Oh, I Don’t Do That Anymore…

woman-thinkingI’ve been talking with friends quite a bit recently and it’s made me reflect on how I’ve changed in the past couple of decades. I have changed a lot since I graduated from college in 1990, for sure. Even more since having my third child in 1994. And two decades of marriage have brought many, many changes to my relationship with my husband.

free-yourself-feetIf I had to boil the bulk of these changes down, I would fall back on a phrase I picked up in therapy somewhere around 1995: Don’t “should” on yourself. It was a favorite catchphrase of the therapist I was seeing for some situational depression and anger issues. Turns out a lot of my “issues” at the time were caused by my unrealistic expectations for myself. Where did those come from? My head. When the therapist gave me permission to not “should” on myself, I slowly (verrry slowly) began to shift my expectations for everything: my job, my home life, my house, my car, my yard, my cooking, my parenting.

woman juggling_2These days, I do about 1/10th of the things I did 20 years ago in 1994. Yet, it takes all my time to do them. When I think of what I did then, I am amazed. In 1994, I had a newborn, a 1-1/2-yr-old and an 8-year-old. A full-time job as an engineer. A 2,750 sq ft house to clean, sitting on a 1.1-acre yard that needed a ton of yard work. I planted flowers, weeded flowerbeds, cleaned out old pine straw, pine cones and branches and put down fresh mulch. I painted ceramic Santas for the mantel, decorated for all the holidays, changed the decorative flags with each season. Kept everyone fed, clean and clothed (in clean clothes!). Went to parent-teacher conferences, arranged play dates and before- and after-school care, summer camps, ran my son to soccer and Boy Scouts. Did snack duty and den mom assistant duties in rotation. Then I did another 18 years of that times three (and 14 years as a Girl Scout leader). Of course, I didn’t do it alone. My husband was always quite a trooper and helpmeet. (((love)))

messy-house1So when the baby went to college two years ago, I found myself at a bit of a loss. I realized last winter that there were a whole lot of things my husband and I just DON’T DO anymore. Like cooking. We do it seldom and only if we’re “inspired.” We eat a lot of sandwiches and cereal. My house is dusty. Quite dusty. I readily admit that AT THIS MOMENT I have two gorgeous Christmas wreaths sitting on my dining room table because I haven’t made a trip to the office supply store to buy storage boxes. I just DON’T DO a lot of things these days.

vigilante-1The Rose Of Sharon hedge really needs to be cut down again to about half its height. The swimming pool is still firmly covered. The driveway has piles of pine crap on it that have mixed with silt and hardened to a concrete-like consistency. There are fallen tree limbs in our landscaped area that angry villagers could use in a threatening manner in a mob scene. Are my husband and I worried about any of it? Not really. We just don’t do that anymore. πŸ˜€

How about you? Have anything you’ve just “let go” over the years? Leave all your “shoulds” here with us today. We’ll make sure you don’t “should” on yourself. Plus, hello, Christmas wreaths on the dining room table! I promise, no one will judge you here.

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Comments

34 Comments

  • Patty L. says:

    I really need to take your therapist advise. LOL I just had a discussion with my husband about being so overwhelmed. I currently have my oldest ( a senior in high school) going to prom, prepping for graduation, getting announcements ready, planning a grad party, finishing paperwork for her leaving for college, remodeling our kitchen, taking care of my mother (unhealthy), coping with the death of my father, writing a book, trying to sell another and editing one that is already sold and add a son (9th grade) and a loving husband. Did I mention I also work a full time job and it is the graveyard shift. I am not complaining. I just can’t wait until I get to the should have days. I see an end in sight, just is very faint.

    Btw I have a wooden wall calendar that has not changed in two years. That is me should item. LMAO I feel better now that I confessed.

    • Caren Crane says:

      Patty, honey, this too shall pass. I know exactly the point you’ve described! As if your haystack is holding together, but any gust of wind might blow it in a thousand directions! It’s a terrible feeling. (((hugs)))

      Isn’t it crazy how much MORE your kids suddenly need you in high school? They don’t want to, but they don’t have the time or skills to do what needs doing. They need someone to keep ticking things off the (endless) list. You’re doing a great job!

