A bad case of "The Shoulds"
Today is definitely one of those days when all I hear echoing in my head is a list of "shoulds." I should vacuum. I should clean the bathroom. I should dust. I should edit a piece of writing that is due next week. I should read aloud to the kids. I should bathe the dog. I should call certain people. I should email other people. I should cook. I should bake. I should... I should... I should...
What I long for is a day of "I get to..." Today I get to wake up at a reasonable, leisurely pace. Today I get to drink my coffee wihtout interruption. Today I get to sit on the big red couch in the living room and read all day. Today I get to journal, make a collage or two, read emails that have been sent to me by dear friends, respond if I so choose, or otherwise I get to postpone responding and just bask in the glow of being remembered and honored as a friend. Today I get to eat steel cut oatmeal for breakfast, sushi for lunch, and a home-cooked meal for dinner - none of which I had to prepare. Today I get to relax. Today I get bypass the usual routine of cooking, cleaning, vacuuming, or going to the supermarket. Today I get to ignore the voice of "the shoulds."
Currently, I am reading a book entitled Sabbath Keeping. It is written by a Christian woman who has observed a day of Sabbath rest each week for twenty-five years. On her Sabbath day, she does no work. It sounds simple enough, but in actuality it is a challenging proposition. After all, what is work? Work is anything you are paid to do, anything that you "should" do, anything that involves emotional stress and strain and the urgency of completion. Work is anything that does not fall into the "today I get to..." category.
So what would work be for me? Homeschooling and homeschool prep. Editing pieces that are meant to be published or sent to writing contests. Cleaning, cooking, laundry, or shopping. Checking email - because I will either feel guilty for not writing back or feel disappointed that friends I'd hoped to hear from hadn't written. Staying out of malls, stores, and even restaurants would be a consideration, because if I am taking a day of rest, should I expect others to have to work for me? Work is anything that makes me feel the way I'm feeling right now: anxious, overwhelmed, consumed, and annoyed. I cannot imagine how much more peaceful and restful my life would be if I incorporated these kinds of thoughts and decisions on a regular basis. Imagine if all the workaholics actually took a day off to sleep late, drink coffee, play games with family and friends, and avoided all kinds of work for an entire day.
In place of all the things I choose to avoid on the Sabbath, with what activities would I fill my day? There would certainly be candle burning, reading for pleasure, journaling, eating good food (including some of the things I avoid when "I should be eating what's good for me"), drinking lots of tea and coffee, time alone for quiet reflection and prayer, and all the other things I would include in my "Today I get to..." list. I might go for a walk in the neighborhood or perhaps just sit on the deck. I might spend time with family and friends, but only the ones who "fill my cup" and not the ones who "drain me dry." I might write cards and notes to people I miss and cherish. I might take a long nap. (Even as I write this paragraph, I feel my blood pressure dropping and I'm making a lot more mistakes with my typing - because I am relaxing and releasing tension with each thought.)
Today is definitely one of those days where "the shoulds" are shaking me to the core. (I also happen to be pre-menstrual, but that's a topic for an entirely different blog.) As soon as I finish this, however, I will attend to one more "should." I should take my overtired, cranky, exasperated self down to the kitchen, turn on the kettle, and make myself a mug of tea. As the water boils, I will make a list of the most pressing "shoulds," offer it to the flames, and watch the ashes go up in smoke. Actually, before I can do that, I should get a gas stove; paper doesn't burn terribly well on a flat top electric stove. So in the meantime, I get to continue reading this well-written book on observing the Sabbath and figure out ways to incorporate its principles of rest, grace, and gratitude into my life.
The only question remaining is: what kind of tea do I want???