Why saying "I've got to" is essentially a lie.
I've got pretty gumboots. You wanted to know that, right?
City-people-turned-country-dwellers in our little tree-change town think my spotty gumboots are cute. Rustic, even. Dyed-in-the-wool long term rural residents scoff at them. "They're city gumboots," said one woman, as I proudly paraded them through town. But I don't care. I love my gumboots very, very much. (Not these ones, by the way: this is just an internet picture meant to give you the idea. Mine are black with white spots.)
Unfortunately, though, my spotty gumboots have holes in them. It's true. They were not expensive and thus, apparently, are not good quality. What I am learning is that, like so many things, you Get What You Pay For when it comes to rubber footwear.
The cracks appeared early. "I should patch them," I thought and actually looked into how I could do it. (FYI, 'looking into something' when it comes to fixing things basically means asking my dad how it could be done.) Then I went through the 'ignore the problem' phase, pretending the cracks were not there, nor were they elongating into largish holes which were getting bigger and bigger. (Fact: they were.)
Finally, today, I looked down at my feet as I sat in our sunny garden and thought, That's it. I'm going to have to get some new ones.
Immediately, I heard that rewind noise in my head. You know the one? In amusing movies, when the main character does or says something we all know they are going to regret, the frame freezes and the whole sequence spins backwards with a gurgling noise in the background. Rewind.
I replayed my words to myself. "Going To Have To".
Am I being forced to replace my cracked gumboots? Is someone standing at my head with a gun yelling for me to buy new gumboots or die? Have the gumboots themselves decreed that their usefulness is over, that their owner has No Choice but to replace them?
We tell ourselves lies, you know. I tell myself lies with simple words I use every day.
"I've got to..."
"I can't help it..."
"There's no choice but to..."
FACT: There is no compulsion on me to replace my spotty gumboots. The decision is not being forced upon me. There is no outside influence over what I wear every day. There is no Ministry of Footwear State of Repair legislating on when boots must be replaced.
I choose what goes on my feet. Not someone else. Not forces beyond my control. Me.
So why do I speak as though I have no power in the decision? As though the heavens are aligning against me? As though something else apart from my own choice is compelling me?
I think it's because, often, I don't want to own my own decisions. I don't want to say, hey, I want new boots and I'm going to spend money to get them. I'd rather have it happen to me so that i can't feel like I'm being extravagant or frivolous. Saying "I have to" is a way of being able to feel sorry for myself and play the victim. And it doesn't just happen with gumboots.
"Oh, sniff sniff. His bad behaviour made me so angry that I just had to yell and scream and stomp my feet."
"Waah. I have to cook dinner again tonight."
"Poor me. My lack of sleep is making me so grumpy that I can't help being snippy with everyone."
A week or so ago I was challenged to be thankful for three things every day on Facebook for five straight days. Reluctantly, I began, and it changed my entire week. "I'll keep going," I thought, but when Monday morning rolled around and I got out of bed angry that there were more school lunches to make, more breakfasts to cook, more washing to deal with, I wasn't really in the mood.
You could still do it, said a little voice in my head.
"But I'm grumpy," said the loud, cranky voice. "I don't choose to."
And that was when I realised (again... why do these things not stick?) that grumpiness is a choice, just as much as thankfulness is, and both of them can't exist together. On Monday morning I chose thankfulness and, again, it turned the day around.
But this post is not about thankfulness vs grumpiness, any more than it is about cracks in spotty gumboots. It's about the words we use, how we take responsibility for our own actions and how quickly we are willing to give our choices away to people and circumstances and things we create so that we won't have to be honest about what we want
This week I'm going to be truthful in the words I use about my actions. If I'm grumpy, I'll acknowledge that I'm choosing to be grumpy at that moment. If I choose to be kind, I'll say it. If I feel angry, I'll recognise the triggers behind it and be accurate about the reasons I'm choosing whatever reaction I show.
And I'll be truthful about the things I don't choose.
Like, maybe, I won't want to get cold at 7.30 in the morning when it's freezing outside and I'll prefer to stay in instead of go for a run. And I'll openly admit to not wanting to do the work to get a beautiful garden. And I'll choose to not do the washing so that instead I can write a new chapter of my book.
You know what else? I'm going to choose to go and buy a new pair of gumboots. Here are the reasons why. I don't like wearing boots with holes. I, quite honestly, don't want to go to the effort of mending them. And it will be fun to get new ones. Maybe even more lairy and city-ish than black with white polka dots.
Will you join me in being truthful about making choices this week? (Yes or no are both equally honest answers at this point, by the way.) When you're done, tell me what you've observed.