The change from “how” to “what” is a very different question and opens the possibility for a very different answer. It the response can be emotional, physical, even spiritual!
I asked this of people in the greater community of the world – thanks to the internet and the communities I’m part of within it. I asked it of people in my area – within driving distance – also through online platforms specifically built to provide local support to people who are struggling.
And then I dared to ask it of my own dad, sitting a few feet away. And he answered with a level of seriousness and even vulnerability that was surprising. If you’ve followed my story much, then you know that’s a big deal!
Now, I’ll ask you – those within this blogging community. What are you feeling?
In my recovery work, I’ve come to view the word “should” as an opening for shame, among other not-so-great feelings and ways of thinking about myself and others. When the word “should” is used, it opens the door to failure – to view myself or someone else as a failure. I have developed a practice of working hard not to “should on myself” 💩 or others for that reason.
There’s something less than vulnerable about the use of should too. For instance, saying “we should get together sometime”. It sounds good, but there’s no risk of rejection. And it’s not quite committal. For instance, it’s very easy to say “yes, we really should” – without planning anything and without actually committing to or risking anything.
And then, as I stated above, using should often opens the door for blaming and shaming. “You should know better”. Here’s an example of internal dialogue that might happen after such a statement:
Ouch! I really should know better. So, why didn’t I know better? I must be so incredibly stupid! Yes, that must be it! And why am I stupid? Because my parents didn’t teach me what I need to know. It’s really their fault I’m an imbecile!
Oh, and here’s a question to ponder. What happens when what “should” happen doesn’t happen?
The phrase ambiguous loss comes to mind. But also stealth expectations. I have expectations of you, of me, but I’m not really going to come out and say them. I’ll just leave it up to you to figure out. Oof!
It takes time and intentionally to bypass that word. I have to pause and think a bit deeper, a little harder. What is it that I really want? What is it that I really need to express? Here are a few examples I’ve thought about.
“We should get together sometime”. (Hey, I think you’re pretty swell, would you like to get together sometime?)
“You should really clean up your room.” (I care about you. Would you like some help organizing & cleaning?)
“I shouldn’t feel this way.” (I don’t think my feelings are valid or justified, but I still feel them. Maybe I need to question why I feel this way.)
“I shouldn’t eat this.” (I know this is not healthy for me but I really want it. What is driving this “really want”?)
“I should journal.” (I think journaling might really help me work through what I’m feeling, but if I don’t journal, I will choose not to hold it against myself later.)
How about you? Do you agree with my perspective on “shoulding”? Do you have other words that you view as potentially shame-inducing or that might create ambiguity or uncertainty?
I think it would be a job with ologist in the title. Why? Because it seems that people who have ologist in their job title get paid a lot, so working just one day in their shoes would generate some serious $$.
Even if I didn’t enjoy the job, if it were just for one day, then I could walk away with a nice sum of cash.
I’m sure there are better paying jobs, and not everyone with ologist in their job title is raking in the dough. But hey, this is my blog – and my first thing that comes to mind answer.
Several years ago, when our kids were elementary-aged, we took a trip to go see my Aunt & Uncle, and did some touring of the area where they lived. We stayed several days at their home, and used it as “home base” from which to explore. It was a really wonderful family trip! And getting to spend time with them was pretty great, too! My aunt holds a special place in my heart, because she is my mother‘s older sister – and just about the only remaining link I have to her. My uncle has always been very kind, but also wise and considerate as well. He loves my kids as his own grandkids. They spoiled us pretty good while we were there. And just about every night we were there, we spent time swimming in their back yard pool. It was delightful! I remember that pool with a lot of detail – which is kind of unusual for me. But I think it’s because I have an emotional attachment to it.
My wife and I had the opportunity to go back for a quick visit recently – and for a really special reason! My three cousins (their daughters), were hosting a 60th Anniversary celebration for their parents. Yes – they’ve been married for Sixty years! What’s also pretty awesome is that my cousins have all been married for several decades as well. It’s quite the legacy of love and faithfulness! So of course, my wife and I were honored to get to be part of that celebration. After the festivities were over, several of us went to my Aunt & Uncle’s house to just hang out and catch up a while. I savored every moment!
But, I had mixed emotions when I looked out the back kitchen window and realized the pool was gone! In its place were some ornamental bushes and flowers, and even a small tree. Apparently the upkeep of the pool was more expense than my uncle wanted to deal with, so they just filled it in!
I reached out to my daughter recently to ask if she remembered the pool – and of course she did! We had a lot of fun together in that pool. She and I, specifically, also had another very specific, hard to forget experience!
After swimming one evening (I think it might’ve been our final night there), my daughter’s eyes were pretty bloodshot. She had been swimming with her eyes open for at least some of the time, and the result was obvious. She asked me to put some eyedrops in her eyes, so we went to the guest bathroom and I grabbed the dropper and carefully administered a drop of solution into her first eye…. AND SHE STARTED SCREAMING!!! I was startled – scared even! What was going on??How could eyedrops create such a response???
In a flash, realization and horror overtook me! I looked in my hand, and that quickly confirmed what I’d done. In preparation for the trip, we had packed eye drops, and we also packed “ear dry”. I’d just put what was mostly rubbing alcohol directly into my daughter’s eye!!
I quickly rushed her to the sink and splashed water in her face and eye repeatedly while she continued to scream and then began crying. I started crying, too! My daughter was in SO much pain, and it was my fault!! Her crying quieted after a few minutes, and I was able to check her eye – which, as you can imagine, was now even more bloodshot. Her vision seemed to be okay. But I was concerned that the damage might not yet be known. I checked the internet to see what else I needed to do. Would she lose her sight? Could she lose her eye? Apparently, there was some risk of eye damage, but if it hadn’t already occurred, she was probably safe. So then, with great relief, I got the actual eye drops and administered a healthy dose to each of her eyes. Of course, I also apologized over and over and over, while she whimpered and sniffled. I could not believe I’d done that to my own child! But she was pretty gracious about it, and we were able to continue and enjoy the rest of our time together.
A few weeks later, maybe less, we went for a swim at a pool that was part of the apartment complex where we were renting (half of) a duplex at the time. After swimming, my daughter’s eyes were very red again, and she was so sweet to let me administer her eye drops.
Would you believe, once again I grabbed the wrong solution!!?? Yes. I really did. Once again, she was screaming, and I was crying, and OH so angry at myself! How could I do it again!!?? I knew just what to do, of course, as did she. We made it through, and she once again forgave me. And then we made sure the two solutions were in totally separate spaces, so it would be much more difficult to get them mixed up ever again!
There are very few parents who ever intend to harm their children. Research supports this. Most parents are truly doing the best they can with the circumstances they’ve been given. There are exceptions, of course. But ugh…to accidentally inflict the same harm twice to my daughter was so very excruciating for her and humiliating for me!
“It could happen to anyone” – I know – and people do things that unintentionally hurt others – even those whom they dearly love. This particular story is one that I’ll never forget, and of course don’t ever want to repeat (again)! My daughter and I can chuckle a little about it now, but OH how awful it was! Both times!!
So, yeah…parents, please let me be your example of what not to do, and watch out for the eye drops and the ear drops!
I tend to take it day-by-day. For instance, I sort-of had a plan for my morning, but then with one short text, that changed entirely. In a real sense, my thought was to sit down and sort out my thoughts, which I often do by blogging here. But then my wife texted to say someone had rear-ended her on the way to work – just about 3 miles from home. Definitely not the direction my wife was expecting for her day! I dropped everything, went to where the accident happened, and waited with her for a police officer to come write up an accident report. She was fine – and the other driver as well. But still, I wanted to be there with her. I also checked on the other driver and took several photos to document the accident. Both vehicles sustained some significant damage, and now we get to go through the whole mess of dealing with another person’s insurance company to try and get our vehicle repaired. But I’m glad both drivers were unharmed!
After the accident report was completed, my wife went on her way to work, in our banged up vehicle. I returned home and called the insurance company of the other driver to begin the claim process, which of course took quite a while. And now, a few hours later, I’m back to sitting down to write.
