His law is love. His gospel is peace
On the surface the intentions appear to be good. Do these things to prevent these unwanted consequences. Depending on orientation and frame of reference certain rules are allowed to be followed, while others fall under some category of offensive, sinful or laden with a hidden agenda. All rules are not created equally nor could they ever, all apply. The only seemingly universal rule I can think of has been under scrutinous debate for several thousand centuries. Too many prophets to count, each with parallel manuals on how to live out their definition of love. It’s the same with other words like holy, hell, help. We can use them in a sentence and assume our chat partner agrees on our interpretation of the word until we notice our shoe is in our mouth and a war has started. Much of what we aren’t allowed to say or do might be rooted in fears and unknowns. Is that also called ignorance? Which leads to considering who, what or where we turn over our authority. When we fail to ignore the still small voice we stay stuck, scared and empty. Aren’t rules made to prevent all that; specific instructions on how to behave determined by some one or some thing to garner safety, fairness or order?
1. one of a set of explicit or understood regulations or principles governing conduct within a particular activity or sphere.
2. exercise ultimate power or authority over
“the rules of the game were understood”
Were they? I’ve had an eating disorder I can trace back to the day it was decided there were certain things that couldn’t be discussed. It briefly qualified as a formal diagnosis but the label wasn’t maintainable. Meeting the markers is one stop short of death and probably has to do with insurance companies. I currently walk a line somewhere between self respect, control and compassion from within an invisible electric fence of persistent anxiety. Proximity to memory, certain people, sunlight, warm pizza, a 24 hour gym, difficult questions, disorganization, boundariless needs, the perceived inability to say no, excitable golden retrievers, any western doctor and mirrors determine the voltage. To diffuse the buzzing I clean, arrange, fold, stack, sweep, discard, organize, restrict, lift, run and otherwise sanitize every nook and cranny of my person and personal space. I promise to donate to the Sierra Club as part of making amends for all the paper towel I use. I wash soap and hide toiletries. I stop drinking from my water bottle if I suddenly can’t remember where it’s been for more than 5 minutes convinced of contamination. I would never brush my teeth at an airport. When I do travel half of my belongings need to be disposable because once they’ve left the state they’re deemed unsafe and therefore unusable. The list of acceptable edibles is brief, manageable and requires virtually no cooking. Considering all the other tasks I’ve become responsible for who has time to cook? Besides I probably shouldn’t be allowed around sharp objects and open flames. The rules for objects, my body and food cross-over at different intersections but basically fall on the same map in the same city; Crazy Town, OMG. These rules didn’t show up overnight. They’ve each been carefully cultivated over time as part of playing some nameless game whose sole goal has remained mostly elusive until fairly recently.
The 10 Commandments are kind of like that one poem; All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. On second thought the latter is more like Leviticus, a little PSA with some TLC thrown in for good measure; take naps not livestock, flush, wash your hands, don’t hit. The rules applied to everyone until that one kid with the nut allergy showed up; the very first exception. I’m sorry we can no longer have milk and cookies before our nap. Ignatius is vegan, Pandora is gluten intolerant and our school has banned all white sugar from the campus which now spans a 300 hundred mile radius due to new zoning laws created by Conner’s grandfather. Let’s enjoy the carob-spirulina nuggets brought in by Piper’s birth contributor, Magnus. Exceptions have reached epic proportions. If you don’t have any you might get placed into a category by default or consider creating one for your own protection. What’s the difference between an exception and an excuse? Do we beg to be excused instead of asking for a break to find the answer to the next complex question? Last week I saw a bumper sticker that said Big Trucks Matter. They do friend. Your big truck is very special. But maybe let’s acknowledge that generations of oppression haven’t targeted, killed, exploited or otherwise excluded your truck from the truck race of life. Rules may have originated to maintain order and safety but it appears they’ve evolved into some kind of qualifying or distribution tool. My baby brother loved the blue Tupperware cup. At Kool Aid time our mum would call out a series of compromises and exchange options, like Let’s Make a Deal, so brother could always end up with his favorite cup. He was her only son then and also the middle child, just like her. She’d mastered the art of convincing everyone they would’ve agreed to the terms and conditions as their own without question. You’d leave the offering with the whisper of a second thought in one hand and a buttered blueberry pop tart in the other. This is what I wanted? Maybe you’d skip with a question mark on your face. Over time there was no need for playing guess what’s behind door number 2. We just let brother have his blue cup because we loved him and knew how important it was to him. Unlike that silly book which instructs women on the subtle persuasive balancing act known as conceal and reveal to ensure they win the biggest engagement ring. It appears that what the rules are teaching us to conceal is our diversity and authenticity; kindergartens, Spanx, families, certain minorities, any life story lacking a followed, liked and familiar script. Ruling rules while truth is stuffed, scrapped, filtered, shushed and shamed into the back of the barn along with all the other secrets because instruction by nature assumes we’re incapable of managing autonomy or reality. I remember sitting on the floor between stacks in my college library. My heart sank as I read Rousseau’s rendition of Hotel California; this is how the world works, you can check out but technically you can’t leave. No wonder suicide rates continue to climb and the list of ribbon campaigns are longer than roll call at a state college graduation. A very quick Google search indicated there are over 200 but because certain groups will only list ribbons associated with their primary cause it’s impossible to get an accurate count. The Disabled Awareness homepage states new ribbon campaigns crop up all the time; vegan awareness is actually a thing. There’s even a vegan wine company that had it’s own ‘coming out’ party. What is that we’re asking for when we call each other into awareness?
