The War Of The Shoulds

I’ve been poorly for the last couple of weeks*. Nothing serious, hold the grapes and the flowers (but do send the chocs). In short, my life has been very much restricted to the sinister Computer-Bed-Bathroom Triangle.

At times like these, suddenly nothing is more compelling than playing mind games with oneself, like the Destructive Thought Spiral (this involves making up future-life scenarios so horrendous that not even Quentin Tarantino could have dreamt them up in a booze-fuelled, fever-ridden nightmare). But absolute favourite mind fuck, by a long shot, is The War Of The Shoulds.

It’s a wretched battle, where one’s brave little Think Positive soldiers, deployed by a ramshackle, atrophied Self Esteem Unit, are macerated in the maws of the Shoulds. Not only are the Shoulds invincible, but they multiply with every blow they are dealt.

My last skirmish Waterloo went something like this:

I should call the Student Loan Company. It’s this week’s BS (Big Should/Bullshit). They wrote to me, I need to negotiate new payment terms… I so don’t want to make that phonecall! Fret, fret…

My Spanish should be perfect by now. This spawns another whole slew of Shoulds: I should be living in shared accommodation (meh!) with Spanish speakers. I should get a part-time job that has me interacting with the general public (double-meh!). I should get myself a Spanish boyfriend (mehmehmehmeeeeeehhhhh!)

I should maybe colour my hair. Then I could go blonder and blonder and blonder in accordance with The Middle Aged Women’s Directive. I’m fascinated by this phenomenon, you see, especially here in Spain, where hordes of greying, swarthy females with smouldering black eyes suddenly feel compelled to reach for the bleach bottle in a quest of fulfilling their life-long ambition: being a Blonde Bombshell. Now or never!

Penelope

Fun. For Halloween.

I should aspire to be a homeowner. Good God, as averse as I am to dealing with day-to-day mind-numbingly boring crap, I’d be sprouting even more grey hairs every time the roof tiles needed changing, the gutters dredging, the termites shooing, etc. And then there’s the damp problem. There is always a damp problem. And no taking up sticks and leaving it to the landlord to sort out his shit hole, no, it’ll be up to me. Not in a million years…

I should have had a child. Only kidding. This is the one thing I’ve always known for sure I should NEVER EVER do. On the other hand, I could at least have offered my squealing, blood-dripping first born to the Student Loan Company, seeing that I’ll never be able to repay them in actual money, even if I live and work until age 101.

KnotI should have internalised the ins and outs of the German spelling reform. It came into force in 1996. That’s nearly two decades ago. I’ve a 105-page pdf clogging up my hard drive, which explains the whole shebang, in gruesome minutiae. Sometimes, when I’m feeling brave, I take a peek at a random chapter. But, but, but…. THIS IS JUST NOT HOW I LEARNT IT! It used to make sense to me, German spelling, I excelled in dictation tests. Now my Teflon brain twists itself into the Gordian knot. The only way to make any of this newfangled codswallop stick, it seems, is when my friend Tanja posts withering corrections below my comments on facebook (“Look, I’ve explained this to you before – if ‘ss’ follows two vowels, it becomes ‘ß’!”). Oh God, I’m slowly turning one of those egits I despise with a passion – people who cannot string an intelligible sentence together in their own bloody language! And down I careen into a Destructive Thought Spiral, where I’m mute and illiterate, languishing on a street corner with all my possessions crammed into a laundry bag. And donning a head of golden locks.

I should do more housework. I’ll do it tomorrow. Right after I’ve called the Student Loan Company.

[*I’ve fully recovered from the lurgy by now. I’ve even had some positive thoughts. Mostly about cake. ]

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89 thoughts on “The War Of The Shoulds

  1. northern_star

    If you’re thinking of cake you are definitely better. And remember what B says… ‘No one wins the War of the Shoulds’. So stop it. Now.

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  2. Debbie

    Cake thoughts are good. A very positive sign of recovery. As regards the rest, hair dye is probably the best option if you have to give in to one of these urges! I resisted that one for a very long time, until I realised how old I looked!

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  3. Heyjude

    I love the idea of the ‘War of the Shoulds’. I am so good at procrastination, or dithering as they would say up north, I should have a degree in it! The Shoulds keep me awake at night, and then I dither as to whether I should take a mild sleeping pill or not. My major battle at the moment is whether or not to buy a ridiculously expensive, but absolutely beautiful, house in the totally wrong location! Heart says ‘oh, yes!’ head says ‘are you mad?’

    I’m glad you are feeling better and I’m with Debbie, if you need to give in to one of these then go the way of the hair dye. I should have done that a long time ago, but thought I was being very noble going naturally grey, until I caught sight of myself in a shop mirror and wondered who that old woman was staring back at me!!

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  4. June

    Indeed, I prescribe cake. And alcohol. Maybe even at the same time. Kick those should-er-fuckers back to whence they came. Glad you’re feeling better now!

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      1. Kim G

        Beaters, yes. Bowl, no. And I grew up in a household that frowned upon soft drinks. I was allowed a soft drink a couple of times a year, and NEVER at home.

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  5. sonjacali

    I wholeheartedly agree! My war of shoulds often just completely removes all ability to get anything done. And your posts illustrates quite succinctly whats that like (even including the foray into german grammar…which is a whole other nightmare).

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Yes, it sends you into a complete paralysis, doesn’t it, but it’s so hard not to give into it, especially when you’re laid up in bed and not up to doing much.

      Good luck with the grammar πŸ˜‰

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  6. Pecora Nera

    Get better soon, Mrs Sensible still is suffering from Man Flu, the doc gave her 14 days worth of Antibiotics!!!! You both can’t be poorly at the same time, it is too stressful.

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  7. Expat Eye

    You become marvellously descriptive when you’re sick! Love this post – especially the thought of offering a blood-dripping newborn to a loan company. That’ll learn ’em. And sigh, after 3 days in Germany, even I know that if β€˜ss’ follows two vowels, it becomes β€˜ΓŸβ€™ – not haha! I’m still giggling at the word ‘fahrt’ – must look up what it actually means πŸ™‚

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  8. freebutfun

    Was the reform really that long ago? You make me feel old! I have The Duden to explain it all to me but somehow having it in the shelf hasn’t helped me learn anything.
    But if you time your request right, I might well be happy to help you pay off you BS with the kicking screaming toddler. You may end up having to payvthem more for that one though…

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  9. gina4star

    Oh, firstly I’m glad you’re feeling better! Secondly, against my better judgement to laugh at such a turmoil, I couldn’t help myself. Those bloody should demons creeping up all over the place! Especially love the blonde bombshell turmoil (it’s soooooo true, especially in Spain, I remember it well), and the thought of the SLC receiving your “squealing, blood dripping first born”! Haha. Ugh, the SLC are evil. I should call them too. I will when you do πŸ˜›

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      1. gina4star

        Oh gosh I know. 😦 I’ve been dreadful. I have been reading though, (I was so inspired by your key west chronicles that I actually went out to hunt down my own key lime pie!).
        Definitely don’t want fines! Good luck! x

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  10. TheLastWord

    I left a comment earlier that seems to have disappeared. Anyway, loved the rant – best one I’ve read in a while. Looks like the bug I had 3 weeks ago has traveled the seas to Spain…. tsk, tsk

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Hi there! For some unknown reason, Askimet abducted your last two comments! Ransom duly paid and comments displayed, phew! Glad you enjoyed my grumpy outpourings. I hope that’ll be it now, at least for a while πŸ˜‰

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  11. wannabe polyglot

    Have a big slice of cake!

    I so hear you on the spelling reform. It makes no sense when they just spell a word wrong… I could always spell even if my grammar was half Swiss German, but now… lost cause.

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      That makes me feel a bit more ‘normal’. I’m reading “Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod”, and the author isn’t a fan of all aspects of the spelling reform either… it’s a fun read. I think there’s five or six books now.

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  12. Giovannoni Claudine

    Don’t worry too much about your hair colour… πŸ˜‰ you could start with some “mΓ¨ches”
    and for all the rest, you’ll get a solution!
    Maybe a nice slice of chocolate cake (Sacher from Vienna, for example) will make great changes… I wish you a lovely day πŸ™‚ claudine

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  13. barbedwords

    I am constantly with you at War with the Shoulds. So many things I should have done differently/instead of/as well as/just in case… And once (if) you have kids, the Shoulds multiply exponentially – then the war gets REALLY fun πŸ˜‰

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  14. TBM

    I have thoughts like this all the time. We hope to buy a house in a year and it gives me panic attacks. I’m with you, the only one that doesn’t bother me is the kid bit. both of us are fine with being childless. After you call the student loan place can you call mine. I need my tax form.