Did you know most auto accidents happen within 5 miles of home? At least, that’s what I was told one time in a defensive driving course, which I was no doubt taking to keep a traffic ticket from negatively impacting my insurance rates. It’s been probably 20 years or more since I took that class and still I remember that statistic. It’s weird – the things I remember and the things I forget. Like forgetting an entire camping trip ever happened, but remembering some random statistic about auto accidents. And I just did a quick search about that – apparently it still holds up. I saw some articles about it dated as recently as last year.
I definitely digressed there. But that’s also kinda the point. My life’s direction tends to be fairly situational, and I get distracted pretty easily. At the same time, as I look back over my life so far, I’d say there’s a general sense of progress. And I believe there’s a hand guiding my progress – a power greater than me at work in this world. But that progress has been anything but linear! The image above gets passed around a lot in recovery circles, but I think it also very much applies to life and “life’s direction”. We may think we know our direction, and even know what gives us direction. But, quite simply, life happens. And it’s never as straightforward as we think it’ll be.
What helps me manage life, even / especially when it doesn’t go in the direction I want? I’m finding that mindfulness, awareness, perspective, focusing on joy, gratitude, and a good dose of humor really help! For instance, even while waiting at the scene of the accident today, my wife and I were able to laugh together and enjoy each other’s company for a while longer than planned. We don’t always do that well, but today went pretty great, all things considered.
“My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine. My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” Proverbs 3:1-12
One might think I’d focus on the “barns filled” part, and I know a lot of people like to quote verses 5-6; the part about trusting God and he will make straight your path. Those are good, but for me it’s the “let steadfast love never leave you” part that I have been endeavoring to focus on, especially these last few years. I actually had the Hebrew word for steadfast love, hesed, tattooed on my chest – near my heart. It serves as a visual reminder of my desire to follow this instruction. I have not (will not) achieved this, but I’m intent upon continuing to try, and I’m making progress!
Ahh…camping. Cozied up by the fire on a cool night, watching the stars overhead, maybe chasing fireflies. Eating s’mores and snuggling up in a sleeping bag, drifting off to sleep after telling funny or maybe scary stories…
This has not been my experience!
Many years ago, my brother and his wife owned a camper trailer for a while. My wife and our two kids went with them on one camping trip. I’m told it was fun! My wife recently even pulled out photos of said camping trip. I see myself in some of the photos, so cognitively I know I was there. But sadly, I really do not remember the trip at all! Why not? I couldn’t tell you – because I just don’t remember!
There are other camping adventures I do remember…
My wife’s parents and grandparents were campers. They both owned camper trailers, and we went with them a few times – maybe two or three times, max. I recall sleeping in a top bunk of her grandparents’ camper with the ceiling mere centimeters way from my face. It was almost impossible to move without smacking some part of my body on the ceiling. The weather was really, really hot at the time, too. So hot that we all took turns sitting in the plastic “baby pool” someone brought along, then emptying the warm water and refilling from a hose. The camper A/C was either on, in which case it was very very cold inside, or frozen up, and the camper was stifling hot. So going inside to cool off didn’t work too well. My wife and I ended up sleeping in hammocks for that trip. And for me, that meant not really sleeping so much as trying to rest, while swatting at the mosquitoes and other insects buzzing about. But the hammock was still much better than the camper with an out-of-control A/C unit.
We also did some overnight tent camping trips. While in college, we went with another couple on a quick one-night trip. All I remember about that one is the ground under my sleeping bag being SO hard that even though I eventually fell asleep, it was as if I was in a trance – not fully awake or asleep. I started to panic, thinking I’d become paralyzed and started groaning to try and fully wake up my body, but even then I still couldn’t move! My wife finally woke up to my pitiful noises and then proceeded to shake me until I was fully awake! I was SO relieved! I did not sleep the rest of the night!
