The word “should” is often vilified, and probably with good reason. Most of the time, it conjures up more guilt than it does motivation. Like, you should be exercising…but instead, you’re doing bicep curls with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. (Hey, that’s called resistance training. Don’t judge me.)
As a self-help geek, I know that reframing things from a burdensome “have to,” to a more light hearted “get to” is a good way to go. Less condemnation, more freedom. It’s all semantics, but I find that it works.
That is, until I conveniently forget this fact in the midst of some self-created stress freak out, and go right back to whining about everything that I “have” to do.
But something happened recently that made me realize how important it is to frame things correctly.
One of my favorite things to do is encourage people. Especially those with long harbored creative dreams. Probably because they are usually the first ones to sell themselves short.
My mother was a beautiful poet. I still have one of her journals filled with some of the most touching verses I’ve ever read.
But she never shared her gift with the world. In fact, she once told me a long time ago that she had started a novel. But after 165 pages of hand written text, she stopped writing.
And tore it all up.
The poem below was written back in the day, for my husband (then boyfriend), Paul. Not long out of the military, he was struggling with wanting to make something of himself. To be his own man, on his own terms…whatever that meant.
Unfortunately, quite a few people in his life were pretty sure they knew what those terms should be. And they weren’t shy about telling him.
Repeatedly. And at length.
I was really hitting my stride.
Getting back to the novel that I had been dancing with for way too long. Ready to finally send out my first email newsletter for this blog. Talking to my partner Curt about the post-production progress of our short film Waiting for Goodbye.
Doors were opening. Things were shifting in a positive way. I was taking step after step toward being the writer I always wanted to be.
And then …
I am firmly convinced that each of us is here for a very specific reason. To share a precious gift with the world that only we possess.
But how many of us act on that conviction?
I’m not pointing fingers. Well, except maybe at myself. Because I have had a rich history of nodding my head in agreement with the concept of living your dream, yet fleeing like my ass was on fire when faced with the action steps that go with it.
While I admit to being surgically attached to my Kindle, I still love an excursion to an actual bookstore. There’s really nothing like holding an old school book in your hand: leafing through the pages, admiring the cover art, daring the jacket blurb to draw you in. And the unspoken agreement amongst my fellow bookworms that silence (or at least hushed chatter) is golden. This is my version of Heaven.
Well, it was until yesterday.
A few years ago, I read an article about a 13 year old girl named Athena Orchard who died of a rare form of bone cancer. I’ve never forgotten Athena, for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the tragedy of her having such an unfairly short amount of time on this planet. Never getting to live out all of her cherished dreams. Having to leave behind family and friends who I’m sure are still lost without her.
But Athena left something else behind.
Today – okay, let’s be honest here – the past two weeks I have done a truly masterful job of avoiding the rewrite on my novel. Everything from the grocery store to the dust bunnies under the couch clamored for attention. Throw in the adoption of a new puppy and relatives popping in and out of Hotel Hughes as they toured the great state of Arizona, and voila. Word count: zero.
I am officially done with my slavish monitoring of the diet and healthcare pendulum. In the space of a week, I’ve learned that drinking too much water can kill me and that I’ll live longer if I stop waging war on my love handles and embrace those proverbial “last ten pounds.” As I sat contemplating whether I should cut back on the Evian and start considering Ding Dongs to be a primary food group, I received two e-mails from well meaning friends on the subject of folate. Being that this vitamin is part of the B-complex formula that I take daily, I was interested in hearing the latest findings. But my curiosity rapidly turned to confusion when I learned that apparently this innocent little substance could either a) help me prevent hypertension, heart disease and stroke, or b) cause a rapid decline in my mental capacity once I reached retirement age. Great. I can keep my heart pumping healthfully into my golden years, only to forget what I’m doing when I get there.
Today is one of those days where nothing is really working. And when that happens, I generally go to my impressive (or actually obscenely large) collection of self help books, CDs, downloads, widgets, gadgets and cards and pluck something that I think is going to help this self of mine get to feeling better.
So, what’s it gonna be? The charms-and-trinkets route? Put all my dreams in the manifestation bowl and wait for them to come true? Write all my grievances on a piece of paper and burn it to a crisp to release them to the heavens for perfect resolution? Meditate until all the wisdom of the Universe downloads into my head?
Right now, I feel like I’ve been drunk on so many different flavors of self help koolaid that I need to send myself to rehab. No more gurus, gadgets or therapies both mystical and practical. Cold turkey, baby.