really, should I?

I have had it up to here lately with “shoulds.” And not even my own! It’s a word that I’ve been hearing frequently, and I don’t think that the people who say it are even thinking about its meaning when they throw it out there. In seemingly well-meaning phrases like,

“You should call me!”

“You should totally watch [TV-show-of-the-moment]. You’d love it!”

“You should eat more green smoothies: they are so good for you.”

“You should come to yoga class. It’s really good right now.”

All heard in the past week.

And all without any lead-up questions like, “What are you watching these days: are you looking for a new series?” Or, “You’re looking for a new yoga class? Maybe I can suggest one.”

But when people butt into my life, pushing (I can’t even say “offering”) solutions to things that I haven’t identified as problems, I get edgy. What is it that you are thinking that I need to do in my life that you are convinced that I am not taking care of?

Oh. Is that me being touchy? Yes. I don’t like being told what to do. Especially, completely out of context. If I need advice on my diet, I’ll ask. I don’t need to feel guilted into calling people: I already have a family of origin. Your shouldding me takes the energy between us to a new low. Actually, it’s an energy dead-end. Like you know better than me about my life, you with your “shoulds.”

Meanwhile, I understand that it’s a figure of speech. It’s a control-gathering way of trying to be helpful, or offering up friendship. I have compassion for the breakdown of language, and the time it takes to explore a topic before prescribing a “solution” that’s on your mind. Our media culture is filled with solutions: how to “get rid of that belly” (really? I’m kind of okay with mine), “reduce your wrinkles” (ditto) and  ”downplay figure flaws” (seriously. I’m flawed?!) Isn’t that we have a body completely human and completely ridiculous?

I am so done with “should.”

And here’s where I politely ask that when you’re thinking of giving me advice that I didn’t ask for, could you please reconsider what it is that you’re really after. Is it that you think I might like something that you like? How about asking, “Hey Lor, have you heard of XX? I think you might like it.” Or, “Remember when you used to come to our yoga class? What’s happening for you that you can’t make it? We miss you there.” And then I have a chance to respond. Having a chance to respond is critical to kind communication. It deepens connection. It keeps energy flowing. And it reminds me that we are, both, completely compassion-filled: for ourselves and for each other. We don’t play with the sharp edges that stick out of “shoulds.” We’re simply friends sharing our care for one another, on whatever topic comes up.

May I suggest that we curb our shoulds, and move forward with friendship: the compassionate kind that I know you live.

Unconditionally

My friend Tracey tipped me off to this beauty when it was newly released. When I hear it, I think of the love that’s possible in the world: for each of us and for ourselves. What would it be like to love unconditionally? What is it actually like?

Check it out, acoustic, on Ellen.

on starting

I was at the pool one day last month when a former colleague, who also swims, commented on my being there.

See, at one time, I swam competitively. And then I used it as a means of hating my body. And, there have been times that became more obsessive than healthy. And I had seen her there in those times.

She asked, “Are you going to start coming back?”

Well, see, what about being at the pool means that I haven’t “started” anything? Or what’s to say that it’s the start of anything, and not simply a morning at the pool?

I’ve been at the pool, this time, on my own terms. Two or three times per week. With compassion, toward myself and my body. Going when I feel like going, not keeping track of distance, and not following any kind of workout schedule. It’s like meditation for me.

No “starting,” simply being.

So, on New Year’s day, I’m all for celebrating the moment. Of being. Maybe also reflecting on the year gone by, and thinking toward the year ahead.

But no “starting.” Simply being.

the power of pain

Feeling a little grumpy? Or duller than your normal, sparkling self?

. . . is it possible that you are also carrying pain?

I believe that pain comes in many flavours. There’s the outright stabbing pain—like the kind felt when you shift something in your back. There’s dull pain, like a throbbing headache. There’s the indescribable emotional pain of significant loss. There’s the pain-in-the-neck pain of  not finding a parking spot or having your second head cold this season. There’s pain-over-time of real and felt injustices, the kind that can accumulate over years and bend us over with their weight. And, surely; sadly; many more.

Never underestimate the power of pain.

When we feel pain, we tend to respond less kindly, to ourselves and others, than normal. We can move into judging. Pain zaps energy, leaving less for kind conversation, or giving toward others.

I felt pain this week. The kind of low back, difficult-to-stand-up-straight pain. The kind that makes it an effort to get into the car and then also to reach out and close the door. I got quiet. I felt like I didn’t have the energy to make a meal, let alone chit-chat while making it. And I didn’t really notice until it went away.

Thought for me: I can be kinder when I encounter people who are less-than-their-stellar-selves. I can wonder, “What kind of pain are they feeling?” And, if a friend is up for it, I can offer an ear to listen or a shoulder for them to lean on.

Thought for you: what kind of pain are you feeling? Is there a way, after acknowledging it, that you can find help to release it?

I wish painlessness for you.