SHOULDING all over your life

I, like the vast majority of the billions of people on this Earth, have a habit of beating myself up.  It’s one of those things we are socialized to do.  As a baby we bite mom’s nipple and hear her cry out in pain and displeasure, and so we learn not to do it again to avoid that punishing reaction.  As a toddler we learn not to leave our toys in the hallway because Daddy will put us in time-out. To avoid the punishment of time-out we pick up our toys.  And so it continues – detentions in school are avoided by us doing our homework, we work hard in order to not be told off for bad grades, scoldings and spankings from our parents teach us our SHOULDS.

We all have our own shoulds.  I should wake up early to get to work on time.  I should save money for retirement.  I should speak kindly to someone who has offended me.  I should protect my virginity until I am a married woman. I should go to church on Sunday.  I should pay my bills on time.  I should complete my education.  I should brush my hair 100 strokes before going to bed at night.  I should do this, I should be that, and I should go there…

Let’s face it.  There is a SHOULD for every minute of our waking lives.  In the words of one of my closest friends, a life coach, “We are SHOULDING all over ourselves!”

In a growing awareness around my own shoulds, I have come across some interesting understandings.  I don’t have to be right about any of them but this is what has been mined from my own life.

At the bottom of every guilt tower is the foundation of a SHOULD

  1. A SHOULD is a boundary past which a person feels it is impossible to cross without punishment.  It’s like an electric fence – you know the ones where the family dog has a collar that sends a jolt of electricity if he gets too close to the borders?  Well our SHOULDS are our collars.  They send a crippling fear through our being when we hit the edge of our comfort zone.
  2. We are fully responsible for the fence!  In fact, we set the fence up.  Now why would the family dog do that to himself?  Why would he set the stakes down at the edge of his family’s property and put the collar on his own neck?  A dog wants to be FREE!  Free to chase the neighbour’s cat or swim in the neighbour’s pool when it gets too hot.  It makes no sense that he would do that to himself.  Why then would we?  Why do we set our own fence up?  Yes, as children we are taught our shoulds.  But as adults with keys to the house, why do we keep the fence?
  3. Shoulds get in the way.  When you are put on a train running on rails you are only able to follow the direction that those rails go in.  People before you have set those rails down, toiled and laboured to lay those tracks.  And so, on a train set on rails, you are only able to go where people before you have been.  Think of all the places in the world that have never seen a train!  Think of all the places that have never seen a human being!  To stay on that train is to never be able to see those places. And so it is with shoulds.  Your shoulds keep you on the rails.  Shoulds take you only where you and those who have taught you have been before.  The power of your own mind and the uniqueness of your own creativity and your own journey cannot be found on the rails of shoulds.
  4. The punishment is never as bad as it seems.  Sometimes it doesn’t even exist.  Here we are referring to run-of-the-mill shoulds – not the shoulds in the penal code that say things like “You should not rape your neighbour’s wife”.  Laws and crimes aside, the freedom beyond your electric fence is more enormous and more delicious than you can ever imagine sat in your own yard.  The little electric shock that comes from busting through the barrier is often a small price to pay for so big a prize!
  5. How we experience the world beyond the should depends very much on whether we are able to leave the should behind.  Sometimes we pass the barrier and carry the fence.  From shoulds come guilt.  What is guilt but a bunch of busted shoulds?  Look at something that makes you feel guilt.  Look deeper for the should at its foundation.  If you took the should out of the foundation, like a jenga tower you’ll see the guilt fall down.  I’ll give you an example.  Last week I planned to run 9 miles.  I set a goal and went a step further and created a should.  Each morning, however, I woke up with a pain in my right foot and aches in my knees.  I have had knee trouble before and know the danger of pushing too hard and so I opted not to run on those mornings.  At the end of the week I had not run my 9 miles and was feeling quite guilty about it.  Looking closely at my guilt I found the SHOULD.  I SHOULD run 9 miles this week.  Taking the should out of the foundation I looked again at the facts – each morning I woke up in pain, that pain would have worsened with running, I was not wrong to not run.  And POOF – guilt was gone.
  6. There are no good SHOULDS.  In my humble opinion, shoulds are judgments formed about what is.  It isn’t the should that is important, but the thing that is.  Shoulds are statements of exclusion, limitation, and punishment around the thing that is.  It is very easy to find shoulds in your life that you think are constructive – we all have some shoulds that we like the most.  But are they really healthy?  A should makes you wrong or right.  If you abide by your should you get to reward yourself by feeling good.  If you breach your should you get to punish yourself for being bad.  I say quit beating yourself up!  The world outside of your shoulds is much bigger than all of this punishment and reward stuff!  More important still, the SELF you have outside of your SHOULDS is much bigger than all of this!

