Letting go of “shoulds”

A Sunday sermon triggered my original blog on “Letting go of expectations during the holidays,” which brought emails from friends with their own stories and inspired me to continue writing on the topic. Below are two examples of responses.

I decided to take a lesson from your post and hire help, said one person, who had just taken on a work project due before Christmas.

The topic of lowered expectations is very timely, having just talked with my daughter-in-law about her seemingly endless list of things to do before next week.  I was thinking, as I was looking at her harried face, that this is what we do to ourselves in the name of …Christmas????? It’s really not fun. I might suggest that next year we all go away somewhere warm and escape this madness.

Unrelated to the season, another friend asked my opinion about whether she had wasted her time taking a job this year that she feared was not helping her reach her long-term career and personal goals.  Was I wrong to take this job? she asked.  I’m forty-seven and I worry I wasted a year when I should have been working in something that moved me closer toward achieving my dream.”

How timely, then, that today’s dailygood.org brought an essay on letting go of ‘shoulds.’ I believe we create our “shoulds” over the course of many years, which is why it was almost easier to let go of my mother early this year than let go of more trivial things, like making holiday cards.  This week, an out-of-town visitor asked me how many people sent me handmade Christmas cards.  “Two,” I said, which helped me put this “should” in perspective.  Today’s essay listed five ways to rid oneself of “shoulds.”  It occurred to me — though it’s not on the list — that the easiest step to begin with is to ask yourself why.  In my case, why is it important that I make Christmas cards?  My answer is, I don’t think it really is.  I like making greeting cards, but one at a time, not in assembly line fashion. The same question could be asked about feeling like we should bake cookies, host a New Year’s party or buy a few zillion gifts.

Other “shoulds,” such as, I should visit a sick co-worker even though it requires a long drive in rush-hour traffic, or I should volunteer to do such-and-such, are ones that need more study of the tips in the essay.  As for my friend who fears she shouldn’t have accepted a particular job, I told her, “You had no way of knowing that this job would not lead you to your goal, so there’s no possible reason to think you shouldn’t have taken it.  Get out of it what you can and move on.” I hope she follows my advice. She should.

About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness. Also, I'm on the third draft of my second novel since retirement.
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