I am not gifted in the “all things musical” area. I freely admit this. I can’t carry a tune, I can’t clap along, and singing “happy birthday” in groups makes me break out in hives.
But I don’t think that’s why I am forever singing the wrong words to songs. Everyone does that, right?
Sometimes, occasionally, you will learn the words of a song and sing them—maybe for years!—until one day you realize, nope, you’ve been hearing it wrong this whole time. (You’ve done that. You have. I am not the only one.)
It’s not even hard to do.
Your ears hear one thing and your brain makes it mean something entirely different. It happens in life, too, but the consequences are different. Less musical.
For example, any time I hear that I should really look into something, or read that one book, or consider this other life philosophy: I usually do! It sounds so official. “You should…”
I figure I probably should.
You should go see the new library.
You should look into this program for your kids.
You should consider this new exercise routine/meal planning service/record-keeping system/social network.
You should join that group/take that class/check out that website.
You should sign up for that event. You should come with me!
You should, you should, you should.
I’m never going to do all the shoulds because 1. The time-space continuum does not allow for that possibility; and 2. Most of them will not actually make my life better or happier or simpler or more fulfilling. But I will investigate every single one of them just in case.
I was talking with my friend Carrie about this the other day. It’s hard to learn all the things, she pointed out. It’s a big responsibility. It’s overwhelming, and honestly it kind of sucks.
(I may be paraphrasing.)
This, my friends, is true. Considering every life option that anyone else ever thought of makes my already-full head spin.
But when someone says to me: You should [do a Whole30, take up Zumba, listen to Harry Potter on audiobook], It sounds like an assignment. It sounds like something I might possibly be sad to miss out on if I don’t investigate. I should read up on that!
But if the investigating is making life harder, not better, something is off.
Here’s what I think the problem is. I think I’m hearing people all wrong. I’ve been listening to the song of “you should…” and thinking it was a list of things to do. That’s not really what the song says at all.
When I’m hearing “you should,” it really means “I love.” Or “I want to.” Or sometimes it means, “I’m being brave and trying this thing but I feel alone and I need support.”
You should read this book! = I love this book.
You should take that class! = I like the idea of that class.
You should take that leap! = I dig calculated risks.
You should come too! = I am nervous about going.
You should check out that new gym! = I want to try that new gym but I’m afraid or I’m stuck or I think I’m not the kind of person who checks out new gyms.
Yes, sometimes—coming from people who know you well and are always and forever for you—that “should” means something else, something like “Here’s a gift that will make your one and only life even more marvelous.”
But most of the time, when someone says “you should,” I’m convinced they are not trying to make me a to-do list. They’re giving me a message about their own feelings.
When they say “you should,” try to hear “share my joy.” If that doesn’t work, try hearing “please encourage me.”
“You should” isn’t about you, it’s about them.
That means I don’t have to do anything about the shoulds. (HOORAY!) If “you should” is about the other person, then me just being interested is enough.
I can say: I want to hear more about that! Tell me everything. I can listen. I can just listen.
See? I was hearing it wrong. I was singing along and it was an exhausting song. This one, this listening song, is better. I might even be able to keep that beat.