"No Shoulds"

Day 31! The last day of the challenge. I feel like I should invite everyone over for dinner to celebrate. Thank you so much for joining me this month.

The other day, as I wondered if I might collapse before the finish line, I spent some time looking at other blogs to see how their challenges were going.  Emily Freeman at Chatting at the Sky admitted that she was only on Day 20 on Day 27 of the challenge. Turns out her sister, Myquillin, The Nester,had disappeared during the challenge as well. I found deep encouragement as they both just accepted where they were in the process and didn’t find the need to beat themselves up.

Both women have participated in many 31 day writing challenges. In fact, Myquillin is the one who started the challenge in 2009! I understand that after years of never missing a post, they might need to miss a few posts. Since this was my first challenge, I wasn’t ready to excuse myself just yet. It did, however, remind me of a shirt I have with one of Peggy Buresh’s** favorite quotes: “No Shoulds.” This was Peggy’s motto because she firmly believed that we didn’t need to “should” ourselves in the “balancing act of life.” (Peggy’s daughter had a t-shirt made when she ran a race to raise money for brain cancer research in memory of her mom. My youngest proudly models it in the picture above!)

I thought about this as I stood in line to buy crickets at the pet store and watched as the cashier asked the woman in front of me if she would like to purchase a stuffed animal for a children’s charity. The woman smiled and laughed and said, “Oh sure! Why not!” and then picked a fluffy stuffed dog to add to the growing pile by the cash register.

I immediately thought, “Ah! I really don’t want to buy one of those right now, but I probably should.” I went back and forth in my head and decided I would say no and that would be okay.

I tried to avoid eye contact with the cashier as she cheerfully asked me if I too would like to donate to the charity. I smiled and quickly said, “No, not today.” As she stopped smiling at me, I immediately felt an urge to tell her the many other times I had donated in my lifetime. I controlled myself and thanked her as she glared at me and handed me my crickets.

I trudged to the car and heard myself say, “You should have bought a stupid stuffed dog.” And then I heard, “Why are you ‘shoulding’ yourself?”

Usually when I “should” myself, something else lurks beneath the surface that God might want me to think about. This time, it was more about not wanting the people at the register to think I was a heartless person who doesn’t care about charities and refuses to share my money. I wondered why I felt such a need to explain myself instead of just giving myself the freedom to say no. Many times  I think I am going to say no and then get that “nudge” that tells me, “Go back and do that,” but I can always tell the difference when it is more of a “should” than a conviction.

The beauty about this 31 day challenge was that I didn’t “should” myself once. I really wanted to fully participate and reach my goal. Some mornings  I didn’t want to wake up so early, and some days  I posted something that just didn’t feel blogworthy, but overall the experience was a gift to me and I am thankful I did it.

I love one post that Emily Freeman wrote about why it is ok to stop “shoulding” ourselves. You can read the entire post here, but I will close by sharing part of it.

“How many hours have you wasted worrying about things you should be doing? How many harsh words have you spoken, not against injustice, but because you were frustrated over not living up to an expectation? Do you really want to color-code your closets or do you just think you should?

We have learned that being a grown up is simply learning how to be okay with shoulding on ourselves.

Save the passion for the people. Save the serious for the things that truly move you. Sit heavy on your hands and raise them only for those things you can’t not step up for.

You are loved. You have been given love. Love lives in you. Instead of listening to Should, let love move you with grace and intention into the world.”

See you in November!