As I wash the breakfast dishes, my mind is racing. I need to vacuum and dust before someone starts writing words on the end tables. I need to find those clippers before the next horse show. And I need to fix a bridle and clean a saddle. I need to send a card to a sick friend. Do a load of laundry. Refill the bird feeder. And repot that big plant.
My hands are wet, but I need to write these things down so I will see a list and not forget anything that needs to be done. I know I’ll never finish it all, and the limitations of time are discouraging. I don’t want to be sucked into the trap of constant worry. I don’t want to be always rushing to catch up. I must find a way to handle this!
Beware of Their Long Bony Fingers
The “Shoulds” in my life are overwhelming me! They creep out from every corner and shake their bony fingers at me. “You should be more organized!” “You should keep a cleaner house!” “You need to get rid of the clutter!” “You should ride more to get that horse ready for the show!” “You should go through those magazines and throw some away!” “You need to clean up the porch with all those empty flower pots!” “You need to pull the weeds in the flower bed beside the mailbox!”
But wait…what, actually, are the “SHOULDS?” Are they real? Aren’t they only echoes in the mind of ideals and dreams and perhaps the words of others? Do I really need to listen? Can I drown them out with loud music, or with talk and laughter?
Let me be a child again
Oh, to be a child again…without the “Shoulds.” To be able to waste time and not feel guilty. To listen to the birds singing and watch the clouds and how they gradually change in the sky. To watch the sunrise or the sunset and be a part of quiet nature for a whole day. And oh, to be able to do the necessary tasks without the aches and pains in my knees and back!
With so many “Shoulds,” where do I start? They have me frazzled, and I feel like giving up and going back to bed. I know I can’t get everything done. No matter what I do, it won’t be enough. Even if I do one thing, there are too many left to do. The “SHOULDS” are all around me, surrounding me, hounding me, emotionally overpowering me until I can’t function! They are chasing me, like ghosts and goblins, rattling their chains and booing at me. I can’t think straight. I can’t feel good about myself.
Face Them for What They Are!
STOP! Turn and FACE them! See them for what they are…pointless fears, mere shadows and cloudy images, ghosts of echoes past…but whatever they are, FACE THEM! They can’t hurt you when you look at them squarely, realistically, with courage. They are like children playing naughty games, dressed in Halloween costumes to frighten you. Don’t be afraid of them; face them and smile. Laugh at them. Be in control. “Shoulds” are not immediate demands. They can’t hurt you; your own fear does enough of that.
Put them in their proper place. Line them up in a row and look them over carefully. Give them each a number and have them wait in line like everyone else! Hold them up against your priorities. Be sure they are important enough to take your valuable time. Do they have purpose and meaning for YOU?
Feel free to choose what to do with them. Shoo some away (some may not even belong to you; you may be hearing someone else’s “shoulds”). Make a list of the ones that are left. Schedule them…one now—doesn’t matter, just choose one—one later today, some tomorrow. DO something you CAN do. Finish it and feel good about it. Relax. “Should” is only a word.
Let Not Your Heart be Troubled
Go outside; let the wind blow away the guilt and anxiety. Remember that Jesus tells us, “peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27.
This delightful bit of therapeutic fantasy has given me courage and relief. I am proud of myself for facing up to the “shoulds” in my life. I take a deep breath and look at my revised list of things to do.
Let’s see…which one will I do first?
(Note: when things get overwhelming, I like to re-read this little piece I wrote years ago!)