Ignore the “shoulds”
In my library, I keep a shelf of new acquisitions and books in my queue to read. That shelf usually contains eight to twenty books. When I finish one book, I walk to the shelf and from it select my next book.
Knowing the end of my current book is on the horizon, I’ve been anticipating this moment for a day or two. I’ve felt thrilled to begin The Count of Monte Cristo, which a friend read recently and raved about, and which I haven’t read in about 25 years. My friend’s excitement fueled my own and I eagerly awaited digging into the travails and hardships and triumphs of Edmond Dantès.
I finished my current book, happy and satisfied. Another wonderful book. I basked in that glow for a moment. Then I walked over to my queue shelf. I shone a beaming look on The Count of Monte Cristo as my hand reached to pick it off the shelf.
Except, it didn’t happen that way. Instead, the “shoulds” came gushing out.
“You should re-read Deep Work.”
“You should know more about art. Finally read The Story of Art.”
“You’ve had Knight’s Cross, about Erwin Rommel, in your library since you were 15 years old. It’s time you read it. You should read that next!”
“You told yourself you would read War and Peace this year. You should get started!”
The “shoulds” wore me down, winning an internal battle of attrition. Instead of picking up The Count of Monte Cristo, I walked to another shelf and pulled down Deep Work. I trudged back to my overstuffed leather chair, resigned to the deep work of Deep Work. My eyes plowed ahead, page after page, my head nodding in glazed agreement at Cal Newport’s sagacity.
An hour later, I woke up. I laid aside Newport. I went back to my queue shelf and sprightly picked up the ole Count. Energetically I bounded back to my chair and spent two delightful hours enthralled by the woes of poor Dantès. A sly smile spread across my face, not only because of the coming of Dantès’s requital, but also at my ultimate and happy triumph over my “shoulds.” I have ahead of me many delightful evenings with the man soon to find rebirth as the Count.
Deep in the core of my soul, I knew what book to read next. My body knew, my hand knew, my fingers all knew as I initially reached down to pluck it off my shelf. But I wouldn’t heed all these clues. My nagging, worrying mind thought it knew better.
As I near the end of The Count of Monte Cristo, undoubtedly a book will start coming into my mind, calling me almost to read it next. Its voice will whisper, then utter, then shout, then whoop, and finally bellow at me. My soul, my heart, my intuition – call it what you will – I will know the next book to read. When I finish with the Count, I will walk over to the queue shelf and peer down. My body, hand and fingers will all home in, with particular precision, on that book.
This time, I won’t heed or even hear the “shoulds.”
I will simply pick up my next book and blissfully begin reading.
Image created by Midjourney.
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