Like Uma Thurman, who is buried alive in Kill Bill 2, so many people squelch their life energy in too many ‘shoulds’. ‘Shoulds’ can feed guilt, perfectionism, depression and codependency. ‘Shoulds’, rob relationships of too many necessary truths. I watch people struggle, because it seems impossible to say what they really think and feel. They’re so good at pretending in order to ‘not hurt the other person’. Protecting someone else ¬†develops into giant piles of distance, the size of the Grand Canyon – vast and impossible to build a bridge over.

Sometimes it’s so easy to sense the falseness under someone’s plastered-on smile, just a little too bright and earnest. It’s the hoarding of truth in too much silence that creates the death of relationships. Truth does not have to be delivered in a heavy handed, destructive way. Truth can add spice to a relationship and help both people grow. Avoiding sharing truths with the people you love the most is deflecting responsibility for what you want. Delaying truth telling almost always hurts people more over the long haul.

Caretakers of the elderly are notorious for losing track of themselves. Too often they swallow being truthful about their own needs or feel guilty if they say them aloud. The ‘shoulds’ loom too large and they forget their own life also matters. ‘Shoulds’ are so often either/or when people feel them deeply, it’s either my mother or me. The answer lies in a balance of caretaking both; both people matter. Asking siblings to figure out ways to pitch in, whether they live nearby or not is reasonable though it feels unreasonable when buried in ‘shoulds’.

‘Shoulds’ have a purpose in life. We should pay our bills is an obvious example. ‘Shoulds’ are a pinch about legitimate obligations. When ‘shoulds’ bury you alive and squelch your dreams, it’s important to break free of the prison they create.

My husband posted a notice inviting anyone in our building where we stayed on vacation, to join him in visiting a local minor league ball park for an evening game. An older woman responded, a widow who recognized my husband from years before when he interacted with her late husband on a casual, friendly basis. She told my husband that her traveling partner, her sister-in-law, told her she shouldn’t venture off with some stranger. She talked about how she always meant to go to this ball park with her husband but because they didn’t know the way and her husband was anxious about getting lost they ended up never going. She decided to stop her regrets and allowed a relative stranger to make it happen. If we only go around once on this planet, do you really want to waste the precious time we have buried alive in ‘shoulds?’ We owe it to ourselves to struggle to add ourselves into the equation and to allow our own desires to count too.

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About the Rhoda Mills Sommer

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