Removing the Destructive “Shoulds” from Your Vocabulary
I had a discussion this evening with a family member that made me see red. Without going into a lot of details, decisions have to be made and major lifestyle changes have to be instituted. I listened with growing annoyance as a family member made excuses for not checking his personal email, and for why he couldn’t take time off from work right now, so busy you know. My sympathy for his work schedule, which up until the last six months was identical to mine, faded when he told me that he was taking some time off to play golf at a time share that he just had to use or lose the slot. Likewise, my empathy for his constrained finances shrank when cutting back for him meant going to South America this summer instead of Europe because Europe is so expensive, you know.
No, I don’t know. And I don’t think anyone who has a fricking wine cellar in their basement get to poor-mouth to me about their tightened circumstances. In fact, no one who has a housekeeper and makes six times my annual income gets to complain to me about how bad the economy is, and how hard things are at work right now. I was in the process of building a good head of righteous indignation when two things occurred to me in rapid order.
One: my brother will make an awesome villainous character in a novel some day.
Two: he is really not obligated in any circumstances to do anything differently than what he is actually doing.
Oh, sure. We all know what the right thing would be to do. But just like Fanny Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility, who manages in short order to persuade both her husband and herself that they have indeed, done their duty by John’s stepmother and half-sisters, while yet condemning them to poverty, it is easy for someone to wave their hands and say, “I’ve done all I can do.”
The problem is not my brother’s response to the situation, but my reaction to it.
We are by nature, competitive beasts. That can be a good thing when it drives us to reach for higher goals, or forces us to work harder than we thought possible. But it is a bad thing when we keep comparing ourselves to others and falling short. When the competitiveness actually hobbles us, we need to let it go. This was the thought that dawned on me as I listened to my brother ‘one up’ me on how difficult his situation was compared to mine. I could have cut him down to size with a few chosen sentences. It wouldn’t have mattered. Because in his mind, he was hard up and that was all there was to it.
And I had no control over that.
Sure, he SHOULD have been willing to be more helpful than he was. But I had no control over that. And that was a bit of a revelation, to be honest. I had to let it go. Is my brother a tool? Perhaps, but not in his mind. Am I laughing at him behind his back? Yes, yes, I am.
And that was liberating.
So I began looking at the things that have been upsetting me lately, and deciding which things I have control over and which I do not.
I SHOULD be in a better financial position than I am. That would seem obvious. I’ve worked hard my entire life. I followed the rules, got a good education, paid my bills, worked six days a week for decades. Sadly, I have next to nothing to show for it. A financial Black Hole of a house that I can’t sell without putting more money into its gaping maw, no retirement plan, and bills that exceed income almost every month.
But you know what? I know a lot of people in the same leaky boat. I got there by deciding to forgo a better paying job so I could serve as a caretaker to my father in his final years, so he would not have to go into a nursing home. Then the economy tanked, and no matter how hard I worked, I couldn’t make ends meet. This is a ‘should’ I need to let go of. I chose to walk this precarious, crumbling path on the side of a forbidding mountain because I thought it was the right thing to do. I still do.
I SHOULD be selling more books. Well, no. I mean, I have no control over that. I can promote myself silly, but ultimately, people will have to decide for themselves to read my works and I have no control over whether they love or hate them. All I can do it write the best story possible and hope other people enjoy it, too.
I SHOULD be thinner. Well, duh. Most people want that. But you know what? I’m dealing with a lot of crap right now, and I’m managing the best I can. I’m going to cut myself a little slack on that one. Yes, I do have more control over this than some other things in life, but you know what? There’s a reason people with low incomes struggle with weight. Cheez Doodles are cheap.
And so on, and so on. I went through most of the things that have been tearing me apart lately, and like Elsa in Frozen, I just let my fears go. No, I don’t have a retirement plan. No, there isn’t someone like me who will be my advocate when I’m old and can’t make good decisions for myself. Yes, my own health issues make my future a very scary thing for me. But worrying and stewing and getting angry over these things hasn’t changed my circumstances by one iota.
What I need to focus on the things that are under my control.
I SHOULD be writing more books each year, that is, if I want writing to help pay the bills. Yes, and no. Writing for the sake of production, churning out stories I don’t believe in and don’t care about for the sake of paying the electric bill? No, I can’t do that. But writing stories I love and am proud of—yes, this I can do. This I SHOULD do. This I WILL do.
And if you love writing with your whole heart, so should you.
Buy link for Not Quite Shakespeare: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5104
Blurb: Take a ride to Northern Scotland on the famous train, the Jacobite, and rediscover desire. Get lost in the Peace Maze in Northern Ireland during a downpour and let a handsome young redhead come to the rescue. Take a tour of historical Blackpool on the English coast and set the stage for the perfect romance. From England to the outer isles, the UK holds treasure troves of romance, history, intrigue, and—naturally—quirky British humor. Not Quite Shakespeare samples it all in fifteen stories.
A man in London makes an accident confession of sexual need to a virtual stranger who happens to be his boss. An American revisits West Sussex and rekindles an old flame with a romp in the stables. A couple finds their perfect third while vacationing on a pig farm in Yorkshire. In the office, on the race track, or in the kitchen baking bread—romance in the UK is alive and well, and full of sweet surprise.
Excerpt from Chanctonbury Ring:
Tarq’s hair was as wild as ever, but some London barber had cut it in such a way as to free it from its heavy weight so that it stood up in spiky disarray. The most fashionable New York metrosexual would give up his club memberships up if his hair would do what Tarq’s did naturally, the bastard. So. Not. Fair.
“So why wouldn’t you sell?”
Why wouldn’t he sell? What would Tarq do if he answered with the truth? I want to live where you are.
Instead, Denny shrugged. “I still have dual citizenship. I don’t have any family back in the U.S. anymore. Besides, I can write from anywhere, as long as there’s internet.”
“The taxes will eat you here, but then you probably know that. I thought you were getting married.”
It was tempting to point out that Tarq was well-informed for someone who professed not to have kept tabs on his life.
“It didn’t work out.” The abruptness of his reply startled him. He heard the anger and resentment there and it surprised him that he still felt so strongly. Breaking off the engagement had been the right thing to do—getting engaged in the first place had been the mistake. But he could still recall Angela’s stinging verbal backhand as she ended their relationship.
I refuse to be the Alma to your Ennis.
The sad thing is, she’d been right.
Sarah Madison Author Bio and Contact Information
Bio: Sarah Madison is a veterinarian with a big dog, an even bigger horse, too many cats, and a very patient boyfriend. She is a terrible cook, and concedes that her life would be easier if Purina made People Chow. She writes because it is cheaper than therapy.
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~Author Jennifer Labelle~
~Author Jennifer Labelle~