      And believe me, that calendar will still be there, waiting to be reset, on the other side. πŸ™‚

      Meanwhile, you’ve added the Golden Rooster to your brood for today. He doesn’t require much, but he might leave yet another mess to be cleaned!

      Hang in there and remember, don’t should on yourself!

  • ki pha says:

    LOL That’s a very good advice you took from your therapist. I can’t think of one at the moment but I know I should clean out my closet and rid myself of clothes I just don’t wear anymore. I suppose it’s time for the spring cleaning to get going.

    • Caren Crane says:

      Ki, if you get around to cleaning out closets, I have several that need some attention. πŸ™‚

      Actually, I cleaned out a ton of stuff last year, but somehow it doesn’t look so clean anymore. And it’s not like I bought a bunch of clothes. either. I don’t know what happens in there when I’m not looking!

  • flchen1 says:

    Awesome, Caren! I’m glad that you’ve been able to arrive at a good balance for you and hubby! As for me, I just need to let go of more stuff (literally) and maybe resume a little more cleaning πŸ˜‰ We’ll see!

    • Caren Crane says:

      Fedora, I only recommend “cleaning” if there is an imminent threat to life, health or safety. For instance, my kitchen is always clean! Dirty dishes are taboo. Dust? Not so much. Dirty clothes get washed. Clean clothes? They may not get put up right away.

      I promise if you let a few things go, nothing terrible will happen. Cross my heart! πŸ™‚

  • Amy Conley says:

    OMG There are so many things I don’t do anymore; the dishes (since before child number 3 moved out), cook, vacuum (on a regular basis at least), last but not least…sleep in the same room as hubby.
    Now I can see everyone’s jaw dropping to read a woman willingly not sharing a bedroom with her husband? Is she crazy? Yes, I admit to the crazy part, but it isn’t why we don’t share a bedroom anymore. He works nights, and even though everyone here can see, I am a night owl, I still don’t get up early. So if I get up at noon it would wake him and then he wouldn’t get enough sleep and he’d be not so nice to be around, so seperate bedrooms it is. We’ve alwYs had problems sleeping in the same bed and he would tell everyone we needed bunk beds because I “wiggle” to much when I sleep and it keeps him awake, LOL.

    • Caren Crane says:

      Amy, congratulations! You’ve obviously figured out what works best for you. I wouldn’t worry what others might think of anythiing that makes your life easier. If you guys need separate rooms, why not have them? Everyone sleeps better and is happier. Good on ya! I think it’s very practical of you both. (I’m a big fan of pragmatism!)

      I was surprised when I pretty much stopped cooking. I enjoy cooking. I really do! But I shifted my schedule to start work a bit later because my husband is a night owl and likes to wake later and sleep later. If I still went to sleep at 9 pm and woke at 4:45 am, we would never see each other!

      As a result, though, I don’t get home from work until 6 – 6:30 pm, so I don’t want to start food prep then. I try to make large things on Sunday (ack, that’s today!) to last us through most of the week. It usually works out! Not sure about today, though. I seriously need to finish this book I’m writing!

  • Helen says:

    Carn

    Good on you I too did all of those things when my kids were young and I have learnt that I need more me time now and if the dusting doesn’t get done because I have a book I must read then so be it LOL I pay someone to do the yard these days and although we cook meals I don’t fuss over them like I used to. I do spend a lot of time with my grandchildredn and love it but this for me is also my time for funa dn laughter and of course they then go home LOL

    Well done there does come a time when we all need to slow down and enjoy life.

    Have Fun
    Helen

    • Caren Crane says:

      Helen, I keep collecting names and numbers of people who do yard work. My husband resists hiring someone to do it (not sure why, except I think testosterone interferes with rational thought!). I think it’s a brilliant thing, though. You come home and the grass is mown, like magic. Voila! πŸ™‚

      For years, we had a cleaning service. It was a challenge even keeping the house picked up enough for them to clean when the kids were little. These days, it would be easy-peasy. Have I hired anyone, though? No. I think I just don’t care anymore about things like sparkling windows.

      And I can’t wait to have grandchildren to spoil and send home. What a treat! πŸ˜€

  • Annie West says:

    Caren,

    Isn’t it nice to be able to admit you just don’t have the time to try being everything to everyone? Our house is comfortable but not show-home sparse and clean. I’ve given up feeling too guilty about it (some things die hared) but as they say, you don’t go to your grave wishing you’d done more housework. I think there are more important things in life. Thanks for this post. It really hit the spot!

