“Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child, listen to the DON’TS
Listen to the SHOULDN’TS, the IMPOSSIBLES, the WON’TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES, then listen close to me-
Anything can happen, child, ANYTHING can be.”
–Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends
Start most Shel Silverstein poems and somehow I can finish them. It’s strange, I agree, but for some reason, those poems have stuck with me for over thirty years. I remember listening as my parents read them and then getting to read them to my siblings when I got a bit older. Today, I buy them as brand new baby gifts to start libraries for a new generation. So many of the words are ingrained in my subconscious, but I don’t think I realized how tangible they were to adult life until, well, until I was in adult life! The Giving Tree is still one of my all time favourite books and I would say that my childhood can be summed up amidst Shel Silverstein and Doctor Seuss with a sprinkling of Judy Blume in those most difficult ‘tween’ years. But for some this weekend, today, ‘The Mustn’ts’ popped into my head.
Shel Silverstein created rhyming magic for millions of children and I imagine we’re all pretty lucky to have had someone like that in our lives. But how many of us remember his lessons and embrace them regularly? It’s hard to disregard the mustn’ts more and more as some of their spokespeople grow louder. Long-term travel has changed my view of life and has helped to try to stifle the mustn’ts, but it’s not an easy thing to do. The other day I asked my husband where he wanted to be in the next few years in life and I was struck by what he said. He said, ‘Up until ten years ago I didn’t know that I could want something other than a traditional career and a house in the suburbs, and now I have all this choice’. Amazing how loud the mustn’ts and the shouldn’ts speak, if we allow ourselves to listen. And how even more spectacular is it when we finally learn to ignore them.
Since all people are different, the paths we follow in life can’t possibly be the same. Regardless of the path on which we begin there seems to be all of these winding roads and hidden lane ways available. Even the authors of the ‘choose your own adventure’ books from our youth couldn’t account for the last page without stumbling, faltering and leaping along the way. Right, wrong or otherwise, it’s your path to choose. I know now that whether I change direction, stay the course, or bump my way around, in the end, Mr. Silverstein is right. Trying hard to ignore them, I’ll try to remember the lessons from the end of ‘The Mustn’ts’ far more than its beginning.
“Anything can happen, child, ANYTHING can be.’
– Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends