Should No More

Usually, if trying to weigh myself down, I will eat excess Ben and Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk, but when a friend wrote about unburdening herself this week, I realized I choose other weights as well.

My friend discussed both the physical clutter in her life and the time she spends mentally distracted from what she truly values. I don’t usually think of myself as burdened, much less self-burdened, but I certainly have my share of material and mental junk.

When I imagined myself as mentally unburdened, a number of the things I habitually feel I should do lost their urgency. Another friend told me recently she thinks of the word “should” as mental terrorism. You, too, can now feel guilty of mental terrorism and tell yourself you should stop.

I am really good at the shoulds. At any given moment, I could list off at least fifty things I should be doing.

I tend to think that without the shoulds, I wouldn’t do any of the things that make me a functional member of society. Assuming for a moment that functioning in society is desirable, here’s the thing: that ancient laptop I should have taken to the e-recycle years—yes years—ago is still sitting in my office. The shoulds aren’t causing action, they’re just making things heavier.

When I entertained the possibility that the world was not going to stop spinning on its axis if the pile of papers on my bedroom floor didn’t get sorted this week—it has been there for months—it actually felt more possible that the pile might disappear someday. It also made it easier to prioritize the bedroom pile over the office pile because neither one held dire consequences anymore.

We may never escape our sense of duty, and that may or may not be a good thing. But life is going to give us enough truly difficult things to deal with that we might consider cutting loose the ballast we don’t need.