Sunday, July 31, 2011

I Have Rules!

I was pretty young, maybe 3 or 4 years old, when I started to understand that life has "rules" to live by. There were rules at home. Clean your plate. Close your eyes, bow your head, and clasp your hands when you pray. Pick up your toys. Don't hit your brothers or sister. Definitely don't put your little brother in your doll highchair and force feed him blue play dough!

I'm not really sure why, but I began making up my own rules to live by. I started by dumping all of my crayons out of the box and then rearranging them according to the colors of the rainbow. Black, white, grey, and brown went in last. And each crayon had to be turned so that the black oval and the word Crayola faced the front of the box. Once I wore out the tips on the crayons, I threw out the whole box and got more. I refused to use the sharpener on the back of the box. I refused to share my crayons because I didn't want anyone messing up my order. I also began arranging my M&Ms before eating them. I carefully examined the "M"s on the front to identify the most perfect ones. I then sorted them into color groups and ranked the groups according to my "M&M Perfection Plan". It would take me about an hour to get ready to eat a small bag of M&Ms. Over the years, I continued adding to my rules. Now, at the age of 41, I know that most, if not all, of my rules do not make sense. And yet, I won't let go of them. My five year old nephew knows my rules. His younger brother will start to do something or touch something of mine and his brother will stop him, pointing out that that is just one of "Aunt Kris's rules". He doesn't know why I have the rules. He knows that others don't have those rules. But bless his heart, he honors my rules.

Lately, when I hear him talking about my "rules", I feel sad. It is a reminder that I do things differently and that I do not deal with change well. I've been reflecting on the impact my rules have on my life. I cannot even begin  to estimate the number of hours I've spent alphabetizing, rearranging, ordering, lining things up...No matter how I do this, I struggle with being able to walk away, worrying that there might be a better way of organizing things than what I had settled on. So, I ruminate and obsess and try to think of a more perfect way to categorize my possessions. It is never ending and time consuming. It is tiresome. It is not what I want to spend the majority of my days doing.

Some of these issues can be attributed to some strong OCD tendencies. Recent life events, taken place over the past two to three years, have opened my eyes to new possibilities and new ways of looking at things. I am beginning to be able to identify what it is that is really important to me and what is holding me back. So, I have slowly been chipping away at some of my rules. My colored pencils and oil pastels are just put in their boxes in no particular order. Some are even broken. And I'm OK. The world has not fallen apart. I can now eat a meal in a restaurant, even if the food is not arranged in the "right" way on the plate. I'm beginning to loosen up on having everything I own alphabetized and categorized. I can even eat a package of M&Ms without grouping them!

I am finally accepting that for many things, there are many ways to go about getting the same results. I am reminded of 10th grade geometry. It was one of my favorite subjects. I spent a lot of time on homework, which consisted mostly of "proofs". Even there, there is more than one way to reach the end, proving the theorem. Sure, there is always the "right" way, the most direct, logical way of getting to the answer. But you can also get there following an alternate pathway. Even if your route is more circuitous, you still arrive at the endpoint. I don't know why that came to me the other day. But it served as a reminder to be open to being much more flexible. The more flexible I can be, the more open I am to all of the possibilities life has to offer. There are some rules that should be followed, that are the right thing to do (i.e. should not kill another). But life can be so much more enjoyable when I just go with the flow and let what's going to happen, happen. The real challenge is in learning how to adapt to the situations as they come to me. Life is definitely more interesting and less rigid that way. And I have so much more free time to enjoy what I am doing each day. I'm going to continue working on "letting go" of the rules that are holding me back and aiming for flexibility in my day to day pursuits. I still have to follow society's rules, but I'm pretty sure that I won't be hauled off to jail if I stop arranging my M&Ms.

1 comment:

  1. When the world looks like a scary, randomly chaotic place, our "rules" give us the illusion of having some power to tame or order parts of it, even if it's just the MnM's. But if we can open up to the possibilities of the world and experience it as exciting and amazing...and that randomness can bring us things we never even knew we wanted, good things, then I think we don't need the rules so much.
    Thank you for making me think about this. :)