.
Do whatever you need to do without the shoulds creeping in.
I’m proof that life will carry on with or without you checking off the boxes of what you should be fucking doing with your life. Hello, my name is Not Your Average Gal.
If I followed those shoulds I would have had: a mortgage 10 years ago, 2.5 kids and a corporate career. I wouldn’t have traveled the world, married a swell med student in England, started my own business or moved to Hawaii.
Now, those high and mighty, playing-Devil’s-advocate types may feel like, “But I have done everything I should in life and it pains me to see you not doing it…and enjoying it,”They may feel compelled to chime in.
So before they say it: Yes, there are things that we should all do in order to remain hygienic and healthy.
We know that.
We should care for one another, nourish our bodies, study and educate ourselves, go to work in whatever form that looks like, get the rest we need and put on deodorant. Maybe even catch up on some Real Housewives.
But really, that’s it. If that’s what you’re doing right now in the middle of a God damn pandemic—BRAVO!
I hope you re-read that.
So many of my dear, fierce friends are struggling to maintain some semblance of normalcy to the point that they have a laundry list of activities that should be done, and when it doesn’t happen—because hello! Pandemic—they beat themselves up. Which starts a vicious cycle of wanting to get back to normal, with the painstaking reminder that it isn’t normal and cue the bad feelings of inadequacy for somehow not being able to pretend things are normal.
This won’t go on forever. It feels like it.
Your new normal will not disproportionately put your child on a terrible trajectory because we all are going through it right now.
Your new normal will not adversely affect the memories made during this time because we couldn’t go on that damn vacation we were so looking forward to. (Trust me, I get that!)
Think of the resilience and compassion you are teaching your children…and yourself.
Please, be kind to yourself during the weirdest time in our lives.
Don’t let the shoulds tell you what this time should be like.
Here’s what’s helped me keep the shoulds at bay for the most part.
Keeping a routine is certainly helpful, but what I’ve found is that honoring my body and mind–instead of trudging through the shoulds–has actually helped me more.
- Moved my body
- Filled it with food
- Gotten 6-8 hours of sleep
Then that’s good enough. Full stop!
That entire list could be pelted with shoulds.
- Have gone on a run instead of a walk
- Have skipped the butter
- Have gotten up at 6am
But the more I listen, the more I allow my body and mind to rest, reset and be nourished (even if it’s Mac ‘n Cheese, kiddos!) the more I actually accomplish; the more present I am.
Isn’t that sort of the point of this crazy life during this crazy time?
To be present.
To watch the colors of the sky change at sunset instead of rushing to make sure you’ve got dinner on the table.
A mentor of mine once said to me:
“It will all get done eventually. It will. It may not be how you envisioned it, it may not be Perfect with a capital P. But it will get done. So you may as well enjoy it while you get it done, whenever you get it done.”
I hope you can chuck the shoulds out the window. See what it feels like. How your mind reacts. How your body thanks you. How liberating it is to define your own life.
I hope you know how wonderful that feels, how wonderful you are.
That’s one should that’s acceptable in my book.
You should know how wonderful you are.