Another time, when our kids were probably in middle school, we went tent camping with some friends who also had kids around the same age. There were plenty of tents, with air mattresses and pillows, and I thought surely it might go well. We were camping near a lake, and our friends had a ski boat, so after camp was all set up, we spent a couple hours of the afternoon taking rides in the boat, skiing, swimming, tubing, and otherwise having a grand time! Later that day, however, a massive and unexpected storm front rolled in from nowhere! The sky was swirling, and turned black as night, even though it was still hours before sundown. After scrambling to get our families out of the boat and away from the lake while lightning filled the sky around us, my friend and I spent about 30 minutes trying to keep the largest tent from blowing away – by standing in it and bracing it against the incredible winds! Even staked down, the tents were just flapping and collapsing under the incredibly strong winds! Everyone else huddled in the nearby public bathroom area, waiting out the storm. We eventually abandoned ship – er, tent, and took cover in the bathrooms as well. When it was all over, most of our tents were in the lake, our gear strewn everywhere, our food supplies destroyed. After fishing the stuff out of the lake and gathering the mess, we ended up just packing everything up and leaving late that night, grateful we’d survived.
There was one weekend outing when my son and I went with several other dad/son duos for a camping trip – part of a very large regional event. Imagine something like a Boy Scout event, with archery, BB gun and 22 caliber rifle practice, as well as other types of “manly”stuff to do and trophies for the boys who did the best. My son won a prize for 22 rifle shooting. He’s always had a good eye. That was pretty cool. Speaking of cool, though, it was a really, really cold night! My son and I had a small tent to ourselves and ended up zipping our sleeping bags together for warmth. And while I did not sleep very much, I do remember that event with some fondness due to the enjoyable time spent together with my son.
All that to say… yes, I’ve been camping. But honestly, I’m more of hotel guy. It doesn’t even have to be a fancy hotel, as long as the roof doesn’t blow off, the bed is decent and the A/C works!
For me, I don’t know if there’s a specific time of day for productivity. I tend to be pretty able to get things done at any point in the day. And I don’t tend to have major bursts or lulls in energy. But there’s probably a couple of reasons for that.
The first reason is that I don’t drink coffee or consume any discernible amounts of caffeine. Ever. I don’t even drink decaf coffee or tea. It’s only naturally caffeine free tea for me – and a lot of water. I also don’t drink sugary soda – or really, much soda at all. No spikes of caffeine or sugar = fairly level energy.
The second is that I eat frequently throughout my day. Small snacks like chips, nuts, pretzels, or fruit for the most part. I do also keep Snickers handy – almost always! They are my favorite. And I won’t lie, sometimes my snack might be a more sugary item like a peanut butter cup, some other small candy bar, or even just a spoonful of peanut butter. I do have a sweet tooth! My point, though, is that my body’s energy level tends to stay fairly constant because I’m always (or at least regularly) feeding it something. So I feel constantly productive, or at least able to be productive.
There’s one more thing that dictates just how productive I really am, on just about any given day. And that is mindfulness. Starting the day doing something reflective helps me be more present and attuned with myself, which helps me be more mindful and move through life with awareness and focus. That something can be time alone reading scripture, meditating, doing yoga, and at some point includes writing – possibly journaling, micro journaling, or blogging – like I’m doing now! Writing gets my left and right brain hemispheres better connected, which really helps me be more integrated on a holistic level.
I’ll talk about anything. I’m no expert – guaranteed, but I’ll talk about it! Or rather, I’ll enter a conversation about anything. It might not hold my interest for long.
It’s probable that I will exit the conversation as soon as someone tells me what I should or shouldn’t think, say, or do.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy to listen to your opinion on just about anything, and I quite enjoy hearing someone else’s perspective. Even if, and sometimes especially when, it differs from mine. I might end up rethinking my own approach to life or a specific situation as a result, and that’s great!
I will probably glaze over pretty quickly if the topic is superficial. I’ll give a few seconds to a conversation about the weather, or about how some sports team is doing. But I will definitely lose interest – quickly! let’s get to the good stuff!
My favorite topic: you. Tell me what makes you tick, and what gets you ticked off! That’s where it gets the most interesting for me!