Saturday, April 09, 2011

Shedding My Should's - or - the Albatross and the Lizard

Recently I’ve been intrigued by a friend’s interaction with her purse. Yes, her purse. She has referred to it as an albatross around her neck and has been in the process of cleaning out this “heavy” bag. As a curious companion, I couldn't resist posing these questions to her:


Why wouldn't you eliminate something that is heavy and helps bring on migraines (impairs your health)?

How would it feel to go about your business unencumbered?

Why do you keep schlepping it around?

What do you gain by holding onto this heavy "albatross"?


Since my curiosity often peaks when something inside me is stirring, it was no surprise that today's Abbey of the Arts Lenten reflection prompted me to look in the mirror and ask myself basically the same questions I had just offered my friend.

What do I schlep around that encumbers my journey? What can I relinquish today?


Answer: I want to shed my should’s. They are my “albatross” and feel oh so very heavy. Through journaling and self-reflection, I ended up exploring today’s should which sounds something like: I should take care of myself. Is this true? Absolutely! Taking care of ourselves is a great thing to which I’m wholeheartedly dedicated. So what's the problem? Regarding my personal response to self-care, I’ve discovered an interesting space where I balance precariously between finding true rest and moving into a restless or paralyzing, non-productive state. This seems a direct result of the resistance I feel when I hear the word SHOULD.


My tricky lizard (the part of our brains that thrives on fear) somehow can convince me that doing something "restful", like watching two or three episodes of Brothers & Sisters (instead of reading or sleeping) will leave me refreshed. By staying up late, however, I end up exhausted and with nothing to show for it. On the other hand, I resist a push-push-push mentality and the “should” factor of always being "productive". Nonetheless, I know I’m much happier when I’ve done some writing, cleaned a closet, gone for a walk or intentionally snuggled with Aslan. My sneaky lizard, however, can pull me away from the things I love in the name of self-care and what I should (or should not) be doing. Oh, tricky tricky lizard!


When I play with the statement: I should take care of myself, it feels heavy like an obligation (or an albatross). Should’s are extremely weighty!! Should’s take away the gift and joy of simply doing and being. When I entertain the place of should (e.g. I should be taking care of others; should be working; should be eating cardboard diet food instead of delicious chocolate), I get caught up in fear (lizard brain) which for me ultimately leads to resentment. I begin to lose my presence and joy with others, resist my work, and punish my body for holding me hostage.


I know that shedding the should’s leads to greater joy and balance in life. It’s something I experience on a regular basis. Now, if I can just convince that sneaky lizard to leave me alone perhaps I can enjoy this present moment. Perchance the albatross and lizard should make a play date? Hmmmm.


Today, I want to relinquish my should’s. Care to join me? I’d love to hear what should’s keep you feeling heavy and encumbered. What albatross is hanging around your neck? What is your lizard whispering in your ear?


© port orchard heron; aslan doing what he does best


14 comments:

Tess said...

Hmmm, although I think we all suffer from shoulditis, there are some Enneagram types for whom 'should' is a particular curse. It's often to do with perfectionism.

lucy said...

very interesting, tess. guess i should figure out my own enneagram one of these days :) while perfectionism has plagued me in the past, it seems to at least have loosened its hold on me. like i said, however, my lizard brain is very tricky!!

Laura said...

Some friends and I were talking earlier about ways we take care of ourselves--some are creative (evidently there's a Korean spa in Tacoma where you can get a day pass, and it's free on your birthday) and some are simple (remove all ticking clocks from the vicinity if the ticking adds to your stress). I plan to think more on those things right now than on encumbrances. Maybe later for those... ;)

Kel said...

oh yes, those enormous handbags many women love to carry are so very 'albatross'

my favourite bag is a slim pouch that can be worn across the chest, with just enough room for wallet (yes, I use a man's wallet, much thinner, less bulky), phone and lipstick :)

and what a coincidence that Tess used the word 'shoulditis', looks like shoulderitis - which might be what happens when one lugs an albatross around

oh my...
i hurt my shoulder at work early in the year, and am still having trouble with it - yes - despite being sensible with my handbag - i have a severe case of shoulderitis

hmmm, there is much to journal...

starting with, not shouldering other people's responsibilities or expectations when they are unrealistic or disrespectful of my own rights

Kel said...

ps: the photos you chose to post with this, invite a paddle followed by an afternoon nap, perhaps the perfect combination of refreshing and restful :)

lucy said...

laura - i always love hearing ways people care for themselves! btw - there's the same type korean spa in lynnwood too. i've been meaning to go for about 3 years now. hmmmmm.

lucy said...

kel - fabulous exploration you've begun here on shoulditis and shoulderitis - very interesting!!! let me know if you flush it out a little more :) enjoy the paddle and nap!!! xo

endlesslyrestless said...

Lucy - I wonder if the 'shoulds' feel less like heavy baggage if they're turned into 'wills' (in management jargon 'actionable next steps'). That is not a vague aspiration, but a positive choice.
Of course, in moving to 'wills' we need to shed 'shoulds' as there won't be enough time, space, energy to action all of the 'shoulds' - prioritise ruthlessly, implement diligently.

Tenar said...

First, that fantastic truth you shared - "wholly on the edge" Yes! Yes! thanks - Here, Asian, the heron, lovely. Answering your question, the albatross for me, not a SHOULD but a HOW = living long, how will I manage it?...but on the other side...I realize how incredibly brave my elders are, with very few interior roadblocks that I can see - it's all been sloughed, life has proved them, whittled them down to perfection - perhaps old-aging has its answers built in. Maybe all our worries do? BTW, the word for change in Chinese is the pictograph of a lizard, (because it changes its colors), a fine representation of the ability to adapt. And why is the most beautiful, graceful bird imaginable the image for us in the Western world of a worrisome obstacle? I know because of the "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," but still.

Deb said...

First of all, I struggle with the self-care should. I SHOULD rest and relax more. Going to get a manicure and pedicure feels like a chore, when it should be a treat - because while I'm there, I'm not being productive (shouldn't I relax and enjoy being pampered instead of worry about unmopped floors?)

Over the last year, I have shed a lot of my shoulds, but they still sneak up on me. Most of them circle around the need to be perfect.

So share with us: how are you going to shed the should and embrace?

lucy said...

ER - great thoughts and wonderful to hear from you. i'm amazed at how just wiggling a "should" around perhaps to a "can" "could" "will" makes it much more appealing. it feels like i have permission to do something differently rather than how everyone (whoever "they" are) expects me to.

lucy said...

tenar - thank you again for sharing your lovely thoughts. the lizard is definitely quite adaptable. just when i think i have mine figured out, she slides a new angle in and i begin again.

lucy said...

deb - my shedding of should's comes from wiggling those thoughts around as i mentioned to ER and by having a resident life coach :)

so, i have a question why "should" having a pedi/mani feel better than clean floors? and that perfection thing & embracing? here's my most recent helpful thought:

as i let go of expectations, i am able to do everything "perfectly" in order to learn exactly what I need to learn today

claire said...

Do you think 'should' exists when one lives in the Now?
Or what happens if instead I say 'I want to'...
Usually when I use 'should' it's not for me but to take care of someone else :-)))

I'll have to think more about this, lucy. Thank you.