Reverb10, Day 20:   Beyond Avoidance.  What should you have done this year but didn’t because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?)  Courtesy of Jake Nickell.

Seriously? Not a fan of this prompt. First, I dislike the word ‘should’ as much as I dislike its ugly stepsister ‘enough’. There’s far too much baggage with the word should….we should eat our vegetables, we should floss, we should turn the other cheek. Don’t we all know, deep down, all the shoulds that creep into our thoughts day after day without giving them undue publicity? It’s almost like rewarding the child for throwing a temper tantrum; might stop the immediate squealing but is certain to increase the volume next time (and there’s ALWAYS a next time). I’d argue, too, that the very concept of should is what keeps us from experiencing true joy….because no matter how good we are, what we accomplish or who we make smile, we should have done something more.

Then again, perhaps this little rant is my own version of creative avoidance; a way to divert attention from the fact that I’m not answering the spirit of the question but rather nit-picking the semantics of the wording just so I can wiggle away from the discomfort it brings. Very Catholic of me, isn’t it? It’s ingrained, I think, just like the guilt that comes along as part of the package deal.

So here it is: my list of  ‘should have dones‘ this year, like every year, is looooooong. Detailed. Specific. And at the same time as generic as Wal Mart’s idea of unique. I should have spent more time reading, less time surfing; more time cuddling, less time corralling (kids); loved more, feared less; accepted more, criticized less; moved more, slept less. Should have called the people I love more often, sent more cards, celebrated more birthdays, sang more songs, climbed more mountains, watched a sunset, felt more raindrops…..

I should have given up soda and embraced water, ditched sugar, cleared the fog from my head, tasted more red wine, cooked more dinners that were not kid-friendly, eaten the chocolate cake. I should have tried harder, risen earlier, asked nicely, followed up, stood up, demanded respect, given forgiveness and made more friends.

I should have walked my talk, kept my word, spoken softly, said thank you, I appreciate you and I love you more often. I should stop saying ‘I’m just tired’ when someone asks me what’s wrong, speak my mind, not assume the worst and remember that it’s not always about me. I should worry less, dream more and stretch.

Will I do ‘it’? Of course I will…..every day. A little bit. And every day, a little bit, I will probably fail.  And that’s ok. Learning to live among the shoulds, to peacefully coexist, is what the struggle is really all about, isn’t it? Constantly searching for that elusive balance we all seek, the peace at the end of the day knowing that I did the best I could with what I had. That’s all I should really worry about.