I should do this or that, I should worry about what other's think, I should wear this, I should go to this function, I should earn so much money, I should work til I am exhausted, I should put everyone else first, I should be thinner, I should be less wrinkly, I should do more for church, I should do more at school, I should do more with friends, I should do more for myself, I should be a better wife, I should be a perfect parent. I should, I should, I should! Arrghghghg! It is exhausting!
As I have become more mindful and aware of what drives me, of my choices and of my reactions to others expectations, I see that I have lived a bad case of the "shoulds". To change this, I am digging deeper into how "shoulds" happen and how I can change.
Starting with the definition:
Should; past tense of shall. Meaning must, ought, used to indicate duty, propriety, or expediency, obliged, planned or expected to
First clue - it's in past tense! It is water under the bridge and it is not present tense. In trying to live a more mindful existence, anything that is past tense is probably not a good rule to live by. Even in present tense of shall, it is about fulfilling what someone else thinks is right/just/expected. Makes me wonder who is the author of my "shoulds"? Where do these "shoulds" come from and who gets to decide? Society pressures us that we "should" do this or that, family and friends give seemingly helpful advice of what we "should" do or not do, marketing and advertisers blatantly try to convince us we "should" buy this or get that.
It appears it for the greater good -right? If we follow other's advice we reap the benefit of their efforts and experience, we benefit from the expertise of people far more knowledgeable than us. Somehow, we buy into the idea that if we meet these expectations, we will be happy because we have "done the right thing"; that if we do the "shoulds" we won't suffer the pain of self-disappointment, other's judgment, or society's ridicule and will benefit from the collective wisdom.
And sometimes it works. It feels good to be praised, to be honored, to be accepted, to fit in. But it feeds into itself - more making everyone else happy, more praise, more acceptance. It can be quite the high! However, the catch is that the deciders of "shoulds" are never satisfied. They always want more. And we try until we are exhausted and disappointed in our failure to "be enough" for the "shoulds". We end up discounting our own internal wisdom and intuition. We become obliged to expectations that we never agreed to.
Somewhere in keeping the "shoulds" happy, we lose our "musts". The things we must do to feed our soul, to express ourselves, to use our unique gifts, to love and be loved, to live our lives. It is those things we "will get to later when we are not so busy". We never get to them. Our soul shrinks a bit and our inner voice becomes a bit quieter. We become so good at presenting the veneer the "shoulds" want, that we forget how to be ourselves. When we feel that the "shoulds" really like our fake self, we begin to doubt the worth of our real self.
The pattern is easy for me to see, but harder to break. It requires self-awareness for every decision. A pause to consider why I am making the choice. Is it my "must" or someone else's "should"? Only when I figure out that answer, do my options become clearer and my path more focused.
I had this occasion yesterday. Every three months I visit my endocrinologist because that is the standard. It is what "should" do. It is not a fun or very beneficial thing for me but the price to pay to get my prescription and lab results. It was a typical visit. Insurance verification (same), Height/Weight/BMI (same), blood pressure & pulse (normal), review of meds list (same), review of immunizations (same). Thank you Meaningful Use and Obamacare for keeping such good records of this info. Wait for provider in a room with the loudest ticking clock ever, then shoes off for toe inspections (normal), listen to heart and lungs (normal), ask about eye exam (done, sent in the results, no evidence of retinopathy), review labs (had them done the week before with another lab draw to save a stick - A1C was 6.5 - YEAH ME!! rest were normal), review info downloaded from my pump (still random odd readings that don't make sense - nothing new from last 25 years), ask why I have high readings (provided a week's worth of food diary that she sat aside), told I should bolus before meals (repeated that it is my choice to eat first so I know how much I actually ingested), asked if I needed refills (no - I do online pharmacy, they manage the refill process electronically) and that was pretty much the end of the visit.
I "should" have said thanks and been on my merry way. But I really wanted something that would make this trip to Dallas worth the gas in my tank! The provider got a TON of data on me, but I didn't "get" anything. So I asked some questions. I was curious if there was anything new for Type I's? I keep up with things online, but she has the inside track. Unfortunately the answer was - just some oral meds for type 2. Nothing for you. Sigh. OK, maybe a different approach? How happy do you think most of your patients are? How well do they cope with the challenges of diabetes? What do you do to help them? The answer was very telling. She believed it was mostly a personality thing. Some had it, some didn't.
Things for me to ponder.....no one is prepared for the emotional roller coaster that is diabetes. I don't think it is her, but the system that creates that mindset that people with diabetes "should" do all the things the system dictates. Perhaps the people with the "wrong" personality, who "should" be handling it better, are just lack the coping skills to view it from a new perspective. Or perhaps they have other competing "shoulds"(children, jobs, fear of hypoglycemia) that force "diabetes perfection" (sarcasm intended - it doesn't exist) to the back burner?
I stop on my way out to pay my bill ($116) and the receptionist says she we would like to see me in 3 months. I "should" make the appointment. But I don't. I stop and consider my options and I decide to try a different approach. I am going to write a letter to my provider to see if we can do things differently. I am not willing to spend my money for the services I have been receiving. I understand that she benefits financially from complying with Obamacare by adhering to the standards set forth and submitting quarterly information. But "must" I really pay her for that?
Could we try something new? What if I had my labs drawn near my home in three months (instead of after the office visit)? I could fast for fewer hours, we can review online and if something needs further action, then we do it. Could I fill out screening questionnaire and email it in? Can she trust me to call if I am having an issue? Can we decrease office visits to twice a year (with labs in between) unless something happens that warrants the visit? Please know that I am not saying standard diabetes care is not necessary, but it isn’t law. Let’s do what makes sense for each person. We are all individuals with different wants and needs. I want my goals for our visits to be addressed, so I will share them with her in my letter: to understand new treatment options, to learn about her other patient’s successes, to have access to lab tests, medications and pump supplies she must prescribe, and to be a "good enough diabetic" so I can live a joy-filled life. My goals are not to be judged, to be scared into “compliance”, to be a data point for reimbursement, or to be a perfect diabetic. I really want her words of encouragement and support. I want her cheering me on. I want her education, experience, and expertise in my corner. But I “must” do what I know is right for me. I really hope she is willing to try something new.
As I was writing this post, I saw this from the Happiness Project. Good stuff. Give it a read. Thank You for the coincidence <Godwink>!