I have been "shoulding upon" myself

It has been a couple weeks since I last wrote a blog. I spent the weekend before last entirely with my wife, rather than at the computer, helping her put finishing touches on packing for a 10-week adventure working at a summer camp in upstate New York. And this past weekend, I wandered the streets of Paris. It is now 7am on Monday in the land of wine, cheese, and croissants, and I'm gearing up for a day (and week) full of work meetings.

So why am I writing a blog from my Paris hotel room? Because even though I have a really good excuse for not writing in the last few weeks, I have felt anxious about it, and that unease led to an interesting revelation while I was wandering yesterday. When I started blogging a few months ago, my intent was to write weekly, partially to get in a good routine and partially to provide regular content for readers. Throughout the last several days, I repeatedly thought that I "should" find time to write a new blog, and that I was letting myself and my readers down. And as I strolled down the River Seine yesterday afternoon, I realized it was just one of a long list of "shoulds" in my head that was preventing me from truly enjoying myself. Here are a just a few of those:

  • "I should be writing my blog about accountability buddies. Caitlin (my coach and partner on a project) is probably eager to read a draft and link to it in her course materials."
  • "I should be going to museums. Isn't that what Paris is all about?"
  • "I should look at / add to that document Caitlin sent me."
  • "I should write up that paragraph Caitlin asked me for during our meeting the other day."
  • "I should be wandering Paris more than I am."
  • "I shouldn't be wandering Paris as much as I am. I have not been as productive on some things and need to catch up."
  • "I should hang out with my co-workers."
  • "I should spend time alone. I should take myself on an Artist's Date (homework from a book I'm working through called 'The Artist's Way')."
  • "I should do my Morning Pages (another homework from 'The Artist's Way') in the morning, not before bed."

These "shoulds" were exhausting. It was the moment that I stopped to take the above photo of the Eiffel Tower that I realized that I wasn't even considering what things I wanted to do! Did I want to see museums? Or was I really okay with just wandering as my main tourist activity? Did I really want to be at a cafe with my notebook or computer, or was I just trying to ease the guilt of not doing my blog and Artist's Way homework? By the time it dawned on me that I was wrapped up in "shoulds," it was already Sunday evening.

Thankfully, for all of the "shoulding" that I did to myself, I did see a lot of Paris by foot and enjoyed some quality time with co-workers. With just one more day this week open for sightseeing, I am now dropping all of the "shoulds" and will do whatever my heart wants when I wake up that morning.  I will get to the accountability blog, the project with Caitlin, and my homework for The Artist's Way when I return to the States. Those are not going anywhere, but Paris is.

Sometime in the late fall of last year, Caitlin first introduced me to the concept of "shoulds." (No, the irony is not lost on me that there were 3 on my list this weekend involving her.) Up until then, I had lived a large chunk of my life driven by "shoulds" and often felt guilty giving into "wants." I made the decision to stop "shoulding upon myself" by becoming more aware of times I was unnecessarily putting pressure on myself. I also started to reconnect with my "wants" through a daily journaling practice. Although I have been fairly successful in releasing the "shoulds" and allowing myself to act on the "wants" over the last several months, realizing I had "slipped up" was disappointing. But instead of adding "I should not be caught up in the 'shoulds'" to the list, yesterday I thanked myself for finding awareness of my mindset and shifting it with plenty of time to still enjoy more of Paris. And then I did something I wanted to do: I FaceTimed with my parents to tell them about all of my adventures.

Just for fun, I want to close out this blog with a cool picture of the Notre Dame lit up at night. It's probably been the highlight of my visit so far. Until next time...which may or may not be next weekend.

Much love, Erin.

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