I have a confession. I’m not on the PTA. I still have my Christmas decorations up, I ate a piece of chocolate at 7:05 this morning, and my biggest accomplishment this past year has been organizing my linen closet and reading bedtime stories. Some days I don’t even get a shower.
And I absolutely hate the question, “so…what’s new with you?”
To be fair, it’s not so much the question as the lack of an answer I seem to have at this point in my life. There isn’t much glamor in explaining in excited detail how you discovered how to fold a fitted sheet. And when everyone else seems to be accomplishing so much and lighting the world on fire, that question is especially hard to swallow.
Sometimes I wish success was measured in how many scrapes you’ve doctored and kissed, the numer of times you’ve googled how to do a 3rd grade math problem, or the number of legos you’ve tripped over in your lifetime. Then I’d be feeling pretty darn accomplished.
This morning alone I’ve thought of at least 20 things I should do. I should try to exercise, I should offer to babysit for a friend. I should bring dinner to our neighbor, volunteer at the homeless shelter, clean the bathrooms, get my responsibilities done for church, invite a new family over for games, finish at least one of the books in that pile a mile high, go for a run, help out at the kids’ schools, work on the alphabet with my preschooler, find a face cream that will get rid of wrinkles, practice the piano, take my kids for a bike ride, get a job, go back to school, remodel our very 70s house, plan an exotic vacation, solve world hunger, and invent a cure for cancer. Not to mention get a shower. Then I’d have a good response to what I’ve been up to. And, as I come up with more and more shoulds, I feel more and more guilty for how little I feel I do.
I was recently visiting with a group of friends. One amazing lady, who has given so much and spent her entire life serving others, expressed how she felt like she was being pulled a million different ways and should be doing this and that. Meanwhile, her husband is undergoing serious cancer treatments and her focus for the last couple years has been getting him healthy and helping him every day. One of our friends interupted. “Stop shoulding on yourself! Right now your only should is exactly what you’re doing.”
Stop shoulding on yourself. I can’t tell you how many days I’ve needed to hear that! I think we often feel stretched across miles and miles of “shoulds” and forget that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with focusing on the things that need our attention most of all. How often do we should and should our days away, making ourselves feel guilty, exhausted, and unsuccessful? How often does the weight of the world seem to only rest on us, and we feel no one else can carry that load?
The truth that maybe we all need to learn is that there will always be shoulds that we shouldn’t get to.
The truth is that it’s ok to say no.
It’s ok to ask for help.
It’s ok to do what you can and let some things slide.
It’s ok to take care of yourself a little. It’s hard to draw from an empty bucket.
The truth is, maybe we all need to stop shoulding ouselves and just do the best we can, then when we feel we can do more, try to lighten someone else’s load who feels they are drowning in the shoulds of their day.
We aren’t meant to do this alone, and we aren’t meant to kill ourselves trying to do it all. When you’re asked “so…what’s new with you?” and you wish you could answer something grand and awe-inspiring but only come up with a closet of nicely folded sheets and a pile of picture books, that’s totally ok. You aren’t failing, and what you’re doing is important.
Maybe success should be measured in how many scrapes you’ve doctored and kissed, the numer of times you’ve googled how to do a 3rd grade math problem, or the number of legos you’ve tripped over in your lifetime. Maybe it should be measured in how you’ve cared of a sick family member, the love you’ve given over a lifetime, or the words of encouragement you gave to someone younger and less experienced than you. Because, though it sounds so mundane and lackluster, those are the shoulds in life that really shouldn’t wait.