I am a person used to rules, a person comfortable with creating and living by rules both real and perceived. Since my childhood I have created a large collection of rules, even collections of collections or systems of rules as it were, to describe not only how the world around me operated but also to set in order how I should operate within this world. I felt, even adamantly believed blindly, that Teutonic discipline and principled self were absolute and necessarily required to operate successfully in the world. The weirder and stranger my world became the more I tried to delve these hidden rules, rules that everyone but me seemed to understand intuitively. If asked I swore that I was the last person not in a secret club, a club that had a seemingly infinite number of secret hand signals to which I was not privy to no matter how much I asked, begged, or scrutinized. Everything, and I mean everything, became an abstraction back to some level of invariance which could then be encapsulated as a rule. As I grew up I had complete systems of rules I used in order to operate within the word and no more specifically than for my interactions with other human beings. Whenever things did not work as anticipated per these set of rules I assumed the deficit lay within myself; a more sane and rational human being might have first suspected that those pesky underlying rules themselves were to blame.
In the past couple of years I have realized that much (all?) of my general loneliness, unease and unhappiness are directly correlated both to the rigidity by which I applied these rules and to these rules’ impoverished nature to describe, anticipate or predict the very subtle, even sublime, nature that is the human experience. As fallout to my last divorce I finally acknowledged my own hand in my downfall, deciding not to be further victim to my ineptitude and so started to leverage the very analytical skills I had honed to craft this byzantine maze of conditional if-thens as a means to dismantle them. In areas such as work, career and my personal life I decided to remove all the rules and replaced them with the simplified, even rarefied and most basic first-order question: Am I happy? And based on this the rule is a straight-forward set of conditions: If I am not happy then I change my behavior; and, if I am happy then continue my current behavior. I am not sure I can make it simpler than that. The only place that hereto now I have not challenged is the realm of personal relationships. Till now.
I recognize now that whereas I used rules to provide a means to engage with others, at least with respect to day to day relationships, I used rules in more intimate settings to protect myself from myself and even going as far to protect others from me — two divorces have tended to batter my self-confidence in these matters. But I also recognize that in order to grow, mature and further deepen my happiness I need to allow people into my life in a more than cursory manner. As a very good friend said after a long evening: “Ward, fuck all these rules. Give people a chance to love you.” It was the proverbial boot-camp kick in the ass I needed. Frankly, I acknowledge that I fundamentally, even principally, need to trust myself to know what is best for myself irrespective of rules that either I, others or even society may impose. In some ways this is an embarrassingly scary proposition both to undertake and to admit. Scary in that I have no means of a priori predicting what the right thing is to do in any situation. I am flying by the seat of my pants deciding what to do next based on the current moment. It is embarrassing that has taken me this long to grasp how simply things really are. I appreciate I will make mistakes. Crash and burn even. And more so I appreciate that as a consequence of this newest undertaking I will put myself in a position of vulnerability where no rule or principle, no matter how canonized, can be used to shield me from my own decisions.
Here is to rules: fuck ’em.
My only proviso to this newly adopted response of “fuck ’em” to rules, at least in the domain of relationships, is the adoption of the contra-positive corollary, or “don’t fuck ’em” rule, best exampled by John Waters who said, “If you go home with somebody, and they don’t have books, don’t fuck ’em!”