I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m a big rule follower. I’m comfortable with a black and white version of what is right and wrong, allowed and not allowed, good and bad. Since the world is not black and white; but rather shades of gray… and purple and magenta and enough other flashing bright colors to cause a seizure, I’m frequently uncomfortable.
To make peace with the world’s irritating habit of not catering to my unique needs, at some point I started making rules just for myself. Surely, if I’m in charge of the rules and they only apply to me and my ability to follow them, nothing can go wrong, right? I’ll be right in my rightness and good in my goodness and everything will be hunky dory.
I’m sure you can guess how well that’s worked out for me.
You should know that this post isn’t about a quirk or a flaw or a challenge that I’ve overcome. I’m not here to tell you that I had this issue, recognized a pattern, and solved it. I’m just here to tell you I have this issue and continue to have it. I mean, if you have any ideas on how to fix it, please let me know.
Even within the confines of this blog, I’ve created rules. When I first began, I set a rigid schedule for myself: 2-3 posts per week, this many on anxiety, this many on veganism, this many on self care….it was a great plan. Good rules. Unfortunately, they made this cathartic new project very….homework-y. And stressful. Definitely not fun.
I’ve set rules for myself that I proclaimed within this blog. To be fair, I do believe that when you want to make a change or a commitment to yourself it’s helpful to say it out loud. An announcement makes a plan concrete and holds you accountable. Creates a support system, even. But for me, it also inspires a lot of guilt if and when the plan changes.
For example, I was pretty psyched about getting back into running. And I was all in- I had my first marathon picked out and the date set and a training schedule in place. I got new shoes, I got my dad involved, and I posted pictures of my feet on instagram with all sorts of running hashtags. And then I hurt my back. And then I hurt my foot. At this very moment, I have a bag of frozen broccoli rabe on said foot which is positively throbbing from a long walk I took this evening. So of course I schedule time in each day to feel painfully guilty about the non-starter that my relaunched running career seems to have become. (Also, I’ve had this bag of broccoli rabe for like a month and I have no idea what to do with it. I just googled it and apparently it’s more closely related to the turnip than the broccoli. That’s not intimidating.)
I start pretty much every week with a new plan to eat better, or differently, or less. I’ve cut out gluten a thousand times (finding success for about half a day at a time), and given up sugar about as many, only to find myself with an empty carton of soy vanilla ice cream sitting stickily in my lap. Judging me.
While I was walking today, sucking in my stomach every time I passed a reflective surface and tugging at the straps of my tank top to cover a little more underarm pudge, I vowed to make the same walk every single day starting today. Maybe running is too intense for my body right now, and this walk is the companion to yoga I need to start dropping weight? My foot says otherwise, but the newfound conviction helped me to hold my head a little higher as I hobbled along.
I make rules outside of the exercise and weight loss arena as well. Every time I find myself silently cursing a fellow human being, passing judgement based on the little information that I have in the tiny window of time I observe them irritating me, I make a rule not to do that anymore. I will think kind thoughts about others! I will assume the best! I will wish only good things for everyone, and mean it!
The tough thing about making rules about your thoughts is that unless you are a hardcore meditation champion, thoughts tend to come and go of their own volition whether you like it or not. I can certainly choose what thoughts to act on, and it’s good practice to recognize an irrational one that sneaks its way in, but there is only so much control one can hope to maintain. My brain follows its own rules, as it turns out.
In general, I think my rule-making “issue” is pretty benign, in that all of my rules are aimed at becoming the best version of myself that I can be. The glitch in the system is just that I feel so damn GUILTY when I don’t follow them, or when they change.
Like I said, therein lies my problem. I don’t have a solution, other than to recognize it, make a conscious effort to forgive myself, and move on.
And obviously, to quit eating gluten. Starting tomorrow.