How Breaking the Rules Taught Me to Trust Myself

Remember that fable about the Emperor’s New Clothes?

In it, a pretentious emperor who is overly in love with himself and his finery is fooled by shifty tailors who make a fortune tricking him into believing he’s wearing the most exquisite finery in all the land. In fact, it’s so exquisite, only the most educated and refined people can actually even see it.

The emperor can’t see it, of course. But his pride doesn’t allow him to speak that truth.

Instead, he orchestrates a parade so he can prance about before the commoners in his charge.

Until a kid at the parade, seeing the emperor’s bare behind, exclaims, “But he’s NAKED!”

I’m that kid.

I’m the strange one in my family. I don’t always follow the rules. In fact, sometimes I’ve intentionally set out to break them. Because I think some of those asinine rules, are sort of – well, asinine.

And, if they’re dumb enough and they continue to hurt or limit me, I simply let them go, and live my own beautiful life.

Here are some of the rules I’ve broken over the years:

Get a Good Solid Job and Keep it. FOREVER.

A lot of people find success with this model. Not me, though. Nearly 30 years ago, I graduated at the top of my class and was hired by IBM. I HATED that job. But, everyone said it was a good one. In fact, they told us that 3000 people applied for each spot that they filled.

Did I mention that I HATED that job? It was such a bad fit. But the “world” said I should be grateful. So, I stuck it out.

Until a good friend was diagnosed with cancer. At 25. Her tumor was spotted by her Labor & Delivery nurse when she was delivering her son.

The very next day, I quit what was, at that time, the most secure job in the universe. Oh, by the way, within a few years, IBM announced its first EVER reduction in force. Many of my former colleagues lost their jobs.

: Follow your heart. The security you think you feel from your current circumstances is just an illusion. Nothing stays the same. Everything and everyone dies. Live your one beautiful life today.

Don’t Tell

If ever a rule was meant to be broken, it’s this one. Nevertheless, for generations, it’s been a pervasive socializing message we pass on to our children.

There are many wonderful people in my family. But, for generations, our story has been riddled with alcoholism. We do lots of good in the world. We’re loving. We can be lots of fun. But, many of us drink. To the point that some of us die.

Like my father.

But, we don’t talk about those things.

So, I didn’t. I grieved in isolation until a high school reunion a decade or two later, when I found out that several of my “best friends” also grew up with alcoholic parents.

For YEARS, we sat together, ate lunch together, were in marching band together.

But, none of us broke code. Every one of us suffered in silence. What a waste!

: You’re as sick as your secrets. All around you people are hiding their pain. Stop comparing your insides with everyone else’s outsides. Instead, be vulnerable. To be free of the feeling of isolation, you have to take a risk. Intimacy begins with me.

Don’t Cry Out Loud

Along the lines of “don’t quit your day job” and “don’t tell anyone what’s really going on,” is the message that you do not show your “negative” feelings. Instead, you suffer in silence. Forever.

In fact, merit badges are awarded for lifetime achievements in martyrdom.

Remember that song by Melissa Manchester, “Don’t Cry Out Loud?” . . . “just keep it inside, and learn how to hide your feelings.”

Well, when I listened to that song, I really, truly thought Melissa was giving me my very own personal marching orders for life.

I was thirty years old before I realized she was being ironic.

Because my baby died. And I simply had to cry out loud. For a long, long time. My grief was so powerful there was no way to hold it in.

Over time, though, I saw that expressing my feelings was actually the key to healing from my devastation.

But there was more – Because my daughter’s death was so incredibly devastating, it unleashed all the buried sorrows from the years before. In fact, part of my daughter’s legacy is that I had the opportunity to grieve every silenced loss that had come before. I cried. For all of it. Out loud. Until I didn’t need to anymore. And then, I was healed.

: The only way out is through! Feel your beautiful feelings. Don’t let anyone tell you your feelings are “wrong.” Or even “right” for that matter. You feel what you feel and that is that. You don’t need to justify your feelings to anyone. Oh, and here’s a bonus tip – you don’t have to ACT on your feelings either. You can just open up to your own beautiful truth, feel your feelings, then let them go.

Breaking the Rules. Sensibly. Or, not.

Though it may sound like it, I’m not a casual or frivolous rule breaker. When I’m considering a major life change, I don’t leap and then look. And, I don’t buck the system just to be ornery.

On the other hand, when something is “off” in my life, I no longer pretend that everything’s just “fine” over here.

Your One Beautiful Life is entirely too precious to waste being untrue to yourself and others. If you can, when you can, speak your truth.

Start small. If you don’t like broccoli, for heaven’s sake stop filling your plate with it at Thanksgiving! Don’t smile when you’re angry. Don’t say “it’s okay” if it isn’t.

Speak your beautiful truth. Trust your beautiful heart. Take up your own beautiful place in this world.

Trust yourself. The Emperor and his finery are just an illusion. Cloak yourself in your own beautiful humanity and, if the “rules” are killing your beautiful spirit, let them go. Spread your beautiful wings.

Look once. Maybe even look again. But then, LEAP like it’s nobody’s business!

We make our choice. And then?

We make our choice right.

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