Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda

Before Malinche’s Daughter, my unspoken, deep-seated belief about my work went something like this: As long as I don’t finish this essay/poem/short story/book, it will always have the potential to be perfect.

I love potential. In my twenties and early thirties, potential helped me fall in love with inappropriate men. It kept me in more than one difficult living situation. Potential trapped tens of thousands of words in my laptop, in three-ring binders, in manila folders I’d pull out in the hope of finding an undiscovered gem every time I had an upcoming reading or submission.

In my busy schedule, days with no appointments, travel, or family commitments hold great potential. Since my abrupt transition to Casa Rael following the fire that destroyed my apartment in 2009, I have craved those days. If only I could have a week of free days with no appointments, no interruptions, no obligations, then I could finish my book and do yoga and write lesson plans for El Otro Lado and send out a link to my TEDx talk and mail those long-overdue wedding thank you cards. If only…

But those days don’t come, or if they do, they bring with them potential’s BFF, perfection, and their step-cousin, guilt. The day begins with I could go running or clear out my Gmail or revise that short story about the chubby waiter in Veracruz, and as the day passes, and I don’t run or write, and instead try to lose myself in cleaning or Sudoko, could (beautiful, perfect could) vanishes, and in its place stands a formidable should.

A wise and gentle therapist once advised me to be careful with the shoulds. That was a rough time, full of shoulds and should nots: I should not take things so personally. I should not be so hard on myself. I should suck it up and deal. I should go to church. I should be my own best friend/partner/sister/ cheerleader. If I were my therapist now, I’d tell me to watch out for those coulds too.

Could and should paralyze me. One is seductive, the other brutal. Ultimately both suck the joy out of my life. Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Over the next forty days and nights, I am phasing out could and should to make room for something stronger, simpler, and life-giving: be and do.

Published in: on February 13, 2013 at 4:25 pm  Comments (8)  

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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Beautiful, Michelle, and so meaningful to me right now. You ARE wonderful, and you DO amazing work. There ya go. Being and doing. Thank you!

    • Thank you, Erin, for your words and your work. May we be first, then do.

  2. Life for a tree that takes deep roots to flourish… You have a gift of Love. I praise God for you

  3. Michelle, I always enjoy your thoughts and writing. They seem to always come in at the “perfect” time…bendiciones y abrazos para ti y tu linda mamacita!

    • Gracias, Cecilia. I’m glad these offerings come to you at the right time. Abrazos a ti.

  4. Are you in my head or what?! Gracias, amiga…for your courage!

    • Gracias a ti, amigo. Here’s to clearing out our heads!

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