    • Caren Crane says:

      Annie, isn’t it amazing what gets in our head as being “important”? I think the crazy-clean house thing came from my grandmother. My mother STILL wants her house to be all white-glove-test ready, all the time.

      She also has a huge yard that she tends. She is 73 and she just now hired someone to start helping with things like cleaning the gutters and taking a chainsaw to the privet hedge. I never want to have that much on my plate, thanks! Plus, who would have time to do all that AND read or write anything? None of us!

      I did get my mom a Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas. She is definitely reading more. Maybe soon she’ll leave some dust in place for a few minutes while she enjoys a good book! πŸ˜€

  • Mozette says:

    Over the last few years – around 5 years or so – I’ve left the ‘shoulds’ at the last bull paddock. However, it didn’t really hit me how much I have changed until I went to my 20 year High School Reunion, when people there wondered what happened to me – and thought I was dead!

    I mean… excuse me? Moi? Dead?

    And when the people I hung out with at high school began talking to me, they realised I had changed a lot more than they realised too… I had chilled out more and become a person they really did want to know about than the aloof kid at school who was difficult to know.

    However, it has been over the last year or two where I’ve become the ultimate hermit crab. I’ve kept to myself (or at the very least tried to), done my own thing, worked on my own private projects, ignored local gossip around the townhouse complex and stopped making friends where it’s not going to work out.
    I’ve let go of burdens that have kept me back too. There’s been friendships I’ve let go of and it’s been kind of painful, but yet it’s something that happens when we grow apart from friends. Otherwise, over the last year, I’ve found getting behind the wheel of car again has been one of the best things around… and my brother and his fiance has really noticed the difference in my personality too.

    Today, I took my new Little Green Machine to see them. Kat – my brother’s partner – said that my folks didn’t realise that I needed to get out more… I needed my independence.

    Also, with a new man in my life, things look different too… he and I both bounce off each other with our personalities. We know that stress can screw us up, but we make each other laugh, so it’s all good when we get together… it’s fun, laughs and giggles – and not easy to go to sleep. πŸ˜›

    • Caren Crane says:

      Mozette, congratulations on all your letting go! I knew you’d made some big life changes the past couple of years. It’s so great to see you happier than ever!

      Don’t you love driving? When life was incredibly crazy-busy, the car was my escape. Even if I was just driving to work, I could put on MY music and rock out for 30 minutes. It was like an oasis of sanity! These days, I often ride in silence, letting plot problems perk through my brain. I do love a road trip!

      Enjoy every moment of your visit with your brother and his partner AND the drive home. And definitely enjoy your new love interest. There’s nothing finer than getting to know someone new and wonderful! (((hugs)))

      • Mozette says:

        How true… I haven’t been with a man in 9 years… and he’s younger than me (and he’s the 3rd one who’s chased me who is younger too! So, it looks like I’ll be beating off the younger ones for life πŸ˜› ).

        Yeah… when I was driving before – before having to give it up for health reasons – I found my car was the place to be. I’d take off to another place across town; usually to Mt Cooth-tha Lookout where Brisbane City looked so itty-bitty and so far away… I could see the forest for the trees… and the place was so peaceful; especially during the week when nobody was around. πŸ™‚

        • Caren Crane says:

          Ha! Glad you finally resigned yourself to your fate and let one of those younger men snag your interest. πŸ˜€

          WIsh I could check out the Mt Cooth-tha Lookout. We have lots of beautiful places in this area, but few with scenic overlooks. Which is why I need to drive to the mountains again soon! I’m happy you are driving again and can hie yourself away.

  • Dianna aka Hrdwrkdmom says:

    A lot of things I let go of were actually good things. Stress relievers and creative outlets other than my reading are things of the past. I used to sew all my own clothes, embroider, cross stitch, crafts, crochet, all gone. Finances cut all that out, you can’t afford certain hobbies these days or at least I can’t. Where I used to make my own clothes for about half of what I paid for “store bought”, I can’t even afford the patterns, let alone the material and accessories.
    The children activities, extra curriculars, became don’t do anymores as they grew up.
    I don’t get excited over a little dust, cobwebs still make me nuts though.

