Stepping in a Huge Pile of ‘Should’

Good Sunday Morning.  I should probably be in Church right now absolving my sins, but I have to clean and stuff.

See what I did there?

You probably missed the keyword in the second sentence unless you were looking/listening for it.  This is already starting to feel like a grammar lesson…

*Grabs pointing device and slaps chalkboard with it*

The word I’m talking about is should.

Or, if you’d like me to make it sound a little more intense, I can add a broken German accent to it:

*Grabs pointing device and slaps chalkboard with it while speaking in a broken German accent*

Ah!  Zis vurd vright he-are!  Dus is eine vurd, “Shood”

"Zees right he-are is eine very important lesson too"

“Zees right he-are is eine very important lesson too”

It’s such a shitty word – a shouldy word – and whether it’s spoken with a broken accent, or fluent English, it’s a bad word.  It’s worse than fuck, shit, bastard, moist, or snow, and that’s because it has guilt smeared all over it like cream cheese on a bagel.

When you break it down, it seems like should  implies that you’re not doing something that you’re supposed to be doing, or that you’re doing something that doesn’t meet another person’s standards, or that if you don’t do something, you’ll miss out on something great.

It’s like a really subtle form of controlling somebody via the guilt trip, or a take-away of personal power.  It’s one of those trigger words that PISSES me off whenever I hear it, and yet, I’m aware that I also use it too. Break it down, and it’s like being conditionally accepting of somebody else’s current state of nirvana.

I have a folder full of preachy-sounding articles sitting on my desktop right now, and none of them will ever see the light of day because I’m not qualified to be handing out ‘life advice’.  I have my own pile of dirty dishes to attend to.  But I thought this might be an interesting conversational piece, and I’m curious if it has the same effect on you.

How big is the should pile in your life?

Talk to me.


  1. Brother Jon

    I think you’re more qualified then you think. Everybody has problems. It’s those problems that help make us qualified to help others. I’ve agreed with most of the “preachy-sounding” stuff you put on here. I can help people overcome certain things because of my life life experiences, and I think you can do the same.

    As for the word Should, I’ve never thought of it that way. That’s very insightful. I should go now, see you later.

    • Chowderhead

      Well, I appreciate that and I agree. It’s a weird thing though about feeling qualified – I keep doing this walk away, come back thing with the writing. It’s hard to be a smart ass one day, and then interject the ‘preachy sounding’ stuff the next. Like being a hypocrite.

      We should sit down for a beer chat sometime. I’m sure it would be a good convo.

      • Brother Jon

        No problem man. I wasn’t offended one bit. I didn’t respond because I used to drink, and because of that I end up washing my hair three times every time I take a shower…because I forget. I knew what you meant. I think it’s a great idea. I’m pretty sure you and I could solve about 75% of the worlds problems with cases of Coors Light and A&W.

      • Chowderhead

        Hey hey, now there you go! I’ll take Coors thank you, and half of your A&W Rootbeer. I’m really sorry though, seriously. I had a total brain fart moment. But anyways, I agree. We have to find another person to pick up the remaining 25%. My vote goes to Suze Orman, because I’m tired of her blah blah’ing.

  2. E.

    When it comes to life-advice, I tend to spout out a great deal more of it than I probably ought to, because sometimes an outside opinion works wonders. Which is also why I’m fairly receptive to advice (or I try to be). Like now, for instance. “Should” has never really shown up on my trigger-radar, so it’s interesting to see it from a different view point.

    I don’t know where I’m going with this.

    “Should” doesn’t bother me so much as “can’t” or “not” — I grew up hearing way more “You can’t do this” than “You should do that”, so it doesn’t bother me terribly. Because I’m curious (and kind of nosy), what brought this up? (If you don’t mind sharing.)

    • Chowderhead

      This is such an interesting comment, and thanks for chiming in. I want to ask a question before I comment on why I brought this up. It will probably be a ramble.

      Here’s the question: Why are you curious about why I brought it up?

      That’s a serious question.

      • E.

        I’m curious because it seems to me like there was something recent involving the word “should” and it triggered your sense of guilt, which made you angry, which caused you to vent a little bit by writing this post.

