Monday, July 29, 2013


I’ve always considered myself a fairly lazy person. When I’m busy I yearn for the time to just sit around and do whatever I want. Turns out I’m not so good at it.

Take right now. Husband is at work. Teenager 1 is at work. Teenager 2 is on vacation with a friend’s family. I’ve had the whole day to myself and I have spent it wondering what I should do.

Most days there’s a list of things I have to do. So I put myself on an incentive program. I make myself do the things I have to do, and then I feel justified in doing the things I want to do. So it was today. I paid bills, took the dog for a walk, sent pertinent emails to pertinent people, put workout clothes on thinking it would make me more inclined to workout (it didn’t). All those things done, I prepared to take myself to a movie.

Incoming text: “Mom can you drop of my compression shorts?”

This task would be in the opposite direction of the movie. Realign plans. No movie today. Drop off shorts, return books to Barnes & Noble, go to Petsmart.

Outgoing text: “I’ll be there at 2:30.”

Incoming text: “Actually I’m fine.”

Oh. Okay. Now the window of opportunity for the movie is closed.

What to do now? I could tackle the list of things I should do. Filing. Prepping hallway walls to paint. Purging teenagers’ rooms of crap. Writing that Star Wars/Improv book. But should doesn’t have a deadline, and I’m not in a should mood. Problem is I can’t do most of what I want to.

I want to jump in the car and go to the shore for a couple of days, but I have a meeting tonight.

I want to drive up and see my best friend in Vermont, but husband would secretly resent that, though he’d be outwardly supportive.

I want to go to the outlets and buy useless things at discounted prices, but I just paid bills today and reality forbids such an excursion.

I want to sit at an outdoor café in a carefree manner with friends and laugh and eat cake, but my friends are at work or in Vermont.

So instead I do nothing as I linger in a limbo of the magnetic fields of Have-to, Should and Want.  I feel I must cede control to Have-to and Should in order to deserve Want.  And so I fill my life with Have-to and Should, because, lets face it, those are the things that make us feel relevant. If I have to do it, I must be necessary. If I want to do it, I must be self-serving. And we can’t have that, despite what the airline guidelines are for affixing oxygen masks. I know the trick is to convince myself that the Have-tos and Shoulds are actually Wants, but lets face it, mopping the kitchen floor and reorganizing the medicine chest are never going to hold the same allure as sitting in a beach chair with my feet in the water while reading the latest Maisie Dobbs mystery.

So I keep my tally sheet of Have-tos and Shoulds until I’ve checked off enough boxes for a free Want. My life has become a Starbucks frequent customer card.  Balance, balance, balance-it adds depth, meaning, and focus to life. It’s what I’ve always done. It’s what I know I should do.

So I bet you can’t guess what I want to do now…

(P.S.: Ironically, now that I've written this I feel I've earned a reward)


  1. Boy, do I identify with this, Mary!

  2. So glad. Finally got out to that movie. Way Way Back-highly recommend.