Are You Shoulding?

Cindy ArpOur Town Outdoors

I’ve recently had a bad case of the Shouldings. I wake up in the morning thinking about them and after coffee I make unhelpful, unrealistic lists to accomplish that day.

I play games with myself – I’ll start on the garage cleaning Shoulding, giving myself 30 minutes there before going out for my uplifting, reflecting, boosting walk. I will only work on my Shoulding list in the morning when it’s cold, or the next day if it is gloomy and rainy.

I find myself always in a hurry, a condition that can often lead to mistakes. Mistakes that are caused because I have So. Much. To. Do.

Often after completing all or at least some of the Shouldings on my list, I find myself out of energy, lacking the will power to do those things that bring joy to my life. I haven’t been outside all day, or I am now outside but the weather has changed. I lament that I haven’t done what I consider that day’s “fun” things.

At day’s end I look at my list, seeing everything still to be done, and become frustrated at my lack of progress. I am grumpy with my loved ones and angry with myself. I feel as if I am channeling Schultz’s cartoon character Charlie Brown – my tummy hurts.

As you’ve gathered by now, the Shoulding list contains things I think I must do. These aren’t things that must be done; but rather things that are on the list through obligations, expectations, perhaps even fear. These Shouldings turn into a mountain of things to accomplish –a mountain so tall it might collapse on me.

In desperation, I decided to analyze my Shoulding list. Top of the list are those Shouldings that are important. Years ago, my sister and I were in Chattanooga. As we were leaving, my sister said that Sam McConnell, a dear friend of our deceased father, was in a nearby hospital and we should visit him there. We had been out all day and I thought we could visit him another time. Soon after that decision, Mr. McConnell passed away. I regret my decision still. Yes, some Shouldings are important.

Another item on the list was the Fear Shoulding. I’ve written for years and friends and family always complimented me, saying I should publish something. Fear held me back. Writing lets them into one’s mind. What if others don’t like what they find? Eventually, with the help and strong encouragement of my husband, I started publishing. This Fear Shoulding has now been moved to my inner Wanting, Enjoying, Happiness-Inducing list.

Mundane, time-consuming tasks take up a lot of room on my list. I should wash the car, I should clean the house, I should have my car’s oil changed, I should exercise more, I should eat better. These are Shouldings’ problem children. None need to be done right away, but unlike the 1960s psychologist Timothy Leary’s advice to, “Turn on, tune in, drop out,” that is not a good choice.

After examining my Shoulds, I have made some plans. For my Mundane Shouldings I plan to do a few at a time, not all at once. Any Fear Shouldings will be examined for merit and possibility, and to the Important Shouldings I will pay strict attention.

Mindful, purposeful Shoulding lists might reduce or even eliminate the Shoulding mountain. Without fear of being buried by the Shoulds, I plan to pay more attention to my Wanting, Enjoying, Happiness-Inducing list. All will be better. Now, excuse me please, I should be putting up the Christmas tree!

Cindy Arp, teacher/librarian, retired from Knox County Schools. She and husband Dan live in Heiskell.


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