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  15. Kim G

    German spelling reform? LOL… Seriously funny sounding. English is deeply in need of such a thing, but as you know, it’ll never happen. Smacks too much of central control and planning, and we can’t have THAT can we? And your comment on home ownership is spot-on. As a homeowner, I can tell you that enormous quantities of time are spent worrying about just those things you mention. I know you saw my “Stuck in the Mud” post with the ridiculous roof repair demanded by the insurance company. And a couple of years ago I had snow melt and leak inside my wall. I managed to get the water out of the roof, but never ripped open the wall to see if it’s rotting inside. I periodically begin to worry about it, but then tell myself that I’ll just sell the house before it becomes visible. Heck, maybe it’s not even rotting anyway?

    This was a seriously funny post. I’m glad you brought it to my attention. I’m also happy to hear that you have passed though this dark period and are now in brighter light. Remember, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we’ve gotten better at telling our selves that the blues will eventually pass.

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      1. Kim G

        I’m not rejoicing until either: a) I’m in my truck heading to Mexico (which is looking increasingly likely to happen); or b) the snow melts off the garden completely and I can see dirt, grass, and leaves again.

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      2. Kim G

        It’s pretty much ready. It’s just me that’s in doubt. Monday I have a follow-up with my surgeon, but I’m feeling better and better, so should be good to go.

        P.S. hair dye is something I continually think about. I’ve often wanted to do blonde just once. I could pull it off, as I’ve got very fair skin and green eyes. As for darker shades, I’ve played with the stuff that washes out after a week, but I’ve shied away from getting onto the permanent dye treadmill. A friend’s mother, after years of dyeing her hair black, suddenly developed an allergy to the dye and had to stop. She aged 20 years over night. That has always stuck in the back of my mind.

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      3. ladyofthecakes Post author

        I’m not anti-dye-job per se, but I think one should stick with what looks natural and matches one’s skin type. Latin Americans going blonde looks ridiculous to me, unless they are Gisele BΓΌndchen types. You get what I’m saying.

        Re. the story about your mother’s friend – I’ve got exactly the same anecdote! Every time I see this family friend, i.e. once a year when I’m in Germany, I’m taken aback by how different she looks with her grey head of hair. And she’s a good-looking woman in her 50’s with nice, thick, healthy hair.

        Good to hear you’re recovering so well after your surgery!

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  16. kenthinksaloud

    Lol this amused me greatly. I go through similar shoulds when I am ill – which is probably why I had such a hard time of it when I had typhoid last year. I was determined at every step that I HAD to be okay by now because there was so much I SHOULD be doing…

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  17. catalinadelbosque

    Go blonde! I’m going blonde on Saturday and very excited, it’s my first hair dying in about 5 years! The homeowner thing is scary too, 13th January we were given the keys to our first home, and a fat f- mortgage to go with it! But it’s wonderful, a blank sheet to fuse Mexican and British into our own style. A place to make a home and a future, and get married and bring up our children
    Get better soon, and get cracking on that cleaning!

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      I did go quite blonde in my 20’s, and I also had a house and a partner then, so I’ve kind of done it all… but it wasn’t really ME, if you get what I mean.

      Good luck with the new house πŸ™‚ …and if you find yourself at a loose end con ganas de limpiar… VEN!

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  18. Lynda

    HEY, that’s my game, and it is best played with a good fever going! Did you have a fever? OK, you’ve played it well, with or without the power of the fever, but I must say my little sis has you beat. πŸ˜‰

    Truly, glad that you are feeling better.

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  19. Anna

    Oh yes, the war of Shoulds is dangerous. I usually get into it when I am stressed rather than sick – which just adds to the stress. Glad you had cake to the rescue!

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      1. Anna

        That is absolutely true. At least when you’re busy – with whatever – it’s a good excuse for why all those Shouldas arent Dones.

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