1. used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticizing someone's actions.
"She should have been careful"
"She should not have been so lazy"
Oh god, I should really shave my legs. I should really fold that washing. I should really go for a run. I should really call my mother. Should should should. Should you, really?
Should is one of those awful words that was created purely to make humans feel guilt. Made to apply pressure on the human soul and make us feel bad for daring to sit still and do nothing for one freaking second.
Every time I sit down, the 'Should Voice' starts singing away in my head.
"You should do those dishes you know. They're sitting there all dirty like, on the bench. You should really pack that dishwasher and clean the kitchen. You really should."
My 'Should Voice' sounds like an 80 year old woman with emphysema. Her voice grinds into my bone marrow and whittles me down until I am forced to act. Forced to get up off my comfy chair, put down my book and partake in some painstaking chore that supposedly I should be doing.
"You should really mop that floor." She coos in my ears.
"When was the last time you mopped it? In my day we mopped the floor every week. What would your grandmother think of that un-mopped floor? What would other people think? Because, surely everyone else mops their floor more than you do. You should really get up and mop it now. You really should ."
Sometimes even when I have just done the things I should do, she's still not happy.
"It's good that you just changed all the bed sheets. But, you really should change them every single week. All mothers should find time to keep their children's bed linen freshly changed."
Who is the old Hag in my head? And why does she think she knows what's best for me? Why does she want me to spend my life working like a dog, trying to pertain to some immaculate standard of perfection? And for who? Because truth be told, a bit of mess doesn't really bother me. As long as there are clean clothes and clean dishes, I'm good.
Sometimes my 'Should Voice' is much kinder to me. Sometimes instead of a judgemental old Hag she embodies a caring Friend. A Friend who only wants what is best for me. A Friend who kindly tells me what things I should do to make my life easier in the future. This 'Should Voice' is only trying to help me. She whispers things softly to me.
"You're really grumpy, you should go for a run, you know it will make you feel much better. You haven't exercised in days, that's why you feel crappy and your back hurts. That's why you just want to sit here and watch bad T.V and that's why you have writers block. Go on, you should go for a run."
Or: "I know you are really tired but you should really make the school lunches tonight. I know you want to just make them in the morning but you know how crazy things will be in the morning if you don't make them tonight. Think of it as a gift to your future self. You sacrifice a little tonight, to gift tomorrow's future self a stress free morning."
While she is still a Should Voice, she is loving. And all she really cares about is me. She doesn't speak for the faceless other people that I am for some reason (according to that old Hag), meant to be living to impress. She works for me. She works to make me happy, healthy and calm.
But there are times when it is very hard to know who the 'Should Voice' belongs to. Is it the Hag or the Friend? Sometimes their voices are muffled and I can't tell them apart. Sometimes what they want from me is distorted and I don't know whether it is unrealistic or motivating. Especially when I am really tired and I am sure a Friend would just want me to rest!
Should Voice: "You should fold that mega pile of washing that's on your bed. Otherwise it is just going to end up on the floor and get trampled and then you'll have to wash it all over again."
Me: Who said that?
Should Voice: "It's me, the Should Voice."
Me: Which one are you? I am very tired. I don't want to do the washing.
Should Voice: "I know you are tired. But think of the washing. Think of all the effort you put in getting it clean and dry. Do you really want that to go to waste?"
Should Voice: "Well then, you should fold it and put it away."
Sometimes, the should voice is equally muffled and undistinguishable when it comes to choosing creative projects over domestic ones.
You're saying I should stop writing and cook some dinner? But I love writing! It's productive. Okay sure, the kids are hungry and I am hungry too, but I don't want to cook dinner! I want to write! Write Write Write!
For years I hated my Should Voices. Both of them. I thought all they wanted was to make me feel bad. To make me feel lazy and filthy and unmotivated. To make me feel like I can never do enough. No matter how much I clean. No matter how hard I exercise or how many hundreds of words I put on a page each day, the Should Voice was right there judging me. Telling me: "You should really do just a bit more."
That's when I decided it was time I figured out who was who, once and for all. For if I could tell which was which then I could choose to ignore that nasty old Hag who wants me to dedicate my life to cleaning my house like women did 50 years ago, and choose to listen only to my Friend.
In defence of the Hag, she really knows nothing else. In her day, you didn't get out much. You stayed at home with the kids and you cleaned. On Sunday you got to go to church which was the highlight of your week. Not because of the joy of worship. No. More so that you got a chance to socialise. The poor Hag hardly saw any adults all week so on Sundays she finally got to gossip! The Hag and all the other ladies of the town would gossip like rabid hens.
"Well I popped over to Velma's place last week and do you know what? The place was a right tip! Dishes on the sink! Windows all smudgy! Goodness me, her poor husband!"
The Hag's biggest fear was for someone to come over unannounced and find her house a mess. So she cleaned. She rubbed her hands raw scrubbing and cleaning. But when she died, no one ever wrote on her grave stone just how clean her house had always been.
The Hag is not concerned about my well being. She just cares about what other people will think. "What if someone saw the house like this!?" The Hag can't rest until the house is spotless. She can't sit still and read a book if there is even one crumb on the table or any little job to do. She sees reading, arts and crafts and drawing as frivolous. "There is always something constructive to be done." she says. Poor Hag can't relax. I don't want to be like her.
I only want to listen to my Friend. My Friend wants me to keep my house moderately clean so that it is safe and comfortable. She doesn't want me to waste my life cleaning because she knows there are plenty of other things I have to offer the world that are much more important. She wants me to fly through life easily and happily managing to somehow juggle everything effortlessly. So, she gives me little tips here and there. I like to think of my Friend as me. She is my future self, sent back to help me become her. And because she is me, I know that she loves me and she would never do anything to hurt me.
Once I had distinguished who was who, it was much easier for me to figure out if I wanted to listen to those should voices. I could filter out the caring from the callous.
"You should really iron those sheets."
Shut up Hag! Only freaks iron sheets! I've got books to write. Get a freaking hobby old lady!
"You should stop watching this ridiculous show and write some of that novel."
Yes, you are right. I really should. Thanks my Friend.
The other day my Friend said the nicest thing ever:
"You know, you should really just hire a cleaner. It'll give you more time to do the things you love."
That's what friends are for!