Coulds, Shoulds, and Woods

April 5, 2013 at 8:12 pm (Uncategorized)

The Coulds:

My life could go in many different directions. My job situation for the near future is up in the air at the moment, and I am looking for some stability. I could work for 5 years before going into grad school, or I could head in as soon as the fall of 2014. I COULD do many things. I could fall in love, I could move across the country, I could find a job that I absolutely love. I could make a CD, I could make any of a million choices.

The coulds are the myriad options I have in front of me–the complexity and uncertainly of life.

The Shoulds:

If could is a possibility, should is a value judgement. It’s a way of making some sense of the confusion of life. The shoulds are actually what got me thinking about this topic as an idea for a blog post. I was sick a while back and I decided to go to choir rehearsal but not to sing. For me, that is a very difficult thing to try to do–I was raised in an environment where you push through difficulties. Sometimes, though, that isn’t appropriate–just because you could do things one way doesn’t always mean you should. That’s what makes should difficult–could is dreams, it’s endless possibility. Should is the decision you make (or don’t make), but either way it is immediately prior to the action, whatever it may be. So I decided not to sing even though I could (though at a poor level), because it was better to rest my voice and drink tea. I know people on both sides of the “should” spectrum–there are those who I feel sometimes need to take a break and not drive themselves to the bone, and then there are those who I feel should push themselves more.

Like very nearly everything in life, I think it comes down to balance. Balance, and the ability to be kind to yourself. A lot of the time you don’t realize the “should” until it’s clear in hindsight–and even then it’s not always clear, because your life is the result of the choices you’ve made already. I’m not always good at that, the being kind to myself. I have high expectations for me, and I often realize that I’m not doing myself any favors by not showing myself that inner kindness. Then, I get angry at myself for not being kind to me! How silly is that? Finding that inner love and peace is often harder for me than loving and being kind to others. I shouldn’t hold myself to a different standard (after all, I’m human too), but it can be hard not to. It’s something I’m working on.

Life comes down to decisions, and decisions come down to making judgement calls about what you should do in any given moment. I would advocate being nicer to yourself–life is complex, the coulds are many, and it’s not always clear which path is best. You can get lost. Where, you ask?

The Woods:

I really like the woods–as both a location and a concept. I don’t get out hiking and camping as much as I should, but living in the northwest we are blessed with an abundance of nature to lose ourselves in, to become “part and parcel” of, as Emerson might say. I also like the idea of the woods as a reflection of the calm and quiet of a peaceful mind. Just trees, logs, moss, nature. When your mind is quiet, it’s easier to reflect on the shoulds. Our minds are often noisy, raucous places (I know my mind is) so those moments of peace are nice. It’s the same way with life in general. My life can be the same–we feel like we have to “go” all the time. There was a good NY Times article making the rounds recently that speaks to a similar idea. Sometimes you have to turn off the brain and just be. Nature is good for that, because it simply is. It doesn’t have expectations, it doesn’t rush you. It has been there forever and will be there long after we’re gone–even as we try to destroy it. Much like our minds, our world is built on the calmness. You can get rid of most of it, or all of it, but in the end you just harm yourself, you die, and the calmness returns. Death is about as calm and quiet as you can get (though the woods teach us how to be quietly, wonderfully alive!).


If I were a better writer, or my thoughts were more organized I would tell you how this all fits together–I would wrap up everything in a concise way, and you would realize something you didn’t before. Unfortunately, life is confusing for me right now. Things are not clear. There are so many coulds, and as for the shoulds–well, I’m lost in the woods.


“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.” -Robert Frost


“In some mysterious way woods have never seemed to me to be static things. In physical terms, I move through them; yet in metaphysical ones, they seem to move through me.” –John Fowles


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: