Should, Schmould

Sometimes doing the things you know are going to make you feel better about yourself feel like drudgery. I know, because I’ve tried several different times to quit doing the things I know I need to feel like a sane, vibrant, intuitive person, because it was all feeling like too much. And each time, all the energy I thought I was saving myself I ended up spending on feeling like crap, and on wishing that I didn’t feel like crap.

Each time I ended up there, I had to figure out how to drop any sense of obligation I felt to do all the things I’ve learned it takes to keep myself humming, and remember that I do this stuff because I love the way it makes me feel.

Here’s my current list of things I do to take care of my mind and body, and the connection in between them. In no particular order, they are:

  • Practice yoga at home
  • Go to occasional yoga classes
  • See a chiropractor every 2-3 weeks
  • Take weekly lessons in the Alexander Technique
  • Meditate for a few minutes a night while sitting outside my daughter’s room as she falls asleep
  • Ride a bike as my main form of transportation
  • Do something cardio-y (such as walk, run, or swing kettlebells) most days of the week


Other things I rotate in on an as-needed basis:

  • Acupuncture
  • Massage

That’s a lot of stuff, right?

So when my Alexander Technique teacher suggested that I start spending 15 minutes a day in the semi-supine position, I sighed and immediately started feeling sorry for myself. How much can one person do? I thought. How am I supposed to have time to do anything else, much less work, cook, put kids to bed?

It was a real woe-is-me kind of moment.

My adorable AT teacher sensed my existential pain and suggested that I find a way to see it as part of my life, not just another thing on my checklist of things I must do everyday.

She’s right, of course. Doing something because a teacher or a magazine article or your inner taskmaster tells you you should is really a load of crap. Having her bring my little pity party to my attention helped me see that I was falling into old ways of thinking – that to make progress, I’ve got to buckle down, try harder, do more.

Which gave me the opportunity to remember this simple truth: Your best bet for finding the magic combination of things you do each day is to choose things you truly, madly, deeply want to do.

I’m going to say that again, because this is a realization I’ve had to have multiple times. We all need reminding.

Your best bet for finding the magic combination of things you do each day is to choose things you truly, madly, deeply want to do.

Put another way, “Sh*t on should.”

Am I blowing your mind right now? Were you brought up to believe that you had to do things you didn’t want to do, and when the going gets tough you just have to muddle through? Yeah, me too. Of course, there’s a lot of good truth in there – sometimes you DO have to do things you don’t want to do, particularly when you’re a kid and what you want to do is watch Chicken Run all day (this is my daughter’s guiding obsession at the moment). But it’s so easy for the balance to tip, and for your life to become one big series of obligations.  It’s basically the shady underbelly of the American dream. Work hard and do all the right things and you’ll be happy! Except when you’re always living for some future result that may or may not materialize, and even if it does come true you won’t recognize it or enjoy it, because there will always be something else you “should” be doing.

But if I only do things I want to do, won’t I spend all day watching TV and eating ice cream?

Maybe. But not for very many days, because you will start to feel foggy and bloated pretty quick. And then you will want to feel challenged. You will long for something more fulfilling.

Making decisions based on what you want doesn’t mean you won’t do things that are scary, or hard, or unpleasant. I’ve been putting off working on deadlined pieces until the end of the day (which I never, ever used to do, because they pay the bills) and have been spending the mornings reaching out to groups who need speakers, because I seriously want to be making progress on spreading the message of relaxation to real people in real time. And if the day gets away from me and I don’t get to everything on my list, I want what gets postponed to be the stuff I could do in my sleep, not the new, exciting, and slightly scary stuff I’ve been ignoring for too long.

As for semi-supine, I don’t do it every day. I do it in lieu of corpse pose on the days I do yoga at home, and sometimes at night while lying on the floor watching TV when I’ve got some winding down to do before I’m ready for sleep.

And I do it because I want to feel loose, purged of tension, and grounded. Not because my teacher told me to.

So, what do you want to do? Let’s just say that tomorrow you were going to do only things you really and truly wanted to do. What would they be? (Leave a comment, s’il vous plait!)

(And if you have no idea, I can help. Email me.)


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2 thoughts on “Should, Schmould

  1. I would start with a home yoga session and some meditation, then go on to spend a lot of time with my horse, riding, cleaning up her field, just kind of being with her. I would then come home and REALLY tidy the 2 most upside down rooms in my house usually the kids homework room, which we call the snug, and one of my sons’ bedrooms. That last one is a bit of a ‘should’ as my house is sooo messy, but I know I would feel better afterwards when it all looked in order again.

    1. Hi Dee,
      Sounds like a dream day to me! Good idea to do the yoga and meditation first — it has a way of not happening if you don’t do it in the morning. What kind of a horse do you have? I had a quarter horse growing up and I so miss that bond. And I don’t think tidying up perpetual problem areas is a “should”. If it’s something that drags you down on a day-to-day basis, it’s going to be a big boost to your happy/what do I want factor. Something totally gratifying is more than just an obligation. Hope some or all of these things happens for you this weekend! — Kate

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