I feel like after 50 days, this should have more “umph” – but the word should is an interesting one here (and came by naturally, without prompting by the following reading that I actually read before starting that sentence – weird how that happens sometimes).
A counsellor on MindBodyGreen wrote about the word “should” that anxiety originates from it, that it is a representation of an external standard of “right”:
“As I soon as I hear a “should statement,” I know that my client is suffering from an externally imposed expectation, and inevitably comparing her or himself to a cultural ideal of “good” or “right” behavior.
Let’s take the statement: I should feel more excited to see my partner. We carry a cultural idea that says that if you’re away from your partner and not pining for him or her, it’s an indication that something is wrong or missing from the relationship. Our minds then go to: I’m not in love enough or I’m with the wrong person and the anxious spiral begins.
But you can see that the anxiety originates from a “should” statement, which, again, in an indicator that you’re holding yourself to an external standard of “right” feelings or behavior. There are no right feelings in relationships; there is only what works for the two of you.”
Given this, the “shoulds” that I hear constantly – I should be working hardest, I should be eating certain foods or in a certain way, I should be recovering correctly, I should be active and doing worthwhile things, I should be strong enough to break my back for the world – are not me. They are not part of the more me version of me that I’ve been writing about for a bit, they are not what’s best for me; in fact, they are the source of many of my anxieties.
My wife and I sat down to work out a plan for her/I over the month of January. One that is not focused on “shoulds” but one that focused on “wants” – things that both of us want to see in the relationship, in me, in my present and not just my past. These are internal standards of behaviour, ones that matter to us and me, feelings that work for the two of us. In reference to an earlier reading, if we are walking in the direction that works, things will have a way of working out. If we are creating our own behaviours based on what works for us, things will have a way of working out.
I hope that I internalize the next statement: if we are making plans and decisions based on what works for us, it is never a matter of right or wrong, because we are always doing what is right for us. No right or wrong there is, just us (thanks Yoda).
So when it comes to sex, no right or wrong there is, just us = two people’s comfort levels around sex, not matching sex drives, but coming to a compromise that supports, excites and validates both people.
So when it comes to food, no right or wrong there is, just us = a non-restrictive eating pattern that keeps my body healthy, my relationship and life exciting and that calms my mind (on a daily basis by not underfeeding and on an ongoing basis with non-anxious foods and cheat meals) [“(it matters) that you find a way to take care of your health and achieve your goals that works for you, but also not take this stuff too seriously and miss out on some of life’s other joys” (John Sifferman, Health-First Fitness Coach)].
So when it comes to exercise, no right or wrong there is, just us = an exercise schedule and routines I enjoy, that gives me the euphoric exercise “high” that I like and that incorporates challenges of my fitness level [“(it matters) that you find something you love to do that can help you reach your goals and enjoy a higher quality of life – something you would do just because – and that you honor your body and do whatever you can to take care of it” (John Sifferman, Health-First Fitness Coach)].
I know that I still have internalized a lot of those external standards. I am not past the voice that tells me I am bloated and therefore too fat. I am not past running around until I am tired and exhausted and sad. I am not past not asking for help until it is too late and I am resentful of being let down. I am not past the blood-thirsty voice of the blackness. So, to all the good parts of me crying out for help and wanting to be free, please remind me of this in troubling moments, moments of anxiety (and even moments when I feel like I should be writing a more impactful entry): no right or wrong there is, just us.