It has occurred to me in the last little while that I am overly concerned with rules. I think I have been my whole life. Very worried about breaking rules. Even rules that have no consequences when broken, or in fact, rules that don’t truly even exist.
It started with morning pages. I have been doing these for a few days now, and the whole time I’m worrying if I’m breaking the rules. Do I have to do them right away in the morning? Can I go pee first? Can I have a shower first? What size do the three pages have to be? Should I write 4 pages because my handwriting is largish?
All this worry about breaking the rules. There are really only a couple of rules to morning pages. Write 3 pages of whatever size, ideally first thing in the morning. It’s probably okay to go pee, or even to shower first. Just write. All the other rules are invented in my own head. Interesting how our brains work. I play a game in the course that I teach at work. The class is given a job to do as a team. There are a few rules they must follow and those are stated at the beginning and left on a screen for them to see throughout the game. They are given 5 chances to get better and better at doing the task. Inevitably, the people will assume rules that aren’t stated. Sometimes they will follow rules that I have actively told them are not rules. They establish all kinds of boundaries for themselves that are never made explicit, and often those self imposed rules prevent them from getting any better at the job they’ve been given.
I had lunch with a work friend of mine last week. He’s from Newfoundland. We were talking about our work Christmas parties and how most of our colleagues are unlikely to participate in team events and when they do, they are very quiet. (As an aside, this guy and I have worked together for the last 8 years or so, across 2 different companies. We were on the same team for a number of years where our team motto was “the team that drinks together, stays together”. We were more like a family and it was awesome. And we did stay together (and drink together) until the company decided they didn’t need that team anymore. Sometimes we still drink together). So my friend was at his team’s Christmas party at a bowling alley and it was all quiet, so he decided to break the ice by getting a pitcher of beer and bringing it down to the lane they were bowling on. Which apparently was met by all kinds of questions about whether it was allowed to have beer at the lane. My friend couldn’t believe that. He said something like “people here are really worried about breaking rules. What are they going to do, kick us out of the bowling alley?” I guess in Newfoundland, nobody would worry about that. And I could really see myself in that statement.
For some reason, this makes me think of the episode of Star Trek:TNG where they went to this world that had no crime and then Tasha Yar found out that the penalty for breaking any rule was the same — death. So even breaking the rule, “don’t walk on the grass” was punishable by death. And of course Wesley Crusher walked on the grass (accidentally) and was to be put to death and the crew of the Enterprise had to break the Prime Directive yet again to save Wesley. For those interested, the episode was called Justice, season 1, episode 7, and apparently many people thought it was the worst episode of the season, which means they clearly hadn’t seen the one where Deanna lost her empathic sense, because that was the worst TNG episode EVER MADE.
Anyway, the point is, breaking the kind of rules I’m talking about clearly isn’t punishable by death. Nobody even cares whether I write 3 small morning pages or 3 big ones. Or whether I go pee first. In fact, nobody but me cares about the rules I’ve made up for myself. So I need to practice breaking them. I think in this case, breaking the rules is exactly what’s needed.
And speaking of rule abiders, my son has inherited that particular quality from me. In fact, he’s more stringent about rules and has more of them and worries about them more than I do. At least appears to. Although he did once tell me that just because he asks about something doesn’t mean he’s worried about it. He’s a smart kid. Anyway, I got this email from his teacher today. The subject was “a little chat”, and you know, usually emails from teachers don’t bode well, especially when they have chat in the subject line.
Just wanted to let you know that I had a lovely chat with Isaac yesterday. What a terrific young man he is! He is such a gentle spirit, kind, thoughtful and has such a well-rounded attitude about life!
So happy that I have him in my class this year.”
I have to say, it brought a little tear to my eye. And it kinda made my day.