Thursday, 24 March 2016

Shutting out the 'shoulds'

I'm a pretty sure-of-myself kind of gal. If I make up my mind on something, I'll stick to it - unless I do more research and flip to a new perspective which I'll likely hold just as strongly to... Yeah, I'm one of those.

Even so, I'm a real victim of the 'Should's.

You know those voices that undermine your choices or make you feel guilty for not changing something?

From the simple examination of my new frown lines (my fringe grew out and there they were) comes the helpful 'I should moisturise more'. A quick chucking away of some plastic whilst out and about chides me with 'I should have taken that home to recycle it.'

And then there's every less-than ideal parenting moment in each and every day, all with their own 'should' tags. All those moments when I didn't manage to mentally step away from the situation and reconnect with my child as is the general advice I read, but instead either evoked Banshee-mama or the delightful short-tempered and snippy Moodymummy to parent on that occasion. I feel guilt and failure as I look back on them once the moment has passed and hear the reproachful Shoulds murmur their disappointment.  A really bad parenting faux pas can get put on repeat as my head hits the pillow, the Shoulds warding off sleep that I desperately want.

And it's so completely and utterly pointless.

At the moment I have a 9 month old who seems to be on sleep strike unless my boob is wedged in his mouth. I am currently lying on his mattress, feeding him to sleep again because the last three times he fell asleep, my boob fell out before he was deep enough in dreamland not to notice and we went back to square one. The Shoulds in this form an endless patter of mental background noise. I should be:
trying to break the association of feeding with sleep
allowing him to feed to sleep without resentment if that's what he needs
encouraging more independence and slipping away before he's fully asleep
enjoying these cuddles because they won't last forever
using this time to pray or read my Bible, not scroll Facebook
using this time to sleep given I'm not getting enough at night
leaving him to cry out with my husband instead...

The list is endless. All Shoulds. All, essentially telling me that my reality is wrong in some way, either in action or thought. That I'm getting it wrong. That I'm failing.

I have recently learned that all these Shoulds form a stick that I beat myself up with. Endlessly. If you physically beat yourself up every day, you'd have bruising, breaks and soreness. It didn't occur to me until someone else pointed it out that this is the case emotionally and mentally too.

I'm having a hard time with this stick. I'm trying to put it down more, and my aim is to eventually break it up and use it as kindling, but it takes a lot of energy to put it down. Conscious energy, and self-awareness, and compassion, and there are too many days when I don't seem to have the resources to do it. Frustratingly, on the days I find those reserves from somewhere, I have more energy. I find more joy. I feel lighter. It's almost like the investment adage, you have to spend money to make money. I have to spend energy to make energy. And it's hard.

If I break it down though, it starts with just saying, 'Hush' to each Should that starts to tap me on the shoulder. Telling it that actually, right now, this is OK. In this moment, or in the moment where I was less than I would like, I was as much as I could be. Maybe I wish that I could have been more, but tomorrow is another day, and I'll give it everything I've got, just like today.

Some days, I don't have as much to give as I wish I did. I am less than I would like. And I am working on believing that that is OK.

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