Monday, October 25, 2010

Following the Rules

"How long was I going to wait to keep score by my own rules?"

I have always been a rule follower: Color inside the lines. Get good grades. Be a "good girl." But to my seven year old son I am a rogue, a roust-about, a rule-breaker.

My crime? I parked - for all of two minutes - in a no parking zone while dropping off a video recently. 

Our local video store is in a dense area of the neighborhood where parking is scarce. They do, however, have a parking lot, which is the only thing that makes actually returning a video in person palatable. 

The parking lot is often full, however, so on one recent occasion I found it necessary to park in one of the adjacent spots reserved for a local real estate company. 

You would have thought I decided to rob a bank.

My son was screaming and yelling, "No, mom! Don't park here. You'll get a ticket. No, mom. It says 'No parking for the video store.' NO-O-O-O-O!!!"

"It'll be fine," I toss at him before jumping out of the maxi-van and running into the video store (I'm more worried about leaving my 7 and 8 year old alone in the car for two minutes than I am about getting a parking ticket). 

I return shortly to find that the kids are all right and I have not received a ticket. Whew!

But he doesn't let it go.

"Mom, why did you park here? It says, 'No Video Store Parking', Mom, You could have gotten a ticket, Mom." For some reason repeating my name over and over seems to make him feel better.

So I try and explain "risk analysis" to my younger son. The chance that someone from the real estate company will come and want to use that spot is pretty slim if I am going to be parking there for only two minutes at 5:45 pm. If we had arrived at 8:30 am, however, and were planning to stay for twenty or thirty minutes, I would have made a different choice. 

The look on his face tells me he doesn't get it at all.

And at age 7 that's probably a good thing. Seven is still well into the period of your life when you think everything is black and white and you are relieved that it is. 

Forty-one, however, is a whole different ball game. At least it is for me. After forty-some years of playing by the rules I find myself wanting to "go rogue" in all sorts of ways. I feel hemmed in by the practices and policies of my youth and upbringing: Be nice. Play by the rules. Don't do anything I wouldn't do.

Why the hell not?

Life is too short to live by someone else's rules. Now is the time to discover what you think, what you believe, what you know to be true. And to live by that. 

That is not to say that certain basic laws don't apply: "Do no harm" seems a good one. "Thou Shall not Steal" still works for me. But what about "Thou Shall not Kill?" As it applies to people it is a no-brainer, but what about animals? How do I feel about this one in the greater context? 

I eat meat, but I don't kill it. Does that make it all right? What about bugs? Spiders I carefully and gently lift onto a sheet of paper before pushing them gently out the door; mosquitoes I slap swiftly, smearing their blood across my arms.

The answer is, of course, that there is no ONE answer. Everyone gets to decide for themselves the rules they live by. 

Here are the ones I am trying out right now: Speak your truth in the moment. Listen to others. Be kind. 

Not nice, but kind. There's a big difference. Niceness implies a sugary sweetness born of untruth; Kindness a gentle honesty that leaves the integrity of both individuals intact.

What about you? What rules are you living by?


  1. 1. Keep the Mama happy
    2. Make yes the default answer to requests by my kids . . . then present the consequences.
    3. Chase the joy.

  2. Prefer Spirit over matter; Beauty to utility; living by Creativity, Golden Rules, Integrity and Religion of Loving-Kindness...
    Advice: Always go for the heart!