– Contributed by Wee C
I’ve always said that I could run for politics because I’d be one of the few people I know who has only a handful of skeletons in their closet. And, truth be told, the few skeletons I have aren’t so much skeletons as dolls that got put away after I got too old. I don’t have a particularly storied past filled with missteps and wrong doings. Sure, I have a few (that I could count on one hand, for Pete’s sake), but nothing remarkable. There’s one simple reason for this: I’m a rule follower. I respect the rules, I follow the rules, I seriously embrace the rules. Which may or may not make me a tragically drab person. I, however, believe I make up for it in other ways. Someone, anyone back me up here??
But I’ve realized something incredibly important in the past week. I don’t follow my own rules. I follow everyone else’s. And I do it because I want them to be happy with me. Over the moon happy with me. I followed my parents’ rules, I followed the church’s rules, I followed my husband’s rules, I followed all of my boss’ rules over the years, I’ve followed friends’ rules, heck, I’ve even followed the rules of people I don’t much like or care about. All in the name of securing the approval of others. Is she that desperate, you ask? In fact, I may very well be. But I think it’s something different. For me it’s always been more about doing what’s right. I’ve always felt that respecting other people’s rules was more important than respecting my own because putting others first was right and “that’s what makes you a good person, isn’t it?”. And truthfully, that’s all I really want in life…to be considered a kind, respectful, good person.
Now, this may seem all very altruistic, but over a chat with Big L, we explored this approach to life and found a massive flaw. In following everyone else’s rules, I expect that they will too. Heck, if I can give them that courtesy, surely they will return the favour? But most people don’t pay as much attention to the rules as I do…even if they’re making them. So often people don’t even follow their own rules. The problem is when I’m following their rules, but they’re not, or they change the rules (as routinely happens), the disappointment I feel is overwhelming. It causes me an inordinate amount of stress. It makes me really angry and hurt. I followed all your rules, damn it, why are you changing them? Why aren’t you following them? What did I do wrong? Did I screw up again? It’s not their faults, they’re human. But it sure is disappointing and disillusioning. It causes me to question humanity and, truthfully, it breaks my heart.
In the midst of this realization, this week someone incredibly close to me broke every, single one of their own rules. Rules that I had believed to be true for as long as I had known them. Rules that I deeply admired and loved them for. Rules that I believed with a certainty beyond reason. Rules that allowed me to trust them implicitly (and in fact caused me to vehemently defend them to other people). Rules that I had followed and embraced as my own. Rules that I thought could never and would never be broken.
But they were. They were broken in the most catastrophic and devastating way imaginable. I can honestly say that Friday was the worst day of my life. And the aftershock continues to pulse through my body, finding its way into the nooks and crannies and dark crevices of my life.
As you’ve no doubt come to realize about me, I’m not much for letting an opportunity to learn pass me by. So, true to form, this experience taught me a pretty important life lesson: live your life by your own rules, Wee C. I’ve talked about this through my 30 Things journey, and I’ve genuinely tried to embrace this notion, but have never done so successfully…at least not fully and completely. But now, well I’m operating in a new world order these days. One that’s unfamiliar in every way possible. Everything else is changing, and it’s time to embrace this ideal.
So, I started by following my own rules. For the past couple of days I’ve done what I believe is the right thing to do. It may not be what others agree with, but I’m OK with that. Acting this way felt big and bold and scary. But it also made me feel more comfortable in my own skin than I have in a long time, if only for a moment.
I have an uphill internal battle ahead of me, which, despite being surrounded by incredible friends and family, it’s a battle that I need to go through alone. Supported, loved and being cheered on from the sidelines, but ultimately, alone. That means the only rules I can take with me are my own. And to that I say: onward and upward.