I’ll leave you with a test to perform on your own life – see if this Should assessment works for you.  If it doesn’t and you like your shoulds just the way they are, throw out my opinion without a second thought.  But if you face down even the shoulds you like and test them and find them wanting, please feel free to let me know.

Take your favourite shoulds – the ones that you like – and list them out.  I’ll list a few of my favourites out for you.

  1. I should work out and be healthy.
  2. I should speak kindly to my employees.
  3. I should work a minimum of 8 hours a day to enrich the lives of my clients.
  4. I should visit my grandmother weekly.
  5. I should bathe my dogs once a week.

Now turn your shoulds in to statements of fact, commitment or identity.  Neither right nor wrong, these are I DO, I WILL or I AM statements.

  1. I will work out and be healthy.
  2. I am an employer who speaks kindly to my employees.
  3. I do work a minimum of 8 hours a day to enrich the lives of my clients.
  4. I do visit my grandmother weekly.
  5. I will bathe my dogs once a week.

When a week passes and I haven’t worked out, what is there to do with my statement?  Working out is no longer a SHOULD but a WILL.  When a should is broken, the beatings begin.  I say, put the bat down.  Simply say it again.  I will work out and be healthy.  Recommit to who you have decided to be and what you have decided to be.  Is a should needed to make it happen?  I am sure you will see that it isn’t.

Looking forward to hearing about your shoulds!

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Questions I Asked God

Do you have a sense of humor? Do you laugh at idiots in the same way that I do? Do you play tricks on people? Hide their keys? Do you reward people even when they don’t deserve it order to maintain some sense of balance/kindness/mystery that we are not advanced enough to understand? Do you know what kindness is? Do you define it differently than I do? Do you have a CD player? Do you like Coldplay? Do you songs get stuck in your head? Are “blessings” rewards or favors?

Can you feel temperatures? Do you have good days and bad days? Do you play favorites with certain countries, certain times, certain people? Do you ever have to swallow your pride? Do you enjoy being worshiped blindly by millions? Does it piss you off that people interpret you so differently?

Am I special?…Okay. In a good way or a bad way? Do you have a favorite color? Have you ever had sex? Do you ever bite your tongue? Are you any particular race? Is “perfection” purely a human concept? Have you ever had a regret? Are you as imperfect as the beings you supposedly created? Why do people get so pissed when I try to make sense of you? Are you a figment of my imagination, or theirs, or us both? Why aren’t more people nice to me? Is there a secret of the world that I just don’t “get”?

Is “nice” a human concept? Do you live in a palace in the clouds? Do you hang out with naked baby angels? How can someone live for 94 years and leave this world lying in a coffin with an unrecognizable grimace on their face? I feel sick.

Why do dumb people have children? Why do I have a mind that races? Why can I keep so much control? Do you wear tie-dye T-shirts? Are you a hippie with long hair? Is smoking weed a bad thing? Do you do it and not tell anybody? Who do you tell all your problems to?

Do you pray to a God who prays to a God who prays to a God who prays to a God? Do you hate it when people ignore you? Do you ever ask humans for help? Do you write? Do you have good penmanship? Did you choose to be who you are and where you are or have you just been one way for since the beginning of time? What came before you? Did you like, create yourself?

Do you get bored up there? Do you really live so high in the sky? Or do you live below in order to be closer to us? To be closer to me?  Do I piss you off? Do you like me? Do I disappoint you? Is there really a Devil you argue with, or is that just one of those things that humans made up? Like, is the Devil an actual entity/mean red guy or is it just a creative way to articulate the lack of God?

Are you ever gonna set people straight about the Illuminati? Am I smart or stupid for thinking that is is possibly the most ridiculous, false, and malicious conspiracy theories in the world? Are you genuinely offended by curse words? Do “holy religious books” matter to you?

Do you treat people from different cultures the same or do you accommodate each of their separate beliefs? Do you ever wanna take a vacation? Do you think the beach is relaxing? Is it smart to bring a child into this world? Why don’t people wear more condoms?

What takes over a person when they feel rage? What do you think is beautiful? Is it weird that I find the ugliness in my own face if I stare at it too long, or not long enough? Does it mean that deep down inside, I hate myself? Why do I feel so good on stage? Why don’t I have the drive to be a lawyer or an accountant?

Is life really meant to be as miserable as people make it seem? Are relationships really meant to be as miserable as people make them seem? Is romantic love a human concept? Have you ever had your heart broken?