    • Caren Crane says:

      Dianna, isn’t it strange how prices have changed over the years? We used to embroider everything in sight when I was a girl! Now, embroidery thread is much more expensive. And non-synthetic yarn is outrageous! I hope you’ll get to take at least one of those back up someday soon. It certainly is stress-relieving to vent your creative energy!

      And I’m with you on the cobwebs. They must go immediately upon sighting! πŸ˜€

  • Deb says:

    I am a procrastinating slacker, I admit it. I hate to clean house, and really, when I dust one day and two days later it looks as if I haven’t lifted a dust cloth, what’s the point? I have learned to say no, but still feel guilty when asked to do something. I learned that last fall when asked to work in the concession stand during a football game. 150 walking tacos and 4 1/2 hours later, my back was killing me and I could hardly, literally, walk the next day. When asked again, I firmly said no.

    There are a lot of “shouldas” we all have to let go of, I think. I shoulda been outside cleaning out flower beds, I shoulda gone for a walk on such a lovely day, I shoulda, shoulda, shoulda.

    As for Christmas wreaths, here’s a cute one for you, Caren. Our neighbor Kim didn’t get around to taking down their Christmas wreath near the front door, and when he went to take it down one day last week, there was a nest in it with 3 of the most beautiful blue eggs inside. He laughed about it, but said the ugly, brown wreath stays until the baby robins hatch are on their own.

    • Caren Crane says:

      Deb, I have long been a procrastinator, but have let go of beating myself up about it. πŸ™‚ I hear you on just saying NO to working the concession stand. That kind of thing was fine when I was 38, but at 48 it’s a whole lot harder!

      My husband worked in the yard all day yesterday (and tended the bonfire of yard debris late into the night). This morning, he is seriously sore all over. Age catches up to us all, I’m afraid.

      And I am SO OVER the endless dusting! It doesnt just come back, it brings friends. Cleaning the ducts helped a lot this winter, but it’s been a pollen-laden spring so it’s back with a vengeance. On a happy note, though, my irises have finally started to bloom. They are glorious! My favorites are the ones with the burgundy outer petals and yellow inner. They are especially beautiful this year.

      Too funny about the Christmas wreath with the robin’s nest! At least mine weren’t live wreaths (though at least I could have thrown those on the burn pile!). One of these days I’ll get to the lone office supply store with the wreath storage boxes. Someday!

      I’ve decided to let the girls clean their own bathroom when they get home, though. After all, I wasn’t the one who left it dirty! πŸ˜€

  • catslady says:

    I totally agree. I think age too has something to do with it. I couldn’t possibly do everything I use to do and I don’t care enough to want to lol. And although I’ve not gone to a therapist, I think everyone should go just like going to the dentist.

    • Caren Crane says:

      Amen, catslady! There is NO WAY I could do all that stuff I did in my 20s and 30s, as a young mother. I have a cousin who is my age and has a 7-year-old. I can’t imagine trying to keep up with him! Of course, I visited a baby upon a 40-yr-old heroine (Linda from KICK START!), but I had my cousin firmly in mind. NOT myself! πŸ™‚

      And I think therapy can be incredibly helpful. It certainly helped me get perspective on what I expected of myself as opposed to what I actually had time to do. The reason I ever had a cleaning service was because the therapist said if it would free me to spend time on more enjoyable things and we could afford it, it would be a good investment. Best money I ever spent!

      I would encourage anyone slogging through a morass of funk to find a non-judgmental pair of ears to listen to them. A good therapist can do anyone a world of good!

  • Why does it take us so long to learn this, Caren? I look back at the things I did to myself in college and grad school and when I was singing and after I got back to the States. At one point I was working THREE jobs, taking care of a house, cooking three times a day, doing volunteer work at the local zoo. It was insane.

    I even tried to keep it up when I first started writing again in 2007. I have finally realized I can pursue my writing career, work my day job because I have to, take care of my dogs and that is about it. I don’t cook anymore because it is just me. The foods I do prepare I try to do with a minimum of mess because I don’t want to have to devote an hour to kitchen clean up.

    I think our generation was raised on a stack of SHOULDS and it is hard to break away from that. I still catch myself saying ” I need to do that.” Old habits die hard.

