My Rules, My Dignity


I grew up with so many rules to follow or I wasn’t a good girl. I learned more rules in school. I learned more rules about good and bad. I learned more rules about relationships. I learned more rules about marriage. More rules about friendships and raising children. More rules about God. More rules about family. More rules about being female. More rules about being strong. More rules about being independent. More rules about being smart. Rules and rules and rules.


Until one day I bumped up against a loss so great I fell in. And when I fell in, all these rules fell with me.


I was nothing. I was a bare slate. I was done.

I wanted my engine to stop.

I could feel the bottom of the barrel.

Something held me because I stopped falling.

My breath was present.

I sought comfort and found it.

I defined my needs and found them.

I began to build myself based on my needs.

I began to build myself based on my values.

Old rules starting knocking and I shooshed them away

My rules

My needs

My wants

My love

My strength

My presence

My dignity

My beliefs

My integrity

My health

My truth

My life.


Awakening Rights by Mark Nepo


We waste so much energy

trying to cover up who we are

when beneath every attitude

is the want to be loved,

and beneath every anger

is a wound to be healed

and beneath every sadness

is the fear that there will

not be enough time.

Our challenge each day is

not to get dressed to face the world

but to unglove ourselves

so that the doorknob feels cold

and the car handle feels wet

and the kiss goodbye

feels like the lips of another being,

soft and unrepeatable.


Participants’ Reflections:

  • We’re praying for our friends with Covid.

  • That image in the poem about the man taking his glove off so that he could feel the coldness of the doorknob and the wet, it made me think about being vulnerable in the world. In order to do that, we have to let go of fear which is no easy thing. Fear, for me, is why I keep my armor on at all times. To be authentic in the moment and to be really present, celebrate the moment, requires a certain feeling of being grounded in something else. The rule book for me is to love my neighbor as I love myself. It’s a tall order today and any day. Thank you.

  • Thank you. That was very powerful. It sounds like a reflection on the first valley of Attar because you are talking about letting go of other people’s values and rules, and defining them for yourself. It’s a great example of what it means to take the first step in the Valley of the Quest. That’s a powerful message. I loved the line in the poem we waste so much energy trying to cover up who we are. It’s good to get authentic. It’s why I love this group. People are speaking from their authentic selves and really connecting.

  • As I reflected on writing this, I think about how resilient I am. I tried to do everything right every other way until something annihilated me, and it was then I gave up and started defining what I needed. I wrote about this today because of the incredible tenseness in the air right now, this feeling of pressure, this feeling of something coming, this feeling of doom. I am working hard on not falling into it by following my rules.

  • Thank you so much. Everybody. I am praying for our friend for comfort and healing. We had rules growing up for everything, mostly on what not to do, negative rules. For me, it’s been a process of letting go of that which doesn’t serve me and finding out what does, and trusting. I didn’t trust myself because I didn’t listen to myself. My father told me what to say and do. It’s been a process of learning to trust myself, and to also trust a Higher Power I can believe in that wants good for me. It’s a process. Thank you. It takes being vulnerable. I don’t always feel safe when I’m vulnerable. It’s difficult. I seek out those that I feel safe with today and I try to trust my gut about that too. I too have felt this.

  • I went to acupuncture holding so much worry about everything. He said you and the rest of the world. After he put the needles in, I went into a wonderful relaxation and it felt good. I need to do things like that for myself, to take care of myself, and get in touch with my rules.

  • Thank you. The first thing that came to my mind during the meditation, was that there are rules but we are our own ruler. I played with the word ruler. A ruler measures. We do our own measurements of where we are and who we are. And sometimes, all the rulers around us—the people whose expectations we are trying to meet—they don’t work. We each have to have our own monogramed rulers. My last relationship was with someone who was emotionally abusive. The more I tried to follow her rules and what she wanted me to do, the more I lost myself. It took six months after we broke up for me to realize how beautiful my personage is. Not that I always measure up to myself, but I didn’t have to be anything else other than myself with my other friends and that was enough. Suddenly, I stopped trying to measure up to other’s rulers, and my own embedded ruler was enough. I became happier in my life than I’ve ever been because I am not following other’s rules.

  • We don’t have to be pretzels because ultimately we answer to ourselves.

  • So much of what you read and said resonated with me today. A couple of weeks ago, I joined an online dating site. This morning, I quit because I could feel it wasn’t serving me but making me more anxious about who I am. It reminded me of something I read about a young woman who was overweight and she felt fine with herself until she went to high school and people started making fun of her. It was other people’s judgments of her. On this site, someone wanted more photos of me and one without my glasses. I felt myself getting defensive and self-conscious. When I put up more photos, I realized what I was doing. I don’t want to live worrying about how other people see me. I want to be able to share who I really am and love who I really am. It’s a lesson in discernment that helps define a priority.

  • Living by their own rules is what attracted me to my spouse. I’ve always gravitated to people like that because I admired the trait. They live the life they want to live, by the rules that make them happy. I think I spent the first half of my life living by other’s rules, those standard set of rules that we think we have to follow until we come to a realization that we don’t. We can choose how we want to live. My spouse is still like that, and I think I am too. We do gravitate towards people we want to be like or we admire

  • Thank you for joining me and listening to me. I find it’s important to honor where I am; it’s important to honor where you are. I choose not to get caught up in the hype and the fear. It’s hard because I also want to be open and feel and be authentic. It’s a balance. I am going to be walking on the balance beam of today, pulling myself in and taking care of myself. I hope you all walk gently in your steps and take care of yourselves.

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