Why can’t I stop saying the word “cunt”? Why can’t I care less about my brother and sister? Why does my mind race even in my dreams? Am I working towards learning something or just suffering for nothing…suffering at the hand of my own intelligence?

Why aren’t I White? Why aren’t I ever Black/Zambian/Caribbean/Caymanian/Canadian enough to claim any one as my own culture? Why am I always so confused about the definition of the word, “honesty”? Why am I so patient sometimes? Why won’t my pen stop moving?

I want…….? I want………? I want, I want, I want………?

I want? I want???

I want…..? I WANT?? Why don’t I know what I want?

I want?

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I want…..not friends or guidance or corrections or therapy or guarantees or answers, but…? I want…..?

Okay. I want.

I exhale.

xo

Bushlette

The The Impotence Of Proofreading

I sent it to my staff and told them I never want to hear about errors in emails again.  And to Bushlette.  And to my mother.  And to my anal retentive English teacher.

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OonDPGwAyfQ&playnext=1&list=PL7A6309E73B10D0AD&feature=results_main]

INDEPENDENCE

Fifty years ago today a three-year old boy stepped off a ship from London and into a foreign land.  It had been his second ship that year.  The first was from Ghana to London, from all that he had ever known and ever lost.  His Daddy was a few steps behind, shoulders ramrod straight, big hands holding his baby brother.  He was only a babe.  The little boy didn’t speak English.  His baby brother didn’t speak at all.  All that they knew of life had changed overnight.

An air of grief clung to the party of three – the giant man and the two little boys.  The toddler’s eyes would have been as wide as saucers as he was prodded ahead down the gangway.  Trunks and cases would have followed – but not many.  Maybe just one.  Their Mummy did not come with them.

I can imagine him now, forgetting for a second that she was not there and searching the passengers behind him for a sign of her skirt, her hand, the sound of her laugh.  No one had explained to him but he understood – the knowledge broke his little heart as he remembered he would not find her here.  Or anywhere.  She was gone from him.

What greeted him at the end of the pier was another world, another life, another language, another people.  They were dancing in the streets.  His grief collided with their jubilation on this hot August day.  Colourful skirts would have been twirling, women with round figures and heads tied with colourful cloth would have been dancing around with bare-chested or cotton-clad men singing, lifting their arms in excitement, bawling out in prayer and praise.  He heard one word chanted over and over from the boiling masses on land – In-dep-end-ence.  Was it one word or four?  What did it mean?

It must have been something very special but he would not have known for a few more years.  It would not be his first English word.  That word would be “For”.  The first phrase he would speak in the language of his parents would be “For health and strength and daily food we praise Thy name oh Lord, Amen.”  He would learn to sing it from the woman standing waiting on the shore.  She looked a bit like Mummy had but tiny and with more wrinkles.  She wasn’t much bigger than him and she was a good deal smaller than Daddy.  As he walked down toward her she would have bent at the waist and wrapped her arms around him and lifted him into her embrace.

I wish I could tell him to be brave, this little boy, as Mama Birdie held him to her chest and reached for his sickly baby brother.  I wish I could tell him you will grow.  You will learn.  You will travel.  You will succeed.  You will play football with Bob Marley.  You will climb a mountain in Cumbria.  You will race go karts with your children.  You will meet Fidel Castro.  You will know God.  You will know love.  And you will have me.

A daughter who loves you and is proud of who you have become.

Happy Independence Day Daddy.  Happy Birthday Jamaica.

Bushlings to Bolt

Bredrin mi luv you lang time… like rasta man love ital.  Mi did dehyah da wait pan yu fi show di wurll ow di ting run.  Nuh baddah widdi lang talkin – put i’ dung fi dem eenah dem istory book.  A YOUR story book now!

BOSS MAN!  Mi dah love you like ow mi love mi caffi.  Mi caffi, mi caffi, mi bawl a bwilin caffi in di mahhhhhhhnin (Miss Lou, wish you did dehya fi see).

WHY I LOVE USAIN:

  1. He shows up on time.  Unlike most men of our generation the man knows the value of beating the clock.
  2. Puts in the WORK.  Talk about making it HAPPEN.  Bredrin, weh u give dah leave BRAWTA!
  3. Never takes things for granted.  (Take note Asafa.)
  4. He comes just like how I like my coffee… not too sweet, no milk, keeps blood pumping constantly.
  5. Makes me PROUD to be a Jamaican.  Sweetheart with all the rough reputation the land of my Father has had to endure, your golden triumph makes me proud every time you cross a finish line.