It’s funny, the things that will spark conversation. For instance, Justin Schwamm writes a fascinating blog about his teaching experience where he often gets philosophical. Maybe my life experience has little-to-nothing to do with his Latin Teacher experience; nonetheless, it’s surprising how often his insights leave me feeling reflective.
For instance, this post in which he writes about what is mine and not mine and should. The other day, I wrote a reply to an email from Erin. You see, we’ve been working our way through Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain together and, the other day, she shared a drawing she did that was not one of the exercises. I was overdue with some of the exercises myself, having fallen a bit behind. Maybe I was feeling guilty for not making time to do something I am honestly enjoying doing because, when Erin emailed me and said “I know this isn’t one of the exercises yet but I did this,” I wrote back:
This is what you should be doing.
Now, I meant this to be encouraging, to suggest that sometimes an exercise will feel a bit uninspired or time won’t allow for more than a few minutes of quick sketching and, on those days, it’s okay to draw something else. But that isn’t what I said, is it? Instead, I had inserted this judgmental and implicit word: should.
Now, maybe I should try to keep up with Erin. And maybe I should make time for drawing. But who am I to tell her what she should do? I had clearly overstepped a boundary from mine to not mine, as Justin writes in his blog. I was projecting my own should onto her.
So I corrected myself in another email, apologizing for my faux pas. Not that she even noticed or cared. She’s gracious like that. But I needed to own what I wrote even if I didn’t mean quite like that, because it is not for me to tell her or anyone else what they should do or how they should live their lives. Half the time I’m resisting my own burden of should. Which reminded me of a quote from an episode of Sex and the City in which Carrie Bradshaw is thinking about “the S-word”:
Carrie voice-over: After Miranda used the S-word twice, I wondered if “should” was another disease plaguing women. Did we want babies and perfect honeymoons? Or did we think we should have babies and perfect honeymoons? How do we separate what we could do from what we should do? And here’s an alarming thought. It’s not just peer pressure. It seems to be coming from within. Why are we should-ing all over ourselves? (Season 6, Episode 15, “Catch-38”)
"Why are we should-ing all over ourselves?" I have a theory about why I should all over myself. I too often weigh myself down with what I should be doing (and, by association, should not be doing) when I don’t make the time to know my why, which is something else Justin’s been exploring in his blog. When I know why I should be doing something, I remove the guilt and blame from my action and find myself doing something because it is a choice. More than that, it is a choice rooted in a personal integrity that has nothing to do with an external should but is driven by an internal want, a desire that is connected with who I am.
I’m going to try to remember this, to catch myself when I am thinking/saying should, whether about myself or others. When I’m should-ing on myself, I’ll ask myself why. And if I’m should-ing on someone else, I’ll just let it go. After all, I don’t like it when I should all over myself so I think it’s safe to say I shouldn’t do it all over someone else.