There are rules we live by, gathered in storms of uncertainty, handed down in dusty books of last names and grievances, rules of order and always to avoid suffering, chaos. The rules are unspoken but obvious, each of us bound to the codes of conduct we have signed, both for ourselves and others around us. We must all follow the rules to protect ourselves. We must make sure the others know them too, these rules falter when unkept.
The trouble is the rules to protect me won’t work to protect you, but I won’t know that, believing they are universal, true, right, the strict adherence keeping us safe. Bound by the threat of what has happened, might happen, could happen, the rules become louder, bigger, pronounced often and sure.
The trouble has been the most important rules are hidden, only seen in the breaking of them. The hundred jokes turn unfunny on the next one, too far, too sensitive, the unknown boundary sensed too late. The question in the string of questions too personal, too much, a word out of a million words too offensive, unliked, I don’t say it so you can’t say it. The edge of the rule is felt, not known, shifting in an instant.
The trouble will be that the rules will change as we do, and no one will know until they are broken. The communication in the overstep, the tension, the looks away, the silence or the furied steps past the now closed door. This newest rule becomes the most important one; know when it changed.
For every person you love and live near, there are rules, so many to catalogue and sort. Each uncared for word, question, joke a tension to remember, the rules of each one becoming the hundred rules of you. Each misremembering a break in the line of connection, a bump of not rightness, the jarring reminder to not forget the many detailed lives of other people’s edges. It is hard to relax around unrelaxed rules, hard not to regret the unintended missteps.
Looking back I can map the times I was disappointed, anxious and hurt by the rules that were broken by someone who both didn’t know them, and had no obligation to keep them. But yet, I expected them to be kept, needed them to be kept, flailed and hid from the weight of others failure to play the game I was living, burdening us both. I couldn’t have named the rules then, but I can now; see me, protect me, save me. These rules could never be followed by someone else because I could not follow them myself, I would not allow it.
And so, my new rule, for this new year, is to follow my own rules completely, and allow everyone else to write theirs. But here is the shift, I cannot follow anyone else’s, they do not belong to me, they are not mine. There are too many, so many unspoken, a few dangerous and the cliff too high to fall when unfollowed.
I have spent so many days afraid of not playing the game well, of not sensing the new do’s and not avoiding the new don’ts. I have used up my sense of when I am getting too close to the fire that keeps the lions out of camp, I was never a lion, and I have apologized enough for that. I wasn’t ever going to be the one who fixed the game, to make it better, more fair, less painful; it took me a long time to know that and even longer to forgive myself.
For this new year, in this new age my rule is this; I will seek to understand the rules that run the game, but I won’t play by them. I will love openly, create freely, and jump off the cliff toward my own joy, no matter the feared warnings.
This rule is fair, open and might change; it is mine.