Rules were made to be broken… even those of our own design

According to our blogging schedule, it’s KitKat’s turn to write a post. However, she’s on vacation with her family, enjoying the sunshine and warm weather. Rather than drag her away from the fun, we’ve decided to mess with our sequence and have me post instead.

Coincidentally, this is an excellent lead-in to my topic. Some of you may be able to relate to this, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that I’ve settled into a few routine “tendencies.” For example, let’s consider the subject of direct-selling parties. As you probably gathered from my previous post on the topic, if I get an invitation to one, I have a tendency not to attend.

Other tendencies include:

  • Not helping my kids with school fundraising. (I would perhaps buy something myself, but I wouldn’t go to any lengths to promote the fundraiser du jour among coworkers or family like some parents might.)
  • Disregarding charitable appeals that don’t fall into my selection criteria (which is fairly narrow) unless it happens to be a case of supporting a friend’s cause (in which case, it’s actually about supporting the friend more than the cause). The fact is, there are millions of worthy organizations out there competing for the same buck and giving it any more thought than that would cause my head to explode.
  • Not buying any white bottoms. That’s an easy one to explain. I’m a klutz and buying white pants or a white skirt is just asking for trouble.
  • Only watching “non-taxing” movies on Friday nights. These would be romantic comedies, slapstick comedies, classics I’ve seen 20x before, etc. Nothing with a complicated plot or that otherwise requires full attention. After putting in a full week at work, I simply don’t have enough brain cells left on Friday night.

And last, but not least:

  • A policy against having policies. I’ll call these tendencies “preferences,” or “guidelines,” but I don’t like to think of them as “policies.” While these kinds of rules can form a code of conduct that simplifies decision-making, I’ve seen a number of people apply their preferences too rigidly, disregarding the consequences of their inflexibility or its effect on others. As a result, you might say that I have a policy against policies.

Surprised by that last one? Here’s an example from close to home: My dad won’t wait in lines—which he is quick to point out if he encounters one. Like most of his Greatest Generation peers, he enlisted for WWII as soon as he could. Dad left for basic training the first day after the end of his senior year in high school, and at the age of 17 he was immersed in a new world—one that apparently included a lot of lines. As he explains it, “The guys would have to wait in line for hours to go through the chow line for breakfast and then after eating would get back in the line again for lunch. I swore when I left the service, I’d never wait in line again.”

And as far as I know. He hasn’t.

Wasn't Stormy adorkable?
Wasn’t Stormy adorkable?

That’s an exaggeration of course. Realistically, I’m sure my dad hasn’t been able to avoid every long line he’s encountered during the 68 years since this “policy” was formed. But I’m sure he did if he had any say in the matter. Which is why—when my family went to Disneyland in the late 70s and the line for Space Mountain was “too long”—we skipped what was then the hottest ride in the theme park. And I still remember the omission 30 odd years later. (You’re probably thinking here that I need to learn to let things go—and I do—but that’s a topic for another post.)

Today, my dad’s policy is usually cited when my mom wants to eat at a popular restaurant. Would it kill him to wait it out once in a while? No and doing so would make my mom happy. So I try to keep this in mind whenever I find myself clinging a little too stubbornly to my own “tendencies,” and remember that every rule has its exception. Because knowing when it’s okay–or even necessary–to bend the rules is key to living a balanced and exceptional life.

 “The wind does not break a tree that can bend.”  – African Proverb

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