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The Tyranny of Should.

Posted in Aging, Life & Love, and Women's issues

727 by Takashi Murakami

I was laying on the sofa yesterday after a messy attempt at making chocolate truffles. It was 39C/104F outside and only a few degrees less inside the house. But for some reason I had felt I should get this done right now. So I did.

Truffle making requires cool. I should have waited until evening – or, I should have had the fans on full bore, moving the dribbles of cool air around. But I didn’t – I attempted to make the truffles in high humidity, with only one fan blowing (because I should be conserving electricity) using the wrong chocolate and marscapone (because I had it to hand and should use it up). As a result it was a shambles.

I should have know better, I told myself. I should have been better organised. I should have waited.

Once I had washed down the kitchen I lay on the sofa for a rest and a flick through the new Vogue. Not two minutes had passed before my brain started:
“you should be outside sunbathing, you need a bit of a tan”
“you should by lying in the hammock, otherwise why did you buy it?”
“how about a swim? That pool costs a fortune to maintain, you should make use of it.”

The debate in response took a while but the sofa prevailed – it was just too damned hot to go outside. I would get sunburnt, the water in the pool would wait an hour or two and the hammock was impractical right now. Jack would want in and we would both get overheated and miserable.

I went back to my magazine.

For all of two minutes. Then it started again “If you aren’t going to go outside, you should take advantage of the cool inside. You should pack away the nice,clean, sun dried laundry or make up the beds or sweep the kitchen floor or clear out the pantry cupboard …”

So I put down the Vogue.

Powerful little word is Should. Able to assert itself in any situation. Determined too – starts up as soon as I wake and keeps going until I sleep. Even today when it’s a Sunday and I am on vacation.

12108183_10207013425408518_4611746628490522139_nShould doesn’t just interfere in practical situations. It has opinions on moods and emotions too. If I feel a bit miserable it tells me: “you should appreciate what you have”. If I am annoyed with someone “you should look to yourself for the reason”. And, if I am tired, I “should just pull myself together.” Straight, bald talk. Tough little bugger Should. Takes no prisoners.

Should has a few thoughts on my looks too. Apparently I should be thinner, fitter, stronger, faster and more flexible. No reasons need be given – I just should. Somehow it will make me a better person.

But will it? As I was mopping the kitchen floor I couldn’t help but wonder: are my shoulds a help or a hindrance? Are they a hedge against indecision, insecurity, introspection or laziness. Egging me on to be a better version of me. Or are they the way I justify my place in the world. Proof positive of my import, of my necessary-ness, of my existence?

Is it a case of “I should therefore I am”?

There’s that old joke:
“To be is to do” – Socrates.
“To do is to be” – Sartre.
“Do be do be do” – Sinatra.

camparigirl wrote the other day that her New Year’s resolution is to dream more. Not do more. She’s taking Frankie over Philosopher. I get the feeling that I should too.

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  1. Shoulda, coulda, woulda. Just embrace the day. You are in the perfect place and are the wisest person I know. There is no should, could, would. Just be sofagirl. On the sofa x

    January 5, 2016
  2. A very wise friend of mine used to say, “You can’t win The War Of The Shoulds” 😉

    January 5, 2016
  3. Doesn’t society have a big hand in all those shoulds? I mean, we feel inadequate because a magazine tells us we should be younger, hipper, richer; we should stop procrastinating because being busy is the right thing to do *all the time,* and our children should be the most successful of them all.
    As I turned 36 on Sunday, I too went through this brief moment of shoulds – should I start acting more grown up, and give up the new pink hair? Should I wear sensible clothes that tell others I’m an adult? Should I stop wanting to get tattoos and play with wool? Then it dawned on me that there are a lot of shoulds to choose from, and I wanted the ones that said I should try to never take myself seriously, and should start having more guilt-free fun.

    In the end, it might just be a question of choosing the right kind of Should ?

    January 5, 2016
  4. A very relatable post, and yet I wonder how often I have these “should” thoughts and don’t even realise… Right now I’m thinking “I should go to bed and get some sleep…”

    January 5, 2016
  5. Great post. To me it sounds like you are unable to fully relax. A common problem with us women. We feel that there is always something that we “should” be doing, instead of doing nothing

    January 5, 2016

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