        I could be entirely off the mark, but that’s my guess.

      • Chowderhead

        Ha! Good guess! NO. Well, kinda.

        I say it to myself a lot. I’m sure a lot of people do it, buts it’s just kind of a conditioning thing. I was out last night with some people that I’m pretty close, and I just realized when I woke up this morning that they never once have tried to pry, or change my course. I think that’s cool. I don’t ever have to justify, or explain, or pull out some supportive documents, or argue about anything – they just accept that. And that, to me, it’s unconditional support, unconditional love. Something that nobody has enough of.

        Did I answer your question? I hope I did. Get back at me if you’d like.

  3. NotAPunkRocker

    Think about what one “should” be doing in their lives at my age and situation…then do the opposite. That is my life pretty much, except I am law-abiding and all.

    In other words, I have no idea what I am am doing half the time, and it backfires for sure sometimes. I just know that the “should” pile is high and deep. Maybe things would be different if I did some of those things in that pile, but the amount of time and energy needed to get that point is daunting.

    • Chowderhead

      Haha, yeah I know what you mean, Sheena Sheena Bo Beena. I don’t buy that bit about you being a law-abiding citizen though. I had you pinned as a heister – smash and grabbing diamonds and stuff. Dodging security lasers, and the like.

      As far as part two goes, explain. I have about a half hour to play cheap psychologist if you’re up for it.

      • NotAPunkRocker

        I think it may take a little longer than that, but thank you Chowdah dear. Same things I deal with everyday. It’s life. :-\

  4. First Night Design

    I’m of an age at which I have managed to eliminate a whole pile of ‘shoulds’ and boy, is it freeing. And the sky hasn’t fallen in. Far from it! If you break down each ‘should’, you often find it’s related to what other people think you should do. Not healthy.

    • Chowderhead

      That’s exactly my point. It goes both ways too. I have to find this article I read a couple weeks ago, and I wish I would have book marked it, but it had to do with keeping people who don’t have your best interest at arms length, basically. The gist was pretty potent though, and it talked about only letting certain people in on your life plans, otherwise you risk sabotage. It’s true too, and I just kinda recently am starting to notice how often it’s happened with me, both ways. It’s kind of fucked up. Thanks for your comment.

  5. galeriaredelius

    I grew up in Sweden and there we have a kind of joke to blame Martin Luther (and his protestant reformation) for this feeling of guilt that seems to be so deeply rooted in all of us. He promoted hard work, hard labour, as if that is what makes you “good”. That is the core of all the “shoulds”, and it’s a source of a constant, nagging bad conscience, no matter how much we do… I really enjoyed reading your post, because it touches on all this. As I see some other people mention: the “shoulds” are in our own heads, it’s up to ourselves to decide what we “should” do, even if that is just staring at the ceiling, because there are moments when that is exactly what we “should” do.

    • Chowderhead

      Awesome comment, thank you. The shoulds are in our heads. I agree with that. You ever hear the expression, “human being” vs. “human doing”? It makes me crazy sometimes because shoulds take you out of the moment, and then you’re either living in the past or the future, not the present. An interesting tidbit.

  6. JackieP

    To me ‘should’ is another word for ‘regret’. I should have done this or that, I regret not doing this or that. I don’t use the word should very much. I actually had to sit here a few minutes and think about it. I want to live a life of few regrets and I think I am. So should is not a word I have used and it won’t be a word I use in the future. Really thoughtful stuff here Adam. I like having to think a bit…even on a Sunday.

    • Chowderhead

      That’s an awesome point and I agree. That’s the shoulda, woulda, coulda syndrome you’re talking about. Your brain is like a muscle – whatever you use it for, that’s what it gets better at – good or bad.

      I think we should just all smoke a doobie together and eat Oreos…

  7. Vanessa-Jane Chapman

    Everyone is pretty much winging their way through life without much clue what they’re doing, and I think the word ‘should’ is often a sort of public acknowledgment that we realise this is what we are doing.

    • Chowderhead

      Haha! That’s probably true. I think it’s always a case of vicariously living through somebody else like, “I can’t do it, so you do it for me.” Either way, it’s fucking annoying.

  8. stephrogers

    I start a brand new regime every Monday morning. I set my alarm Sunday night. I know I SHOULD get up at 5am and exercise. Then I should eat some sort of specially yuppified almond meal shake thing with wheat grass. Then I should cleanse out my toxins. Instead I go “fuck this shit” hit snooze about 50 thousand times until the alarm starts cracking it at me “are you shitting me?! Why set me for 5am if you’re going to snooze every 15 mins til 7am? Douche?!”. Then I wake up, eat some sort of highly inappropriate children’s breakfast cereal, and sit on my butt at my desk all day and work. This only ever bothers me on a Monday. Every other day that should thing is a non-event. Although I really SHOULD have used better punctuation in this sentence. But it’s Monday morning and I’m too busy eating chocolate flavoured cereal.

    • Chowderhead

      I’m incredibly sorry that it’s Monday there, Stephanie. That seriously sucks ass. No really, that like, really really sucks ass! Ok. Sorry to rub it in.

      I’m pretty sure we have the same exact routine, only I’m not usually sitting at a desk. And I prefer Cheerios. And I work out a few times a week…

      Ok, the snooze part is the same haha.

  9. ddupre315

    You’re getting all deep n stuff. My mother plays the should game, she points a lot of fingers and lays down a lot of judgements. I try very hard not to “should” anything.

    • Chowderhead

      I do that from time to time. I should write a book on the informal study of human psychology…

      …wait a second.

      *light bulb*

      What are you supposed to be doing? Serious question.

      • ddupre315

        Well, the first “shoulda” that comes to mind is I learned last year that I’m a disappointment because I didn’t get married earlier and have children…I shoulda done that apparently, to give my life meaning or at least to make them deem me worthy or some such.

      • Chowderhead

        Talk about a guilt trip…

        Sorry that you gotta deal with that load. I wouldn’t carry it around, because it doesn’t really serve you, does it? That’s freedom right there – letting go of what somebody else thinks is right for you. Fuck that shit.

        Say it out loud: Fuck. That. Shit.

        It feels good.

      • ddupre315

        Yeh I don’t wear it on my arm or anything but now and then it creeps in and just pisses me off. 1. The judgement and 2. That they actually told me. But most days I Fuck.That.Shit. 😉

  10. samara

    Write the preachy sounding articles. At least one. Not being qualified to hand out “life advice” certainly hasn’t stopped any other bloggers. I’m actually about to post on that. And remember, the sink’s dishes are the sink’s problem. (It made sense when I thought of it).

    Thankfully, I don’t have a lot of ‘shoulds’ because I took the “fuck you” pill at 40. Unfortunately, I have too many “should have”s, but those are even MORE of a waste of thought than ‘should’s.’

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Mr. Happy. Pass the box of Oreos so I can strap it to my face like a feed bag to block out the sound of regret…

    • Chowderhead

      Hey, thanks a lot for the cool ass feedback. I actually felt a little spark inside of me just now. When are you gonna post this?

      And pass the doobie first, before I pass the Oreos. Also, please pass the fuck you pill. I ate them all already. I need a new script. Wait, is that legal? To share fuck you pills?

      • samara

        I’m trying to write it now. So, maybe tomorrow? I’m a slow-ass writer. It might even be Tuesday.

        I have a zillion refills on my script, so I’ll definitely share some fuck you pills. They’re meant to be shared liberally amongst friends, like Vicodin, Wait, what?

        Is zillion a number? Also, I’m getting a little red line thingey under the word “amongst” but I’m positive it’s right. That red line is a whore.

      • Chowderhead

        Haha! YOU’RE A WHORE, RED LINE. Let me double check for you: amongst. Yup. It doesn’t appear to be a word.

        Drop me a link to that post. My curiosity is piqued right now. And type faster, less weeds.

  11. The Moon is a Naked Banana

    ‘Should’ can actually be a very useful word when used appropriately. Murmuring, ‘Oh, I really should be at the gym’ to your housemates when watching TV on a Saturday morning delivers a message quite beyond ‘I’m lazy.’

