The funny thing about humans is that we are always "should-ing" all over ourselves. We "should" have the house and the kids and the fenced-in yard. We "should" go to college, get a degree, start a career, get married, have children, all in that order. We "should" go to church on Sundays and pray every night and judge each other's sins to keep each other in line. We "should" go to the gym every day and work out, we "should" eat healthy, and we "should" cut out all sugar, gluten, and presesrvatives. We "should" want to do something great. We "should" want to climb that corporate ladder, write that novel, run that marathon, volunteer, be involved.
And if we don't do what we "should" there is always someone around to make us feel bad about it.
Why do we let other people influence us into what we think we should want when it's not really what we want?
I've recently discovered that I "should" be doing or want to be doing a lot of things. I also discovered that when I sit and think about it, it's ultimately not for me.
I don't want to be the director of a library which is the next logical step given my position. When I applied for new library jobs in Colorado as a means to move up in my field, I realized, after several interviews that it's not what I really want. That didn't stop my cat-dumping frenemy from making me feel bad about the fact that I'm not as into libraries and my job as she is. She bragged about all her accomplishments and achievements in her job since she got her Master's degree, and it almost made me feel like I didn't have a Master's degree and she was berating me for my lack of interest. I do have my Master's degree, I was very proud when I earned that degree, and nobody fussed, made a big deal, or threw me a party.
I like my job and I do my job well. I just don't put a lot of effort into advancing in my "career," and I hate committees and conferences where people in the same field sit around and discuss how they can improve things within said field and then never accomlish any of it. I find it a waste of time I could be using to actually DO my job.
The one exception is writer's conferences. I love those.
One "should-er" in particular stood out to me a few years ago. She's a gluten free blogger who went on a rampage about using xanthan gum and eating "bread" at all, even gluten free bread. It was totally unnecessary, she ranted. There is absolutely no reason to have either of these extremely unhealthy items in our diets - EVER. I spent a day feeling bad about eating gluten free bread and using xanthan gum in my baking before I decided I was never reading that judgmental bitch's blog again.
I shouldn't have three cats. And I definitely shouldn't have five. I've been made to feel bad over that as well, in the sense of "You have too many cats, and you might as well be a crazy cat lady if you keep this up!"
I like cats. This shouldn't be a problem. But it is.
I should want to go to church every Sunday, volunteer, help and work within the church, tithe, and become a good Christian citizen. I've recently discovered that while I do identify with Christianity and I follow Christ to the best of my ability, I am not a "good Christian." I don't go to church, I don't pray nearly as often as I should, and I don't follow "the Christian path." As I got older, I noticed that within the church I used to go to people started treating me differently because I was still single and childless. There is something wrong with you if you don't get married, pop out a few kids, and live the Christian dream of being 100% involved in your church. To say nothing of the fact that I fraternize with homosexuals, I'm pro-choice, I've engaged in premarital sex, and I follow animal medicine. I've had Christian friends berate me for the medicine cards in the past. I felt so bad about it that I put them away for a few years, terrified that I would end up in hell if I kept using them.
You know what I discovered about animal medicine cards? They aren't that different from using the Bible and daily devotionals to guide your thoughts and actions throughout the day. They are just another avenue of doing so. God created the animals, after all. It's not such a stretch that He might use them to help guide us through life. Of course there are those people who will make you feel bad about believing in anything by calling you intellectually stunted, but that's another story.
As I said, there is always someone around to make you feel bad about the choices they don't agree with. You're either a moron for believing anything other than science, or you're going to hell for not believing enough.
One thing that really stood out to me this summer is the kind of man I'm ultimately attracted to. I'm not talking about the jerks and losers I've picked up, or my bad taste in men. I think we all run a streak with that. What I'm talking about runs deeper. From my Match and Zoosk escapades I met and dated lots of eligible men, most of whom I didn't date more than twice - not because they were jerks and losers, just because they didn't fit. I narrowed my field down to two men and for awhile I could not decide which one I liked better. They were both nice men, not jerks or losers. They were both sweet, treated me like a lady, took me out on dates, didn't push the sex issue, set up fun dates, and were enjoyable to be with. It's been awhile since I dated someone truly nice who was interested in being with me and interested in me (and not 23). Suddenly I had two of them. I'm not used to nice men. I'm definitely not used to two nice men.
