“Shoulds” Should Take a Hike

I recently quit my corporate job and started consulting. And I got married. To someone with a crazy work schedule. And I moved into his bachelor pad house. And became a Rottweiler step-mom.

All good things.

And all hard at times. Especially for someone like me. I like clean and I like organized. Routine is my friend. Any kind of change is hard, but so much at once…that’s taking it to whole ‘nother level.

Sometimes, sitting in my husband’s (our) living room, I look around me, startled, and think, “What the ___?” It’s like waking up in a hotel room when you think you’re in your bedroom, and there’s a surge of alarm when everything’s unfamiliar. What happened? How did I get here? Is this where I’m supposed to be?

And then you remember. Of course…
But remnants of the panic tingle in your arms and chase your breath in and out for a while.

marriage1I didn’t anticipate this being so challenging. I mean, I’ve been married before. And it was a nightmare. How could this not be easy compared to that…right? I feel guilty that it isn’t. If you’ve eaten scraps from the trash for 10 years, how could you not be ecstatic to eat anything off a plate like a normal person?

But merging two lives to create an altogether new one is filled with paradoxical experiences, like giving birth…

~ beautiful but messy ~
~ exciting but scary ~
~ joy-filled but painful ~

Mostly, if I’m honest, it’s been more of the latter things. My counselor asked if I wonder whether the problem is him or me. “Yes,” I admitted, embarrassed and expecting her to chide me for trying to find blame. I knew she was going to say we both are the problem—everyone has issues and ways they can change. Instead she asked another question that I’ve been tripping over ever since. “What if neither of you is the problem?”

So maybe I expect too much. Of him. Of myself. Of us.

Maybe I need to let go of all the shoulds that claw at my heart’s soil, stealing the moments of tenderness, love, and delight before they have chance to grow some roots. And one of those shoulds is that either of us should figure this out right away. It will take us both time, and that’s okay. And maybe it’s okay too if some days I’m disappointed and impatient with how long it’s taking. I don’t have to be mad at myself for that either.

“Quit being mad at myself all the time?” I asked, tears welling up in my eyes. For a split second, I glimpsed what my life could be like without the Inner Critic pummeling my soul day and night. “I’m not sure how to do it, but I like that idea. I’m in.”

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