    • Caren Crane says:

      Louisa, I have NO IDEA why it takes so long! It’s like we have to hit the big Wall Of Burnout to realize we don’t have to do everything.

      Then again, we were sort of sold that bill of goods. You can be a mom and have a career and keep house and do crafts and volunteer and…and…and… I’m glad I was given permission to just let go of some things. Happy to do it, too! After my 14 years being a Girl Scout leader (and troop advisor and all those other Area positions I held), people asked me if I was going to miss it. I just smiled.

      I miss THE GIRLS and the fun we had, but I don’t miss anything else, really. I still teach my adult Sunday school class every few weeks and we do some mission work and things, but that’s about all the bandwidth I have. And the world has not ended! πŸ˜€

  • Becke says:

    Caren,
    I can commiserate on your position. Like you, I had a phrase that stuck when I needed it most: “Will anything die if I don’t perform the task?”

    Yea, it seems dramatic, but I had over 300 hundred head of cattle, ten horses, 4 dogs, 2 children and a husband that commuted to the ranch only on weekends to help.

    I had always “done it all.” That lesson was the most important one I learned as a rancher and as a person.

    Even has an old ER nurse, I knew how to triage–I just didn’t use it for myself.

    So congratulations on the dust. Trust me, no one will die if it gets a little deeper on the table.
    b

    • Caren Crane says:

      Becke, I love it! Don’t think most things are quite that mission-critical. Nothing and no one has died from my neglect…yet. I don’t imagine it will, either!

      Today at church they were selling a book of poetry by one of our members, Lee Vierson. Lee was a great guy who had struggled with his faith and with depression. He died very suddenly a couple of years ago and his friends and family posthumously put together a book of his poems to sell, with the proceeds going to the Southeast Raleigh ministry he worked to create.

      It reminded me that every day and all the things in it are worth our time and attention. We can’t do that if we’re busy ticking things off a list, huh?

  • Shannon says:

    I have eased up on myself a lot–fewer shoulds, a lot more of do the next right thing-s. A friend of mine reminds me often that I am enough, I have enough, and I do enough.

    • Caren Crane says:

      Shannon, I love that mantra! It’s very true. You are enough, you have enough, you do enough. So true of each of us, each doing our own thing. I’ll take that happy thought and tuck it next to my others. πŸ˜€

  • Caren, what great advice. I have great problems eradicating ‘should’ from my vocabulary. I’m a Virgo, what can I say? Apart from ‘should’, that is! It’s a killer. I’ve started saying “Be kind to yourself” when I start getting into that mood where I feel I just can’t do everything I’ve told myself I ‘should’ do. That works too – mostly! There’s a lotta years of self-training behind torturing myself, yanno!

    • Caren Crane says:

      Poor Anna! I know just what you mean. I am really good at being hard on myself. A++ all the way!

      I’m glad you’ve learned you need prompting to remember to be kind to yourself. Who’s better than you? Nobody! Who deserves a break more than you! Nobody! You work very hard and deserve to be treated like a queen. A queen, I say!

      It’s all chocolate-smothered hot cross buns and footmen with trays of creamed tea and teacakes today! I hope you’ve managed to relax this weekend so your week can get off to a great start!

      • Caren, I wished you lived next door. Not QUITE as much as I wished the footmen with trays of chocolate eclairs lived next door, but I suspect you’d be better for my figure.

        • Caren Crane says:

          I would definitely get you out to shake your money-maker to some disco tunes! Must work up a routine for our Waterloo number, you know! πŸ˜€

          Maybe when we’re older there will be a Banditas Retirement Village we can move into. Perhaps in Vienna…

  • Joan Kayse says:

    Boy I’m tired now.

    The one “should” I gave up was…getting up early on my days off πŸ˜€ I actually didn’t roll out till 10:30 am today! And yes, I’m SHOCKED that it’s already 8 pm! I should take a bath but…I’m gonna revise instead.

  • Caren Crane says:

    Good on ya, Joanie! I got up WAY too early this morning (5:50 am), for no good reason at all. I was afraid if I went back to sleep, I would oversleep and I had to lead the Sunday school lesson today! I’m glad you got some sleep, girlfriend. You needed it after nursing Grayson and human patients, too! πŸ™‚