Monday, December 29, 2008

Sprained Shoulds

So I recently missed a stair and sprained my ankle. That, in and of itself, is enough to cause a fair amount of pain. However, my crazy mind went wild with "shoulds" that caused far more suffering. Just a sampling of these "shoulds" included: you shouldn't have fallen, you should have been paying more attention, you shouldn't be so klutzy. Fortunately, I had my questions about "shoulds" to help me find some peace in all this agony.

Q: How did you learn you shouldn't be such a klutz?
A: Navigating around New York is a constant reminder of this. It is very difficult to get from one place to another without full physical capacity. I also see this reflected in the media constantly, as nearly all images present "normal" able-bodied people. I think I've learned from American culture that one should metaphorically be always pushing ahead, and if I slow down to limp I'll "fall behind" in a way in the race of life.

Q: Is this "shouldn't" true for everyone everywhere 24/7?
A: Of course not. Being a klutz by no means is a reflection of any one's character, of their values, or of their soul. It does not reflect one's ambition, nor ability to help others. My unique American sense of wanting to stay ahead is not universal, and certainly not very healthy.

Q: Who is profiting off you "shouldn't"?
A: That capitalistic spirit that says I should always be moving faster, going further, pushing harder, accomplishing more.

Q: How does it feel to think this "shouldn't"?
A: I feel ashamed, like an idiot doofus loser.

Q: And does feeling like an idiot doofus loser help your ankle heal?
A: No quite the opposite.

Q: What would one day be like without this "shouldn't"?
A: I would feel better — like I could just do what I'm able to do without the stress of accomplishing more.

Q: Who would you be without this "shouldn't"?
A: I'd be someone a lot more at peace. I'd be a lot more accepting of whatever life throws my way (or whatever I fall into).

Replace it:
A: I wish I was not such a klutz. I would prefer not to fall down anymore. It would be easier on me and my loved ones if I paid more attention. But even as a klutz I am a still a good person, and I never have to be a victim of capitalistic thinking unless I choose to be.

And with these questions, I feel better. The pain is there, but suffering has been alleviated. Can you try this the next time you're giving yourself a hard time?

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