Sore Should/ers

They sit heavily

Sharp bones protruding

Digging into my shoulders where they alight and come to rest

One after the other, weighing me down

The things I shouldn’t have said

Shouldn’t have done

Shouldn’ts are heavy and sharp for sure

But there are things that trouble me even more

Keeping me awake, eyes to the ceiling

I watch them arrive until down they dive



burrowing into my chest

Levering my squeezed heart aside

Nestling into those hollow places with sighs

that have me turning over and facing the wall of my own creation

They are the shoulds I should have done

And they dig at me yet



There is still time

To take this weight from my chest

And start doing all the shoulds, before they become regrets

Slowly I begin to weed them

out of my chest

write them down

a blank box beside their name

which this year I will tick, tick, tick away

*Each and every box. Tick.

We really have no concept of how long our life is. How can we, when helicopters collide, and storm blown trees land on cars with people inside and young French tourists go for an evening swim in seemingly calm water, fall into a rip and are pulled out to sea and drown. How do we prepare for the unseen hand that sweeps us off the chess board mid move? (By the way, all of these things which I just described happened on the coast where we were holidaying. In a few short weeks, so many tragic deaths, a serious edge to our summer tans.

How do we pray that things won’t happen, when we have no idea of how to list every single possible calamity that might occur?

It is easy to become stuck between should do and should have done. It is a space that could be described as a rock and hard place. It’s a negative space, looking back in regret, forward with anxiety and all around to ensure that nothing is coming before we place a foot on the road (only to realise we forgot to look up) oh no!

The pandemic carried a hidden curse that seems to have affected so many of us – trepidation. A general feeling of uneasiness.

I know personally, it stopped me blithely travelling off by myself into the unknown as I usually do. I didn’t name it as such. Just said, as many of us do, “I’m too busy”. But looking back – I think it was more that the world felt about as certain as molasses.

It still does.

But I have this sheet of paper in my journal from last year covered with should’s. And I don’t feel like adding to it anymore or ever again. It feels like the saddest sort of writing I’ve ever done.

It isn’t a roadmap for moving forward is it? They say life is a journey, which at the very least implies movement of some kind. I’m ready to head out and see what is around the next bend. Harbours are safe and all that, but sailing ships aren’t built for harbours, as the saying goes.

A metaphor my family seems to have taken literally; they have booked me on a cruise to the South Pacific in March, with a group of writers for a series of mentoring sessions and workshops. It was a lovely yet inexplicable surprise present. I have never been on (or even considered taking) a cruise before. What does a non drinking, contemplative soloist do on a ship jamb packed with people intent on partying?

Well they attend writing workshops all day and go ashore at intermittent times throughout the voyage to have adventures in interesting foreign countries it seems. I’m excited and curious, which beats being anxious about vague shadows and possible wars and planetary melt downs. There is a lot I could overthink to be sure. But it makes my head hurt trying to get around all the possibilities of mayhem that could occur. There are millions and that is just the ones that I have thought of . Yes I’ve considered that the ship could get nuked by Russia or some other bully flexing their muscle – it was sadly not very far down my list of doomsday thoughts. My husband then suggested when I brought that up, that perhaps the rest of the world may implode and only the people on the ship survive – like some weird Noahs ark (I instantly felt like that would be a great story and my brain began constructing chapter one)

Yesterday evening after a very busy day, as I read my book and my husband his iPad, he announced “Icehouse is playing in Brisbane – we should go”

There was that word…


Anyway I thought it a brilliant idea and quietly booked tickets. And the hotel. And then told him.

He was surprised, but pleased.

No more shoulds.

If we want to do. Do. If we want to go. Go. If we want to be. Be.

“There is no try, either do or don’t” I believe that could be Yoda? And he would say something similar about shoulds.

Also – have you noticed we wear our shoulds on our shoulders, or at least it feels like that sometimes. Shoulder actually has the word should contained within it. Something I found intriguing when I began thinking about shoulds.

That’s the thought for the day, thanks for reading.

At least I won’t have to think “I should have written a blog post” ๐Ÿ™‚

Done. Tick. See you tomorrow, have a great day,

Header photo courtesy Inge Poelman Unsplash

18 thoughts on “Sore Should/ers

  1. How amazing that you’re going on a cruise to the South Pacific in March with a group of writers! Enjoy! You’ve got me wondering when was the last time I used the word ‘should.’

    • It will be amazing Rosaliene, and is never something I would have considered and therefore seen the opportunity for myself. I am also taking my niece along as she is a traveller too and is happy to keep herself busy with other things during the day when I will be in workshops. I think she is taking a water colour painting class and maybe a pasta making course – both things I wish I could split into two and join her in doing. Cruising is a fascinating realm I have never actually explored so it will be interesting to see how it goes. I hope you find a should that you have been putting aside and go and try it ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Loved this, Kate. You’re so right – Covid has made us all so much more wary than we used to be. There are so many “shoulds” on my list, too but rarely do I get to tick them off as complete. I love that you’ve changed your mindset to be one of “If I want to, I’ll do it”. I hope you and your husband have the best time at the concert. Sending you lots of love xx

  3. Beautifully expressed. The โ€œshouldsโ€ that I have been ever stuck in have suddenly tumbled into my mind like skeletons out of a cupboard. Time to let them out โ€ฆ..and move forwardโ€ฆ.

  4. This is a wonderful post, Kate, and it’s so thought-provoking. I’ve got a whole load of shoulds or shouldn’ts going back years now. I’ve never thought of them in the way that you have talked about. What a great attitude. I’m so happy that you’re going on a cruise and that you’ll be able to concentrate on your writing workshops, too. I’m sure the views from the ship will be amazing. I love the idea of changing my list of shoulds (these are all in my head at the moment) and just getting on and doing them. To tick them off as I go will be very satisfying. I’ve been telling my daughter for ages now that we ‘should’ get together to give each other the opportunity to talk about things that may otherwise be left unsaid. I say this because I never got to say goodbye to my Mum properly, and I now have so many unanswered questions. I’ve kept saying I should have talked to her earlier. It’s too late for Mum and me, but not too late for my daughter and me. I’m going to phone her this afternoon to see if she has some free time when we can DO this. Thank you for this valuable prompt. I hope you have a great time in Brisbane. I keep saying I want to go to Southend-on-Sea again but keep putting it off, so next summer, I WILL do it! Much love to you, Kate. Xx ๐Ÿ’–

    • A lovely long thoughtful response Ellie, Iโ€™m so glad this resonated with you. There are so many things I wish I had asked Mum, now I wonโ€™t have the opportunity either – you are right to make it a priority with your daughter. Turning shoulds into dos and dones is very satisfying – I wish you all the best with your list ๐Ÿ˜Šโค๏ธ

  5. You’re on the money ~ it’s my understanding that, at death, there is indeed a much greater tendency to regret those things we didn’t do than those things we did.

      • Again, right on the money ~ that’s how inertia and entropy are overcome! I’d use the words
        “motivator” and “motivates,” though, and leave “worries” to be the ruts they are ๐Ÿ˜Œ๐Ÿ’•

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