From almost the moment we all unwillingly stepped into the unknowns that the COVID-19 pandemic brought into our lives, I have been struggling with the word “should”. Have you ever considered how powerful that word is? It carries the unbearable weight of shame, as in “Should you really eat that?”. It throws judgement around like confetti, as in “Shouldn’t she know better?”. It’s capable of stifling creativity and big ideas, as in “Are you sure you should do that?”.
I shared with my husband, Eric, that I was (am) struggling with, “What should I be doing?”. What should I be doing to care for my family? What should I be doing to help my neighbor? What should I be doing to for the families of First Pres? And the list goes on and on. Eric thought for a minute and then said something that broke my struggle wide open. He said, “When I get stuck on something at work, for example, I’ll stop asking myself, “What should I do?” and instead ask myself, “What can I do?’”.
That one little word changes everything. In this reframing, the judgement is gone. The shame is gone. The pressure to produce is gone. And what stands in its place is possibility. Positivity. Growth. The permission to dream.
I’m now free to ask myself, “What can I do to care for my family?”. I can offer my presence, I can offer my humor, I can bake delicious treats. “What can I do to help my neighbor?” I can call him, I can bring over a plate of those delicious treats. “What can I do for the families of First Pres?” I can connect through email or over the phone. I can host a Zoom meeting with Sunday school groups. I can think creatively about connecting over the summer until we can meet again. And the list goes on and on.
I don’t have any answers to any of the huge challenges we’re facing. I have just as many “head in the sand” days as I have days that I feel somewhat productive. But I’ve been actively working on asking myself the “can” questions instead of the “should” questions. “Can” allows me to see the possibilities rather than the barriers. “Can” invites me to open myself up to new ideas instead of feeling stuck. “Can” brings me the hope I need to finish today and look forward to tomorrow.
I can and I hope you can