Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The clamor of conflicting shoulds

I had such a useless-feeling day yesterday that I decided this morning to do a mix of reflection and meditation; to allow myself to examine my thoughts as they arose, rather than just determinedly releasing them and returning to center, in hopes that I could assess what appears to be a serious energy drain.

What rose up, as I watched, was a pile of what I think I will call "conflicted shoulds." And, on the off chance that you may be troubled with them, too, I'll offer some examples:

1. We get requests almost daily -- both mailings and phone calls -- from charitable organizations we've given to in the past -- Mercy Corps, Care, Ronald McDonald House, Breast Cancer Prevention Fund, March of Dimes... And we ignore them all. We don't pick up the phone (thank God for caller ID) and the mailings go directly into the recycling bin.

The decision to ignore them comes from a should: with no income and four additional mouths to feed, I feel we should be conserving our resources for now. And with all the cleaning up we're doing to make this move happen (my husband is moving his office up into our daughter's room, which she is cleaning out after four years of college so she and her boyfriend can move downstairs into his office, which is larger and has easy access to a separate bathroom and the front door) lots of stuff is being generated for the Children's Hospital Thrift Shop, so we're not TOTALLY keeping to ourselves.

But another part of me worries: we know most charitable organizations are really struggling right now. Shouldn't we stop operating out of fear (that our resources are limited) and continue to give, trusting in some sort of ultimate abundance? Hence the conflicting shoulds: should we save, or should we give?

2. Our older daughter is exhausted from a grueling last month of college, the sleepless nights devoted to her thesis, poor diet, moving out of her house in Portland and leaving all her friends and 20 years of schooling and all the discipline that brings behind, not having any idea what comes next. So she's spending a lot of time sleeping and skyping. She's making progress on cleaning out her room, but it's very slow. Should I be cracking the whip, or should I allow her all the time she needs to grieve and recover? Conflicting shoulds.

3. We had an infestation of ants after the wedding -- probably from all the sweets that were lying around -- and I had to clear out the cupboards and sprayed along the floor as well, following their path into the house. The girls have complained for two days that the floor is sticky. Should I have insisted they mop it up if it was bothering them? This morning, remembering the problem and thinking it would be best to mop before everyone awoke, I did it myself, knowing it "should" be taken care of. More conflicting shoulds.

4. My office is horribly cluttered at the moment, with all the things we shoved into it at the last minute in order to tidy up for the wedding. And I have two important projects I need to complete for an upcoming exhibit. But I'm fighting off a cold, and just recovering from a couple of weeks of back problems. I should be cleaning up and moving forward, but shouldn't I also rest and recover, take care of myself? More conflicting shoulds.

And what I see, from looking at all of this, is that under stress all my self-critical voices begin to clamor, and in the cacophony I lose my ability to hear the still small voice of love. Somehow I need to trust that if I can just keep breathing and listening, all these choices and conflicts will bring exactly what they -- and here's that word again -- should -- into my life and the lives of those around me.

So when this torso emerged yesterday afternoon -- at a time when I should probably have been napping, or cleaning, or preparing, or cajoling, or writing checks to charities -- I decided to name her patience, as she is the first of the torsos to look like she is sitting. I think I need to sit with all these conflicting shoulds, and just keep breathing; to trust that somehow the spirit will shine through.

It's all good -- but some days that's hard to remember.


Maureen said...

Louise wrote a blog today about listening to the heart's silence.

Another intriguing image.


Joyce Wycoff said...

What I think you "should" do is give yourself 5 gold stars for having the patience of a saint and then quietly sneak away for some time by yourself at the local coffee shop ... or with your camera ... I'm starting to crave your Goddess series. And you definitely should feed my cravings! ;-)

Louise Gallagher said...

coulda woulda shoulda...

LOL -- you are SO me! Seriously! :)

I've got a similar list -- and then... my daughter's former boyfriend dropped off boxes and a bureau of her stuff and it got placed in the guest room where the bureau still stands on end and the boxes blocked the way to the ironing board so all that ironing I should be doing isn't getting done...

Yup. Time to sink into Divine grace and let the universe unwind as it will as I wind down my shoulda's and breathe into the silence.

Love this post Diane! Oh -- and Joyce's cravings... those are good ones to heed! :)

Cheryl said...

Amazing, isn't it, how downright conflicted all those shoulds can make us. Since it's obvious you've been trudging through the maze of my mind, I want to tell you, Diane, I'm right there holding your hand. Every word resonates. Thank you

Dianna Woolley said...

So, I've been "cathcing up" with my blogger pals and understanding I can't know everything since I've been gone for a month.....there was a lot of events packed into this post and glad I chose it as one to zero in on. The image caught my eye first and as I just paged through other posts of yours I've missed I see that the torso/goddess series is in full bloom. I like it - not quite sure what prompted it but maybe you're not either. The images are charming and evocative.

The "shoulds" - it's quiet around here today and I have some definite "shoulds" - but they don't seem to be winning for the moment and I expect they'll still be here tomorrow so right now, I'm just enjoying the opportunity to browse and check in:)