Most recently I learned about a group called Spoonies. From what I understand a Spoonie is any person with a chronic sometimes invisible or unseen health condition or disability. At first I wondered about maybe trying to join this club. In the world of Instagram, Twitter and connecting through hashtags this was an important fork in the road. What would this identity provide that I wasn’t potentially capable of offering myself? All the ribbon people seem to encourage, accept, fund-raise and support each other. Acceptance is nice and who among us hasn’t needed free money and a pep talk every now and then? Having worked in the field I also understand the ongoing need to advocate for disability rights. It’s disappointing (maddening) that we still need laws which essentially insist on a humane society; civil rights. Love your neighbor or receive this punishment are the primary colors of giving a shit. It wasn’t sitting right. Raising awareness can be a kind act capable of restoring harmony. For instance, sometimes my husband doesn’t see the dishes in the sink or feel the dried Juniper crumbs on the kitchen floor. Over the course of our marriage I’ve run a couple of advocacy and awareness campaigns as part of a call to action enlisting his help with chores. I’ve hosted enchilada and brownie buffets, a kissing booth, free laundry and many pints of Ben and Jerry’s. My chore campaign has made some real strides but we haven’t fully arrived at the place where my baby wants to do the dishes. As in: Why would I want to want to do the dishes? In all fairness he does the dishes. The example is euphemistic. When awareness fails to get us the results we were hoping for I’ve resorted to sulking, pouting, stewing, plotting, self-loathing, over-thinking and crying in front of the dishwasher. You know, feeling and acting like a stuck and helpless child. Sometimes there just aren’t words for what I think I need and in that same vacancy I can’t find the skills within me to meet the nameless fatigue. PETA has resorted to emotional extortion and violence. Apparently coming to the end of the life skills road ends at Dawn.
Cat Stevens said don’t wear fear or nobody will know you’re there. In a way we’ve been encultured to live in fear because it’s very profitable. Ad agencies spend billions of dollars on marketing to convince us we need their things and if we acquire them we’ll no longer be vulnerable, written off or otherwise invisible. If you go to advertising school they actually joke about how you’ll be learning the secrets of mind control and as part of organizational ethics have to promise not abuse your new superpower. Most run of the mill ads target our brain stem, flashing images of abundant food, sex and belonging right alongside Thneeds. They tell us to act now, hurry, don’t wait! Next thing you know you’re holding a fidget spinner and have no idea why until you see twenty other people with the same thing and feel a rush of calming reassurance. I belong. I fit in. Great. The trouble is the discontent which starts to grow behind the facade. Our ability to quiet the unrest is based loosely on how much we do or don’t have to lose. How much does it cost to be counter-culture in a family or society? Last night we watched Dirty Dancing. Baby sat in the corner because her father was a doctor who was going to pay her way through Mount Holyoke and support her for as long as she was in the Peace Corps. He was also a man who made her feel loved, valued and protected. That is until she broke one of his seemingly unspoken rules. If you haven’t seen this amazing summer love story this is your spoiler alert; she uses daddy’s money to help pay for one of the resort staff’s abortions and spends the rest of her time dancing with Johnny aka Patrick Swayze who, off-stage was raised Catholic. It’s said he spent his life stuffing self-declared rage which some have linked directly to the illness which caused his passing. As for Baby, the horrible consequence of carrying a watermelon and pursuing her truth was shattering her father’s illusion of the compliant, altruistic by his definition, daughter. Outside of scripted justice this would likely be the start of a decades long resentful battle requiring thousands of dollars in therapy, Xanax prescriptions, awkward phone calls, silent treatments, triangulation and more than a few ruined Hanukkahs. Instead Johnny and Francis dance their truth and rock the lift which results in patriarchal forgiveness and they all live happily ever after. Aww, thanks movie magic.
Since my grandmother’s death it’s become harder to hide from certain things I’d had little choice but to set aside. Pulling myself up the rungs of resilience to arrive at a stable platform took all my guts and resources. Which makes it preferably harder to choose personal degradation over the next lesson in efficacy. Rules I didn’t write are ruling when it should be the other way around. If nothing else I’m stubborn. Rather than avoiding or choosing to hide behind available excuses or disempowering labels of except this, accept that I’ve realized what’s needed to evolve out of the corner I’ve backed myself into; courage, compassion and a raising of consciousness which has begun with my own. I’ve worn invisibility cloaks and wrongly accused fault with other people because I had no access to a better way. It’s exhausting. I thought I’d been doing a much better job of being honest. Love and loss have a funny way of shedding light. Somewhere within the eclipse of darkness passing over light we become acutely aware of the next lesson sitting patiently in the shadows. I’m enlisting Grace as my co-pilot for this leg of the trip since there’s no question I’ve made too many mistakes to count. I’m prepared to transition all the stock I’ve placed in accounts of fear to my first and only Trust fund. Rather than allow my self to dissolve in disempowering labels, diagnosis, excuses or exemptions I’ll let Love rule. You’re welcome to join me.