Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Rules

We are raised to follow rules.

The process begins as children with "small rules," whereby penalty for infraction is a "time out," a mind-numbingly dull exile to bedroom isolation, where all I could do was stare at a faded yellow wall as the clock ticked away hours. Over time, I came to understand the cost of such banishment was not worth breaking house regulations. Therefore, I came home by curfew, attended school when I'd rather be at the beach, and dutifully dragged the bent, steel garbage can to the curb each Tuesday night. Following rules gave me freedom.

"Big rules" are called "laws," where violations result in extreme unpleasantness enforced by well-trained strong men with crisply ironed blue uniforms and black steel weapons at their sides. Those who break these rules sacrifice self-determination through long-term adult "time outs" behind metal bars.

Being somewhat compliant, I operate within the confines of rules. I pay taxes by April 15, do not drive 80 miles an hour, and attempt to treat others the way I want to be treated. Because of adherence to these edicts, my life usually flows more smoothly.

So, here's the thing: Despite the fact that I obey the law; honor codes of ethics, and follow behavioral etiquette, I remain perplexed by my periodic futile attempts to ignore the most powerful, omnipotent, and all-pervasive "Prime Rule of the Universe" which is, "the Universe will not change its rules to accommodate my whims, fantasies, and desires." Simply put, "If I always do what I've always done, I'll always be where I've always been." Ignorance is no excuse; there is no court of appeals, clemency does not exist.

Yet I proclaim, "This time will be different; I'll lose the weight. This time, I'll be perfect." Although - aside from more enthusiastic lip service - I don't actually DO anything differently from all the OTHER times I espoused that same pronouncement. Soon, frustrated and angry again, I grumble about my results (or lack thereof), as they are exactly what they were each previous time I did the same thing. "Why?" I ask. "This isn't fair!"

Undeterred by reality, I persist, repeatedly hurling myself into the same patterns, expecting new results. Finally, exhausted and defeated, I realize that instead of walking into walls, I can open a door. I obey the rules and try a new approach; I change.

"IT" will never be different. "I" must be different. Those are the rules. And once I accept that, I set myself free.

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