    It says, ‘I have numerable virtues – 1. I am self aware. I am aware I should be at the gym instead or rotting my brain on Saturday morning cartoons. 2. I have a gym membership. I am actually spending my precious paycheck on something to improve my future instead of wasting it all on beer. 3. I am humble – I am admitting all this to you, instead of trying to hide it.
    Bring on should!

    • Chowderhead

      Ok, haha. Normally I write Satirical stuff, so I can only assume that the sarcasm is our common thread. But for even me sometimes, there’s a blurred line that happens and then I can’t tell up from down. Are you being facetious?

  12. Deanna Herrmann

    I also think you’re more qualified than you think and I for one would like to read said articles. 🙂 I also loved this post. I’ve never really thought about it before, but so true! Should is a dirty little word! (Oh and nice German accent- ha!)

    • Chowderhead

      Thanks Deanna. I might break one outta the bank eventually. I’d rather fuck off and stuff here, but once in awhile I like to ‘get down to business’. I think I was just over caffeinated this morning though. I was gonna mention this post to you, because after I put the little German accent thing in there, I thought of you. My German accent is shoddy at best, eh?


      • Deanna Herrmann

        Fucking off or not, you can still have some ‘down to business’ posts. And “I was gonna” falls in line with “shoulda” right? 😉
        Aww, The Chowderhead thought of me.
        Hmmmm nicht sehr gut I think. 😉

      • Chowderhead

        Nicht sehr gute, ya vol! Or something. Like that.

        Hey-o! You caught me there. See…I say that shit all the time. It’s like mouth diarrhea. I can’t stop leaking it. I need to wrap a gauze around my face made of diaper material.

  13. lillianccc

    I think I’ve actually made peace with “should” and rather than letting it guilt-trip me, most days I just end up compromising. (I SHOULD be studying but this hour of window shopping online will put me in a better mood to study later.) As long as the result works out, that’s all that should matter, right? (See what I did there?)

    • Chowderhead

      I like your usage of should here.

      I’m learning so quickly to let go of that word, and it seriously feels awesome. Do it. Or, don’t do it. If you didn’t do it, you weren’t supposed to. If you did it, it’s done. There’s no should. And as far as advising anybody else about what they should do, or what somebody else thinks you should do? Fuck em. That’s noise that deserves earmuffs or a piece of tape over the mouth. You first.


  14. calahan

    Some should’s are important and necessary, while others are voiced by childhood authoritarians who pop up in your brain to tell you what you’re doing wrong. I’m sure there’s a way for both to happily co-exist, but short of electro shock therapy, I don’t know what it is.

    • Chowderhead

      You’re alive! God man, if I had your phone number I’d be checking up on you every so often…

      You bring up a great point: the old voices. That’s where the guilt comes from, and that’s exactly how it perpetuates. You cannot blame anybody. Own it. That’s yours. If you wanna listen, then listen and don’t bitch. If you wanna be free, ditch it. Let that shit go. Try it. That’s Buddha stuff right there.

  15. Katie

    I think I’ve mostly accepted that my shoulds are always going to be bigger than my cans. (And my unintentional jokes will always turn out better than the ones I actually think about.)

    • Chowderhead

      I misunderstood this and then I think I didn’t misunderstand it. Cans as in “I can do this” and boobs, right? I may be out of line, but I think I’m standing in line. Did I cross a line?

  16. Christopher S. Malone

    Fuck “should.” It shows procrastination and lack of dedication. I’ve been reading Pressfield’s The Art of War, and trying to be better motivated about aspects I love and want to improve on.

  17. jennsmidlifecrisis

    I am SO glad you included “snow” in your list of ‘naughty words’! 🙂
    My “should” pile is so high, that I won’t get to it all until I’m 204.9 years old…so there’s hope…

  18. Pingback: Turn That Down, It’s Allowed in Here! | Brother Jon's Page
  19. Pixie Girl

    Ugh, you hit a nerve there buddy. I struggle with this word a lot and it’s perfect when I’m in the mood for some self-shaming.
    Take it from a Catholic – this word just never leaves your mind!

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