(A January 2011 happy snap. The photo has nothing to do with the entry. It is provided here as mere “eye candy.”)
Today, in a freshman English class, the students were supposed to draft a set of rules they live by similar to the rules Sherman Alexie lists in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian. (Alexie’s website can be found here: http://www.fallsapart.com/index) Of course, I couldn’t resist doing the assignment as well. Once a nerd, always a nerd. (Lest, you think this self depreciating, I actually celebrate my nerdyness!)
1.) Life is one long string of interruptions. Get used to them.
2.) Be prepared to be completely unprepared.
3.) Avoid the unpleasant. If I don’t acknowledge it, maybe it doesn’t exist.
4.) Put off for tomorrow what I don’t want to do today. (If I’m lucky the task will disappear before morning.)
5.) Being good is its own reward. (It is also a lot of work and is not much fun but there are some definite advantages.)
6.) I am not the center of the universe and neither are you.
In the end, the rules I live by have congealed from within a bubbling and scary-looking “vat” (Swap the word, ‘psyche’ for vat, here.) full of what works best and what feels best. The rules above reflect the “truths” of my life. They are my personal emotional property. Warning: There isn’t a whole lot of intellect involved in their formation.
Rules One and Two, don’t need much explanation. Honestly, my life feels like one interruption after another. I’m rarely ready to stop what I’m doing and give the next thing or the competing thing my attention. Trying to do so used to make me very crabby. Then, I had children. My children have taught me everything I know about these two rules. Life is one interruption after another and no matter how much I might try to prepare for the unseen emergency or the next crisis, life will throw a curve ball and I’ll miss. Accepting these two rules has made the difference between coping and babbling incoherently in a padded room wearing an odd jacket with hopelessly entangled sleeves.
The mental image of this jacket is not a good one. I’ll just avoid thinking about it. Please note, Rule Number Three. I don’t need to say more, but I will, because I can. Avoidance is not without its problems and pitfalls. Over the years, I have probably experienced every negative consequence possible for not facing the unpleasant realities that rise up and grab me by my hair. Only picking and choosing what I let in, allows me to do my own version of “putting a bird on it.” This is a deep thought. I’m going to let you think about it on your own. Maybe, you can tell me what it means. I’m trying not to think about it.
Rule Four. Before you get all critical and start thinking about how “wrong” procrastination is, think about this: Sometimes, things do disappear by morning. The real challenge is in learning how to pick the right things to put off so that they stand the best chance of disappearing.
Now as for Rule Five, I, the former poster child for the “good girl” image, could write a book about it. Sadly, it is a boring topic and I have no interest in doing so. Lots of my motivation to be good is driven by the desire for attention which is often the same motivation behind the proverbial “bad girl’s choices.” Being good has definite advantages. Staying out of jail and not having a criminal record are just two of them. So, before you light the torch under this rule, keep that in mind. The reality is that acting like a good girl and being a good girl may not always be one and the same. Sometimes, there are selfish motives hidden behind all that goodness.
This last rule, Rule Six, is my favorite rule of all. It is also the hardest rule to live by. Each morning I wake up trapped in my own head and in a body that doesn’t look anything like the one I used to have. Well, maybe I have to correct that statement. I did enter the world looking like a primordial lizard and from what I’ve seen so far, I might exit the world with a similar look.
Lizard-looking or not, I’ve found it really helpful to occasionally recite this last rule to myself like a soothing mantra,
“I am not the center of the universe.”
I add, “. . .and neither are you,” when the situation dictates.
Of course, this is usually added silently and heard only in my head to avoid further social complications. These simple words usually put the whole thing into perspective. With this final rule, I must end. After this there is nothing more to say. I am not the center of the universe. I need to get off the stage.