They were polar opposites. Mr. White Knight was sweet, sexy, safe, hardworking, and a good old ranch boy. He could dance and cook, he was gentlemanly, came from a good family and was very family-oriented, and he was kind. Given the jackasses I've dated, kind is no small thing. I was ready for kind. Given all of his admirable qualities, Mr. White Knight is what I should want. And I did want him.
Things were going swimmingly there when I went on a date with another guy, and the moment we met at the restaurant I knew he was going to be trouble. I remember thinking as I watched him walk up to the restaurant, "Oh, this is unfortunate. This is going to complicate things." It's easier to make a choice when you've got one guy you like above the rest and he's pulling ahead of the pack. It's a lot harder when you find yourself liking two guys equally for different reasons and you can't pick out which one you want to have a relationship with.
The other guy was what one of my good friends likes to call "Our kind of people." Basically he's a weirdo. He's a self-proclaimed weirdo. The only thing these two guys have in common is that they are kind and gentlemanly. The weirdo, however, gets me. He's from California. He likes his rum, has been married before, has the most interesting characters as friends, no relationship with his family, and all kinds of issues generated from his past experiences, to say nothing of his interest in the vampire culture and Marilyn Manson (my friend of the "our kind of people" shares his love for metal and Dungeons and Dragons). He's into nerdy stuff like Star Wars and Comicon and shares my love for all things Disney (he has this thing for Maleficent and Disney villains). He's zany and goofy and crazy and fun. It turns out as much as I tried to fight against it, I had to admit finally, that yes, he is my kind of people, he gets me, and we just fit. Mr. White Knight reminds me of the golden boys from high school. You know those guys, the ones that were handsome and good at everything and nice to everyone. California Guy is the kind of guy I hung out with in college, and in college I gravitated towards the weird, the strange, and the dark (my best guy friend comes to mind - amazing guy but with the most twisted sense of humor). As a matter of fact he has traits of three of my good guy friends so much that he reminds me of them at different times. We gel on several levels. There's chemistry and biology. In the beginning he scared me because of his intensity as he is definitely not safe and steady. He and I are like fire and gasoline, but underneath it all he has a heart of gold. I don't have a bad thing to say about Mr. White Knight, but in the end we just didn't quite fit, and even without California Guy in the picture I realized I would have eventually come to that conclusion anyway. I found myself never quite being able to relax around him because I wasn't quite acting like myself. I think I was trying to be the kind of girl I thought he deserved because he's such a great guy, and I don't always feel like I deserve that. It wasn't anything he did. He was always perfectly lovely. I felt my own inadequacies because ultimately we aren't a match.
As my best friend in Texas pointed out once, there is no escaping the truth that no matter how much I try to live life normally, I seem to attract the strange and the dysfunctional, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. We might think we should be with sweet, steady, safe, and sexy, but the reality is that might not be who we are at our core. There are some people who are that. I am not that. I am not a perfect little wife, two point three kids, a dog, a cat, a fenced in yard and Sunday dinners with a large family. I can't be that no matter how hard I try, and people have always tried to make me be that. It started being a problem when I tried to make myself be that. I kept shoulding on myself. I should want a safe relationship. I should want a linear career and to take the next step. I should want children. I should want a bigger house. I should get rid of my stuffed animals and stop acting like a child.
I sleep with a giant stuffed Dumbo that California Guy gave me because I told him I always wanted a stuffed Dumbo. I'm 38 years old and I sleep with a stuffed animal. I also sleep with two cats, but that's a different story.
Should a 38-year-old woman sleep with a giant stuffed elephant and two cats in a four level town house decorated with shitty chic second hand furniture?
Probably not, but I'm beginning to get to the point of "Who cares?" I'm not safe and steady. I want passion and excitement. I'm not a steady, linear career, I want to try my hand at writing and crash and burn a few times if necessary (of course this terrifies me). Maybe open a chocolate shop or a dog training business. I'm not the perfect wife with two point three kids. I don't want kids at all, I don't think, and I want to be able to make that decision without people telling me, "Of course you want children and you'd better hurry up! You're not getting any younger!" I want to sleep with my stuffed Dumbo and eat ice cream at midnight. I want to bring home kittens or a German shepherd puppy if the mood hits me. Sometimes I just don't feel like exercising, or eating a salad instead of chips and salsa. I've eaten chocolate cake for breakfast. And I guess a woman my age shouldn't wear short white shorts anymore, but I love my short white shorts. And I want someone who will go along with all these shenanigans just as enthusiastically and maybe suggest a few of his own.
Leave it to me to go for the weirdo.
But he's a pretty great weirdo.