Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sleepless Shoulds

For as long as I can remember I have had problems getting to sleep. I can get pretty hyped up at night, which doesn't fit in well with having a nine to five work schedule. Not sleeping at night used to bring up much frustration. I would curse the birds chirping in the morning, and beg not to see the first hint of sun peeking through the window.

Fortunately, when I started challenging the thought, "I should get plenty of sleep at night," I felt better. Here's how I apply it now in the middle of one of these aggravated sleepless nights:

"How did you learn that you should get plenty of sleep at night?"
I certainly get bombarded with 'studies' that tell me I should be getting rest. I know I had parents who did their very best to get me to sleep at night. Teachers, doctors, all say I should get plenty of rest.

"But is this true for everyone everywhere 24/7?"
No, plenty of people can function without a proper night's rest. And in fact, I can function adequately without a decent night's sleep. I'm certainly not at my best without sleep, but I can make it through if need be.

"How do you feel when you think you should be sleeping right now?"
I feel angry, anguished, discouraged, powerless.

"And do these feelings help you get the sleep you want?"
No way.

"What would life be like without this should?"
It would be so much easier. I could sleep when I'm tired, relax, and not worry so much if sleep doesn't come.

"Replace it."
I would prefer to get enough sleep. It would be beneficial for me to get enough sleep. But in the long run I'm going to be okay either way. Even if I'm not functioning at my 100% best I can get by. And as Dr. Albert Ellis once said, nobody has ever died from losing one night of sleep.

By changing my thoughts like this, I actually feel a lot better. And when I feel better, I end up getting more sleep. So it turns out that when I eliminate my "should" about getting sleep, that I end up getting a lot more sleep!

This is one of the wonderful paradoxes of Should-less living. When you let go of that thing you think you need, you're often more likely to get it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Traveling Shoulds

I was reminded last week that travel by flying is one of the most annoying experiences in modern civilization. After braving extensive waits for the MTA subway system at 4am, a LONG delay on the JFK Air Train at 5am, and completely expensive tasteless food at 6am, I still had to face my worst obstacle yet:

The Quintessential Airplane Crying Baby.

Now don't get me wrong, I think the propagation of the human race is an admirable thing. But why, OH WHY, would they bring an infant on the plane, especially one who clearly doesn't want to be there? Given my level of indignant righteousness, I realized this was the perfect time to work on worst "should" of flying: "They should shut that child up."

"How did you learn this was true?"
It's one of those cultural things about not intentionally making loud disturbing noises in an enclosed area with no escape.

"Is this should true for everyone everywhere 24/7?"
No. If a child is in pain or suffering then loud crying is the only way it can communicate that feeling. Many babies ears are hurting on the plane. If a parent always muffles their cries, then that can send the child a destructive message that they SHOULDN'T communicate when they are upset.

"Who is profiting off your should?"
The airlines and the makers of Skyy vodka, both of whom make money from me if I use a drink to deal with my shoulds instead of asking these questions.

"How do you feel when you think this should?"
I feel angry, righteous, and helpless. I feel like I don't want to travel anymore, thereby cutting myself off from a potentially wonderful vacation just because of my should about this child.

"And do you want to be right or happy during this flight?"
I choose to be happy. I already know I'm right, I'd guess everyone would agree with this should. But they won't have the high blood pressure or the ulcers for me that results in insisting that my should is correct. Clearly being right in this case means that I'm not happy.

"Replace it."
I'd prefer this child settle down. I'd prefer it would be quiet. I'd prefer parents did not subject their children to the treachery of flying if they are not ready for it. But either way, I still have a choice to be happy or angry. Sometimes I choose anger, especially if jet lagged. But today I choose to be happy .

And with this questioning I felt better. It didn't solve the problem, but it changed my reaction to the problem. Ultimately, the child did simmer down. And later when I thought back to how I initially reacted to this child I had to wonder: Who was the REAL infant on that flight?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Absolutely Should-less in Action: Margaret Cho

I just finished watching the third episode of "The Cho Show." Although the situations are a bit contrived for my taste, I am so impressed that Margaret Cho has remained a living breathing example of what Absolutely Should-less living is all about.

I first had the opportunity to see Ms. Cho perform in San Francisco in 1993. She had a scathing silliness and a wicked tongue. Her natural talent, wit, and beauty were recognized by ABC television, who gave her her own sitcom— and subsequently tried to get her to conform to incredibly oppressive shoulds. They basically told her: You should be thin, you should be cute, you should be less Asian. She desperately tried to conform to such shoulds, up to the point of starving herself and nearly permanently damaging her internal organs.

In her brilliant film, "I'm the One I That I Want," she details her destructive downslide, and how she has survived stronger, more confident, more beautiful, and funnier than ever. She has since made a career out of telling her story, sharing her painful experiences, and helping women and men learn they NEVER have to buy into oppressive shoulds from others. She has inspired many of the ideas in my book, "Absolutely Should-less," and inspires me to tell my truth even if it pisses some people off.

So if you haven't already, try watching her new show on Vh1 on Thursday nights. I guarantee you'll learn something that will help you deal with the rigid standards and "shoulds" you are facing in your life.