Wednesday, November 2, 2022

The Haunting of Should

 It took a while before I felt like I could write again.

I'm still wearing all black.

Tatsu, our other kitty, had kidney failure the week after Stardust's own kidney failure claimed her life. I guess he couldn't be without her.

    I think the hardest thing about their passing was Jesse and I worrying about what we should have done. Did we love them enough? Did we not take good enough care of them? Although we heard from several vets if your cats die from kidney failure, that means that they have lived very long, well-cared-for lives. Eventually, I came to terms with it and accepted that the timing, hard as it was, is very beautiful. I still feel connected to Stardust, and I sense that she's happier and more playful than ever. Her body was struggling for 12 years, so it's an incredible release.

    Sometimes, when I feel her with me, I cry because I can't hold her anymore. Other times, I feel joy because nothing can really part us now.

    Now, I feel like I am on a different learning journey and wanted to share my thoughts with you about "should."

What I’ve come to realize is that “should” doesn’t make any sense. “Should” is entirely based on having the same experience and background understanding as myself so that whoever comes to the exact, same, “obvious” conclusion. My background as a CSR (customer service representative) tells me that I will always need your ID from your ID card, for example, so it should be obvious that to not cause problems, you should call in with your ID. But, for someone who grew up expecting to get by on just name and DOB or Social Security number, things we usually have memorized, they may feel like it should be obvious that the ID# is unnecessary so long as you can verify yourself. As the CSR, I feel like you should know computer systems aren’t that simple, and using different data isn’t as easy for us and makes the call take longer, which will get us in trouble with our supervisors. The customer feels like the CSR should do whatever makes the customer happy because that’s obviously good customer service. To the CSR, it is obviously discourteous to not be prepared for a call you are making, so obviously you should be a responsible adult and have your ID card handy when you’re making a call out to someone else whose job can be very challenging, especially because it makes it more complicated to abide by HIPAA regulations. See the problem?

Here are two conflicting perspectives at odds with one another. Neither one of them is really wrong, but to the person enduring the experience, it feels as if their need is clearly right. “Should” ignores all nuance in human perspective, experience, and feelings. It is the opposite of unconditional positive regard, something I have been inspired to aspire to by Carl Rogers. It can be insidious too, because we start to anticipate how annoyed we will be based on how we think things should go. Sometimes, we’re even hard on ourselves, saying we should be different based on some criteria we decided to accept from somewhere.

The way things are . . . are how they are. That’s how it is. I remember someone saying that to me as a teenager and getting pissed because the implication I interpreted was that we also shouldn’t do anything to make things any better. See that shouldn’t? It’s just the inverse of a should and it’s the same problem. Accepting that the present is what it is actually is a powerful thing. It releases you from the should! And, by being released, you can think of how you want to solve things from there. Not because you have to because of some “obvious” solution, but because that’s authentically who you are, a growing person who wants to do better. And since no one can control anyone else, you can make a suggestion, and rather than being mad if someone “should” be doing something you recommend, you can just be like, “Okay. That didn't work. I see it. That’s what’s happening right now.” Don’t make it mean that you might be wrong (though of course, we all are going to be wrong sometimes) or that you need to defend yourself into the ground. Don’t even make it mean that the other person is stubborn and will never get it and is consequently “bad.” It only means the exact thing that’s happening right now: the person you are disagreeing with simply doesn’t agree with you right now in the present moment. 

I often have wondered how many times I have planted a seed in someone else and, somewhere down the road . . . maybe they came to the same conclusion on their own and didn’t even remember our argument. Sometimes, I myself have had knee-jerk reactions to statements made by others, and I’d be annoyed, think about it, ask questions, and then eventually come to an entirely new conclusion that was neither my prior stance nor theirs. And it’s not about should, but because I am growing at my own pace, with my own experiences and perspectives, and I am not going to instantly manifest a new persona with adjusted beliefs just because someone tells me to and tries to overwhelm me with their idea of proof. One thing I learned at a very young age is that even if I came back in time and tried to warn myself about the future, I probably would not have believed everything until I had enough experience to authentically understand it. I’m grateful for any seeds that were planted with love and generosity from others as I grew up, because they did turn into fruit. Then again, there were other seeds that have been ripped out and burned forever. XD

    This is all to say . . . do not fall on the sword of "should" or "shouldn't." Love yourself. Love others. We are all growing from such different places and it makes us really weird and different. Release the suffering of "should," then, and just live and know that your best (and my best) are good enough. And your best won't be the same every day, and that's perfectly fine.

    I miss Stardust. I hurt a lot because I felt like she should still be here physically . . . but I don't need to hurt. She is where she is, and there are some new fun and weird aspects to that (yep, some bizarre cat hauntings; she has a sense of humor). So now, I will let go of what I thought should be and simply be with love from here.