But not all should be's are natural should be's. And not all consequences are natural consequences, and some have no consequences at all. A moral imperative, or at least what feels like a moral imperative attached to a should be, can come from a lot of different places: upbringing, education, media habits, personal preconceptions, a mood swing, or a random headline that you saw at the cash register last Saturday. It's my personal opinion that we attach should be feelings to could be facts and circumstances, and it ends up making us unhappy.
For example, a couple of weeks ago, the temperature here in Michigan dropped into single digits for the first time this winter, and I still had to take Boogaloo to school. I was cold when I was all bundled up -- thermal underwear, blue jeans, snow pants, parka, two pairs of socks, the whole kit and kaboodle. The car didn't get warm. There was snow falling when the radio said it was too cold to snow. I had to drive on ice. And I was cold when I got home. In spite of the fact that I had a sweater, a cup of tea, and a thermostat set at 72, I was still cold. I had a snit fit that day because that's just not the way it should have been.
I can hear some of you now . . . "Woohoo, single digits. We've been in the negatives for over a month now."
Well, I hadn't. For the last eleven years, I'd been in Western Washington and Oregon where the rain and the damp creep in at your bones, but the temperature never falls below 16 degrees, and three inches of snow earns you an automatic snow day because there are only two snowplows in the county. And that's kind of the point. The source of my indignation, my disappointment, was that I had not adjusted to my new environs. I didn't have a reasonable set of expectations for the place that I now live. I actually made myself unhappy because I couldn't figure out something that was completely natural. I sat at my table with my tea cup and pouted a bit, let myself think nostalgically of Oregon winters, and wondered what on earth I was doing here. Because I was chilly, the radio weatherman was a little off, and I had to drive my daughter to school on the snow.
Now this is an extreme example. Tiny stimulus; big response. But it's also a basic human predisposition, and a dangerous one. What was the source of my should be? Limited personal experience and a predisposition to be dogmatic about it. In this case, a lack of a sense of adventure. What are the sources of our should be's, and what are their consequences?
Let me throw out some examples that have been bouncing around my own consciousness in the last few months. I do so in the complete confidence that all of you will identify with at least one of them.
- I should be able to come home from work to a clean house.
- Moreover, I should be able to relax after dinner , and everything that needs to get done should be done.
- I should be able to find salmon more cheaply
at the grocery store.
- I should be recognized for what I do for this family
. I should be warmer. I should be outside more. I should be done with acne.
- I should be over the effects of that accident.
- I should be more attentive.
- I should be more active.
- It should be easier to be active.
- My house should be cleaner.
- Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera
Over the next couple of months, while it's cold and snowy outside, I'm going to use my blog to consider the different kinds of should be's, how we respond to them, and how we should respond to them. There are legitimate should be's as well as illegitmate, and some should be's are stronger than others. I anticipate at least four more posts on the subject. Next up: personal should be's, where they come from, and how we should respond.