Have you ever had an experience with someone who seems to know you better than you know yourself? That’s how I feel when I encounter my neighbor Eli Louise who constantly seems to fold herself into my stratosphere like a bur on your ankle socks that you can’t loosen no matter how hard you pull at it. She has no idea about me or my life, but within seconds after running into her yesterday, she was setting forth directives that she deemed were tailored to my needs.
A.YOU should retire. B. YOU should sell your house. C. YOU should move into a condo.
I work hard not to take Eli Louise personally. She “shoulds” all over everyone she meets.
Before I offered a reply to her momentous pronouncements, I felt the solid ground beneath my feet. I looked her in the eyes. To summarize what I said, it basically amounted to something like people who feel out of control internally often try to regain a sense of control by controlling the people and situations around them.
After I said this, she immediately shifted the conversation to lamenting about the people she had met the previous weekend. Fortunately, I managed to escape the situation and her tornado of toxicity.
Surprisingly, gratitude managed to penetrate my ruffled state. I realized that despite her attempts to sound superior, I knew that I was the one who was truly fortunate. She may have thought she was the one reaping the benefits of wealth and retirement, but I had a different perspective. I intrinsically knew that true peace of the mind could not be bought or obtained through the material world. True peace is an inner state of being that must be cultivated from within.
How? By making a conscious choice and decision on a daily basis to stay close to our true selves, away from the chaos of everyday life. It also helps to stay clear of those who “should” all over us. They are not helpers. They distract us from what truly matters by flooding us with their own insecurities.
And so, there I was after my brief encounter, feeling pressured to feel “I should” live up to certain standards of success and happiness. In my fury, I planned to write a seething blog post about Eli Louise and describe the indignation of being judged by a self-righteous person, and how it felt infuriating and demoralizing. I also wanted to explore why judgmental people are only a reflection of themselves and how to deal with them.
But then I asked myself, “WHY? WHY invest the time and energy to focus on negative forces?”
I mean, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the Eli Louises in the world. However, with a little faith, we can shift our perspective and fill our lives with meaning instead of siphoning our spirits with the “shoulds.”
Besides writing a blog post focused solely on my negative emotions regarding Eli Louise, I decided how I could incorporate my feelings and use them as an opportunity for personal growth. However, I procrastinated and put off writing by going on FB, which I rarely do and, lo and behold, I found the following image that perfectly encapsulated the next steps for me to take.
The rest of the day I spent in a scavenger hunt style, combing through the trash and panning for gold – the things that truly matter in my life, such as writing this blog post as I wore my Bombas socks that my childhood friend, Anna, had sent me as a “Just Because” gift this past winter. Sipping a freshly brewed cup of steaming coffee that was so pure, I easily imagined the smooth beans cooling my palms as I held the cup in my hands.
I was further rewarded to get to bask in the sun’s rays in my home office and feel the sturdy winds from the open window that moved around me – forces at work in the world that reminded me how they were beyond my control. The realization made me appreciate the beauty of nature, and its power to bring a sense of solitude and peace to my life – even without the luxury of retirement.