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Rules Are Made To…

December 9, 2012

I’ve noticed lately that I have a pattern.  I get really into something – a hobby, a lifestyle, a morning routine, and it lasts for a while, but then I move on.  I’ve been like this for my whole life, and this is a pattern that I’ve always criticized myself for.  I always thought that I was being lazy, non-committal, weak.  I thought that it was a sign of having poor discipline, of being unreliable, or simply incapable of sticking to anything.  In fact, the only routine that I’ve  ever stuck to, is the one in which I start something, put it away for a while, and then beat myself up about it.  Any routine that includes admonishing myself – well, that I can do!

So I’ve been thinking about this.  Why do I get so annoyed and disappointed with myself?  Why do I seem to think that any new thing I try has to be “my thing” for the rest of my life?  Is the problem that I don’t like commitment, or is the problem that I want something to stick forever and then I get upset at myself when I lose interest?

Well, I think that the answer is in understanding the essence of life in general.  The thing that makes life beautiful is that it’s a journey, right?  We’re supposed to move forwards and backwards, side to side, up and down.  That’s freedom.  That’s growth.  So doing something for a while, then stopping?  Well, that’s just another path on the journey.

Many of you know that I was really into running for a while.  Once again I thought “Ok.  THIS is going to be my thing!”  I ran 3-5 times a week, entered races, did special training, and really enjoyed it.  Well, I haven’t gone for a run in a few weeks, and BOY have I been criticizing myself for it!  I’ve told myself that I’m lazy, that I’m giving up, that I’ve completely ruined any forward momentum that I had in my running and that I’ve thrown away months of training.  I even convinced myself that I was going to lose the respect of people around me if they found out that I had stopped…. hmmmm… talk like that is certainly going to make it very difficult to start up again if I ever want to, wont it?  Why did I stop?  Honestly, because I just haven’t felt like running.  No bigger reason than that – I haven’t felt like it.

And you know what? I think it’s absolutely ok.  Running was something that I did for a while.  It’s something that I”m probably going to do again… but it’s not something that’s been making my soul sing lately, so it was time to put it aside for a while.  It’s nothing bigger than that.  It doesn’t mean that I’m any better or worse of a person than when I was running.  It doesn’t mean that I”m all of a sudden a weak, lazy, unreliable person.  It just means that there are other ways I prefer to spend my time right now… what’s wrong with that?

Some people thrive on routine – and I do as well, to some extent.  But I also know that when I FORCE myself to do something every single day, or even every – other day, I stop enjoying it.  It becomes an obligation, a burden. I feel chained to the schedule that I’ve made and the requirements that I’ve imposed upon myself, and then I feel as though I’ve lost my freedom (even though I’m the one who made the rules to begin with!)  I love taking my 20 minutes in the morning of quiet, meditation time, and have tried to make it a daily practice.  When I miss a day I feel guilty, and I have convinced myself that I wont reap the full benefits of meditation if I don’t do it every day.  How silly is that?  Sure, it would be great to meditate every morning, but am I really going to suffer if I miss a day?  Ok, I might be a little less centered that day, but am I going to miss the enlightenment train completely because of it?  These are the mental chains that I”ve created for myself, and it’s time to break out of them (I wonder if meditation can help with that… heh heh heh…).  Some days it feels better to watch the news or read my email for 20 minutes than it does to meditate… and that’s ok too.

Now, of course, there is something to be said for creating habits and having discipline.  I have a great deal of respect for people that can do something every day, or stick to a schedule for months or years at a time without fail.  That takes great strength and will, and I think it’s incredibly admirable… it’s just not me.  I’m not saying that I’m only ever going to do things that feel good and that I’m going to completely eschew anything that’s uncomfortable or I don’t “feel like” doing.  I’m still a responsible person with obligations and commitments.  I just also have to learn to choose doing what I want to do over what I “should” do.   I mean, really, who said I “should’?  Typically, it’s just an arbitrary restriction that I’ve put on myself, that doesn’t serve any purpose except for making me feel bad if I mess up.

Look – I’m not talking about being unhealthy here.  Eating Twinkies.. oops, I mean, Mars Bars (they’re still in business, right?) constantly and avoiding all forms of physical activity for months at a time might feel good in the moment, but that’s just irresponsible.  And really – it might feel good in the moment, but would ultimately make me very sick and depressed – so forget that idea.  What I’m talking about is being less strict with the rules that I create for myself, and allowing myself to truly enjoy my life… listen to my body, listen to my spirit, and do the things that feel good and right, not just because some schedule I’ve made said that I should.

Part of this issue is also about the label.  It feels good to say that I am a fill-in-the-blank.  I think we all want to have some sense of identity, don’t we?  Well – maybe I don’t need the label – I don’t need to be a “runner”  I don’t need to be a “blogger” or a “meditate-r.” I do it when it feels good to do.  I don’t when it doesn’t.  I don’t think that makes me a quitter, I think it makes me human… which is a fill-in-the-blank label that I can wear proudly.

I love rules.  I love making them, I love following them.  Something about them makes me feel secure, orderly and like I know the “right” thing to do.  Maybe, though, I’ve been too strict with my own rules, and have only caused myself more anxiety and guilt.  Maybe the only rule should be, that every day… every single day… I live my life as best as I can.  Maybe that includes a run.  Maybe that includes meditating.  Maybe it includes zoning out in front of the TV for the Today Show instead.   I also really like patterns – they are predictable and reliable… but every once in a while there is a break in a pattern, a different colored bead, or a note in the music that you don’t expect, and those are the moments that make life beautiful, unpredictable, and very special.

Wishing you light, love, and freedom

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