Today is my birthday. Yep. 44 years old.
A day of relaxation.
A day of celebration.
A day of gratitude.
A day of reflection.
And as I reflect on this last year, I can’t help but reflect on the last 44 years and where I’ve come from and where I’m going in this journey we call “life.”
I have been reading a lot this last year. Works of fiction, yes, but also a lot of self-help and self-reflection books as well. Books to help me in my recovery journey and books to help increase my faith in Jesus. Books to validate my feelings and books to inspire His vision upon my life.
But I’m concerned as I read. See, we live in a world of “shoulds.” As a wife, a mom, a daughter, a teacher, a writer, a friend . . . I live in the world of shoulds. One of the shoulds I’ve been battling this last year or so is from a memory of a former “girlfriend” of mine in regards to my writing from several years ago. Here is what she said to me:
“You should just stop writing. No one gives a shit about what you have to say.”
Yeah, some support, huh? At the time, not only was I working on my first blog pages, but also a fiction book on PTSD and childhood sexual abuse. She didn’t care to read my blogs because they were inspirational and sometimes hit too close to home for her living in her misery and depression.
So I stopped writing.
I BELIEVED the lie! Can you believe I gave in to her “should” demand so easily? Yep, I was duped. She had so much control over me that I gave in to what I thought was best based on HER miserable life. Talk about toxicity.
Well, she’s no longer in my life, so I am going to write whether anyone thinks I should or not. But what other “shoulds” have I lived with? Here is a list of shoulds I have heard from others and from my inner voice:
- You should quit your job as a teacher and just write.
- You should not quit your job and just write on the side.
- You should parent your kids like _____________.
- You should dress like _____________.
- You should wear your hair like ________________.
- You should teach that concept this way.
- You should lose weight.
- You should lose weight by _______________.
- You should stop eating/drinking _____________.
- You should write every day.
- You should write a devotional book.
- You should write a book about your son (with special needs).
- You should write 1000 words every day.
- You should write whether you feel like it or not.
- You should run a 5K.
- You should develop that plan (for all of us involved).
- You should stop _______________.
- You should begin ________________.
- You should spend more time __________.
- You should spend less time _____________.
- You should see ________________.
- You should listen to ___________.
Listen, I am done living in the shoulds.
Living in the shoulds only leads to a life of spinning in the shame cycle. Brene Brown defines shame as follows: “Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging” (I Thought It was Just Me . . . But It Isn’t).
I no longer want to live in shoulds and shame. I won’t live up to your expectations of what a “perfect” life should look like. I will fail you and I will fail myself if I try to live like that. I am flawed BUT I am incredibly worthy of being accepted and belonging. As Richard Grannon, Spartan Life Coach says, “People pleasing is an ADDICTION!”
If I want to write, I will write.
If I only write a piece of 400 words instead of my “goal” of 1000, so be it.
If I write what scares me, awesome. (Sometimes you just gotta do it to find freedom, friends).
If I write something that scares you, I’m sorry you’re uncomfortable, but it’s My Journey.
If I choose NOT to write, that’s ok.
If I just want “to be”, I’m ok with that.
If I parent my children differently than you think is “acceptable,” guess what? They’re not your children to raise. You “should” be thankful you don’t have to take on more responsibility.
If I spend 5 minutes in prayer time at 4:30 in the afternoon and not 45 minutes as soon as my feet hit the floor, God gets it.
If I decide to take a nap, my body must have needed it.
Bottom line: This is the year of intentional living. And the only standard I have to live by is in my bible I try to read every day (again, if I don’t read every day, I will survive and God still loves me just the same).
And my writing–yes, I will consider the audience, but I can’t think, “I should be writing ___________ for this audience or that.” I will write for myself, in the hopes that someone is inspired or can feel a sense that they are not alone in this journey of life. As Brene Brown, in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection writes of the importance of creativity, “The only unique contribution that we will ever make in this world will be born of our creativity.” So, I will continue to write. I will write as I feel so inclined. It is out of that inclination or desire within me that creativity is born and meaning takes root.
Intentional living. I want to live on purpose, with purpose. And with a heart of gratitude and joy. I can’t live like that when I allow myself to reside in the community of “should”.