I began the second day of the New Year with a brisk long walk in my neighborhood this morning. I’ve been so proud of having cultivated a good walking routine in 2012 that I wanted to keep it up by getting back in the practice as soon as I could in 2013.
Anyway, this morning’s walk led me to my new habit of having nice, long and aloud talks with myself as I walk. Yes, I talk to myself as I walk. No, I don’t look insane, as I’m usually walking in quiet and unpopulated areas and no one sees or hears my talking. Plus, nowadays we see people walking down the street and talking out loud all the time and we assume that they’re talking to someone on the phone via their wireless headphone. Well, at least that’s what I tell mysely.
But I digress.
Today, my talk led me to a fundamental lesson and a recurring theme in my life and my philosophy on living a full and happy life. Today, I grappled with the “should be’s” of life. You know what I’m talking about. They’re those things we say to ourselves when we’re trying to measure and gauge our progress in life, judge our growth and determine our course of action in certain situations.
Have you ever noticed how often we actually use “should be” in the course of daily life as authority? Have you ever realized how limiting and constricting these “should be’s” are? We tell ourselves things should be one way and one way only all the time. I think we have thousands of routine and regularly used “should be’s”:
“Friendships should be: lifelong, deep and flawless.”
“People should be more considerate, understanding and honest.”
“I should be: farther in my career; making more money than I am; have a house with the pool in the backyard, etc., etc., etc.”
“Vacations should be long, luxurious endeavors to faraway and exotic lands.”
“New Year’s Eves should be exciting, noisy and loud affairs, months in the making.”
“I should be [fill in the blank].”
Today, as I was chatting and walking, a “should be” popped up into my head. Which one it was is irrelevant. But surfaced it did- right in the middle of a perfectly inspiring and positively beautiful walk by the nearby wetlands, momentarily ruining the mood and disturbing the flow my morning. But, instead of falling into the “should be’s” trap and accepting its edict, I felt myself resisting and stirring my thoughts toward a different direction. And then, I heard myself say something that unlocked a gate and freed me from the chokehold of judgment. I heard me simply say: “should be’s are for the unoriginal. You deserve could be’s.”
Aha! COULD BE!!! Doesn’t it just sound so filled with energy and possibility?
Whereas “should be” is constricting, limiting and attempting to lock a situation into one inflexible and common outcome, “could be” is open-ended, freeform and filled with opportunity. I feel like the most natural way to complete the phrase will always be “could be ANYTHING.”
Suddenly I found myself freed from the chains and confines of the ordinary, the conventional and the usual. Suddenly I found myself in the realm of the exotic, the uncommon and the highly creative. Suddenly I could see that I could be anything I choose.
I could be a painter, an author, a dancer, a poet, a student, a teacher, a mother and a philosopher.
Life could be whatever I decide it to be.
A vacation could be 3 hours long on my own balcony.
Motherhood could be whatever I create it to be.
See how amazing “could be” is? “Could be” opens us up, releases us and lets us be the creator of our own selves, lives and the terms by which we relate to the world and the people in it. “Could be” brings the artist out and allows him or her to conjure a masterpiece, instead of simply being a cookie cutter version of the masses. And how amazing is it to be a one-of-a-kind work of art, instead of a mass-produced being?
I said earlier that this idea is a recurring theme in my life, and I meant it. I grew up without knowing the limits and restrictions of life, so I created my own world as I went along. I never allowed the conventions, the norms or the conservatism of the society I lived in to tie me down or dictate the terms of my life. It was at times a lonely existence, I admit, but I wouldn’t change it for anything in world. That’s because “should be” has never appealed to me, “could be” has always been my trusty companion and best friend, and “Why Be Normal” has always been my favorite mantra. Being a faceless entity in a crowd isn’t for me. Being original, being my own creation and being my own person have always trumped blending in and getting along.
So, today’s little lesson reaffirmed all the many lessons I’ve gained through living this life:
Chuck “should be”.
Embrace “could be”.
Turn conventionality into originality.
Are you ready to live a life of your own choosing? Are you ready to create you as you see yourself, instead of what others tell you to be? Are you ready to paint your life as you want it, see it, dream it and wish it to be?
Then turn your “should be’s” into “could be’s”.