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Should VS Is: Letting go of what should be to embrace what is

Change is not easy, but living an authentic life, one we choose, is an invaluable reward.

Edited Image 2014-12-12-14:58:57

All things being equal, I should have been an artist. I am an avid aficionado of arts and music, though I never really enjoyed creating my own work (skill deficit and boredom). I even worked at an art gallery, where I tried to make things- even though I didn't really enjoy the process. They always blended into the fateful color brown, sometimes they were gluey, at best they were awful. My capacity to create was only slightly better than my complete lack of rhythm or musical ability. My singing voice is legendary- not like John Lennon, more like the soft drone of a blender. My kids often say, “Mom, just don't,” or “Yes, you can play music with us- you can either take the metal pieces out of the tambourine, or strike a sock with a stick.” It's not just kids who have marginalized me- some of my best friends (you know who you are), have too. “Sorry, I can't really tell what that song is,” or “Clap on one and three Melissa- ONE AND THREE.” I should be a great singer, ceramicist or painter, the should is not equal to IS.

This is a campy example of what I have thought should be but truly isn't. In our lives, there are many shoulds that distract us from what actually is. We have all had situations where we were “stuck” and unable to move forward holding onto a should. Whether it's accepting a life event we did not choose- like a bitter and protracted divorce, unwanted medical diagnosis or a death- it's easy to get wrapped around the idea that the transition should not have happened in the first place. By not honoring feelings and thoughts about the reality of the situation, it's very easy to get stuck in what should be, and not move toward what is. Acceptance of the good, bad- and even the ugly-thoughts and feelings associated with our transitions, make it possible for us to make informed choices about what will allow us to un-stick ourselves.

For all of us, large and small examples of the should vs. is battle loom in our lives. Often we let the the opinions of others cloud what we believe about ourselves. Many, many, many men (and some ladies, too) wish they were taller- destined for the basketball court or commander of the boardroom. For some it's the “having to” get their nails done, drive a Volvo, have matching sandals for each outfit and send their kids to certain schools-whether they want to or not. It's what the notorious “they” are doing, or what should be done, or even what we should look like. And we most certainly have all been there. It may be quite liberating to escape the should of vague social conformity to embrace what works in our own lives. Accepting what is right for us, and putting the should behind us is often how we grow.

Our childhoods, whether tree-lined or filled with strife, often give us a strong sense of what should or shouldn't be. Many of us reflect about how our parents should have raised us differently, with less conflict, less struggle, more ice cream cones and good times. These feelings of loss and longing matter, as do the thoughts of being “not enough.” Coming to honor what is- our personal is-allows us to work toward finding both meaning and peace. Acceptance of reality, though a mighty challenge, also affords the freedom and responsibility to change. None of this is easy, of course. Change is not easy, but living an authentic life, one we choose, is an invaluable reward.

Is there a should affecting your is? What are you holding onto that is no longer working?

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