The Tyranny of “Should” and Results of The Bowling Championship

This evening, the sound of “should” plays loudly in my head:

  • Look, it’s spring, and things are blooming – I should be happier.
  • Hey, my husband got a job, so I don’t have to, at least not right now. I should be packing his lunches and rubbing his feet and doing all that stuff that appreciative stay-at-home wives do.
  • I’m not actively suicidal, so I should be getting some stuff done; I should be making progress on my projects or my business.
  • The weather was nice this weekend; I should have planted the two blueberry bushes I just purchased.
  • It’s Sunday; I should be doing my laundry and paying my bills for the start of the month.

Instead, I’m only a few rungs removed from gelatinous blob on the mobility scale. I got out of bed this morning to eat the pancakes my husband made. After breakfast, I went back to bed while he cleaned up the kitchen. When he went out to the backyard to finish the gate he’s building to our side yard, I crawled back into bed and fell asleep again.

#dancer #hope I woke up at 11:30 again, with enough time to take a shower and do my hair before a friend picked me up for an afternoon outing. She, her mom, and her 3-year-old son went to see the spring dance recital at a performing arts high school we are connected to. It was remarkable to see these teenagers dancing at such at a high level. It was sweet to watch the delight on little Edgar’s face as he watched the dancers. Sweet, too, to leap and twirl with him back to the parking lot after the performance.

When I got back home, my husband had finished the gate and mowed the lawn in our large yard. He was sweaty but satisfied with his day’s achievement. While he took a shower, I raided the refrigerator and found enough remnants of previous meals to make chicken and sweet potato quesadillas. That was my crowning achievement for the day.

My husband left at 6:15 for the last night of his bowling league. They were playing for the championship, and part of me said I “should” go watch and cheer for him. But have you ever cheered for a team of mediocre amateur bowlers? B o r i n g, even if you love one of them.

Instead, he left, and 10 minutes later, I collapsed into bed. I slept for an hour, woke up, and saw it was still light out. “I should go out and dig the rest of those raspberry plants out of the north flowerbed,” I said to myself. Instead, I turned over and fell back to sleep. This time, only woke when my phone pinged, telling me I had a text at 9:30.

“We’re playing the final game now,” my husband had texted.

“Maybe I should get a load of laundry started,” I thought. Instead, I picked up my laptop and read a few blog posts.

Why can’t I get anything done? Why am I so exhausted? Am I just giving in to laziness? Shouldn’t I be able to do more by now?

(Shouldn’t I be able to sleep more than an hour at a time without waking up?)

What does it mean to be “better”? I am supposed to be “less depressed,” but how do I measure that? I spent some time with people I enjoy; I went out. Shouldn’t I feel uplifted?

What does it mean to be alive when you don’t do anything with your life? Is this as good as it gets? What should I be doing differently?

These questions do nothing to animate me. On the contrary, they leave me flattened on the floor, SHOULD dancing on my limp body.

I do the only thing I know how. I take a breath, then another. I tell myself, it takes as long as it takes. And then, it won’t help to scold myself. And finally, SHOULD, why don’t you take a walk? 

A little while later, my husband arrived back home around. “We took second,” he told me, “But I scored 192 in the last game.”

“You’re awesome,” I tell him, not because I should, but because he is.


  1. This isn’t as good as it gets but it’s so, so, so painful to feel that way; I’ve been there too and sometimes still am. The only thing you “should” do is be gentle with yourself. Sending a hug 💕


    • I guess I know it’s not as good as it gets–a month ago I felt a lot better than this. But I can’t seem to stay “a lot better” for very long, and it might not show up again for months.

      Thank you for the hug. 💕 I appreciate it more than you might imagine!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Good on you for talking back to the ‘shoulds’. And for preparing food.

    You’ve hit the nail on the head about feeling and expressing genuine love not being something that feels like an obligation but something that just ‘is’. It’s so nice hearing about your relationship with your husband and that he is there for you. I’m with you on boring sports – my ex played cricket. Plus I imagine going to bowling would be extra hard right now because it’s so noisy and closed in – kind of a nightmare for anxiety and depression.


    • I am so fortunate that I ended up with the life partner I have. He is completely different from anyone else I have ever been involved with, so accepting and relaxed and genuine. I can’t even imagine my life without him. I hope I become more energetic and can do more things to show him what he means to me.


  3. I am not going to say that I know how you’re feeling. But I can’t say that I have felt similar. I also don’t think that beating yourself up saying I should do this or I should do that helps. It only made me feel worse. Your crowning chief meant of getting out of the house and getting the stuff ready for quesadillas, take it as just that. An achievement. Baby steps


    • I know, you are right. Sometimes you have to reduce expectations and be happy for what you are able to do. It just feels like a very long time since I have been a productive person. But thank you for the reminder to appreciate baby steps.


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