Evelyn, my one-year-old, is wearing two pairs of shoes at the moment.
Not two different shoes on her two feet. Two pairs of shoes.
One pair is her own: those soft-soled toddler shoes that look like something Robin Hood would wear. Over those, she has her sister’s sandals.
Her shoe situation is as long as her arms, basically, but this does not bother her at all.
Evelyn loves shoes. More shoes = better shoes. She does not care that this is an abnormal method of shoe-wearing.
A lot of rules just don’t apply to toddlers.
Well, Evelyn would disagree. There are always rules like: No ice cream, and I will hold you as we cross the street, and We do not wear shoes to bed. Stuff that keeps her safe and healthy.
We adults have mastered all the safety guidelines, but the rules haven’t disappeared. Honestly, I think we make up more all the time.
We seem to be swimming in a whole sea of rules, and they aren’t really serving us.
Maybe we want to live slow, quiet lives, but the rule is: BUSYNESS IS REQUIRED.
Maybe we want to pursue simplicity, but the rule is: DON’T SAY NO, OR YOU MIGHT MISS OUT.
Maybe we want to live with less, but the rule we keep hearing sounds like: YOU NEED NEW
BLACK SKINNY TROUSER WAXED MOTO JEANS. NO, WE DON’T KNOW WHY, EITHER.
Maybe we want a cup of tea, but the rule is: YOUR TEA IS NOT AS PRETTY AS ALL THE TEA ON INSTAGRAM. (The rules are getting kind of judgy.)
Maybe we want contentment, but we run smack into this rule: COMPARE! COMPARE! DID YOU SEE WHAT EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING ON FACEBOOK? I KNOW, RIGHT?
But we can rewrite the rules.
We have to know who we are, we have to know what we value, and we have to be willing to make choices that honor both. We can do that.
We can live with purpose, and on purpose, yes we can.
That means being our own authentic selves, with our own personalities and passions and loves and limitations.
It means recognizing that in this season, in this place, with these people, we each value certain things. Compassion? Creativity? Courage? Contentment?
Maybe even something that doesn’t start with ‘C.’ Relationship. Justice. Growth. Transparency. Grace. Forgiveness.
You get to decide what matters, and you get to organize your life around that.
The world has a lot of ideas about who we should be and what we should value, and they’re all just swirling around us.
I don’t want to be dragged in by the currents. Maybe I want to swim upstream, maybe I want to float, maybe I want to get out of the water. But when I let myself be pushed along without thinking, I wind up mired in the muddy banks and the shallows, every time.
That isn’t where I want to live my life.
And okay, yes, my own choices still land me in the muck plenty often — but grace meets me there, and I get to wash off and try again.
I think we need to share those (into-and-)out-of-the-muck stories.
I think that’s where we find encouragement for when we need to swim upstream.
So that’s our first rewritten rule, then. Not “Notice what everyone else is doing and fall into a pit of despair over whether you measure up,” but this: “Tell your truth, even if it’s messy.”
That is an excellent place to begin.