You do not raise your hand and politely ask if you may, please, begin breaking the rules now.
No! When the time has come to toss the rule book (probably the one you learned from in school), and you know it in your bones, the “raising-your-hand” moment is long past. You have donned your fierce and are standing up- many times alone (or at least it sure feels that way) – for your heart and your spirit, “the way it’s always been done” be damned.
And the real truth is, you are neither alone nor the first one to reach that point in your life. While that may not make it easier, it does let you know that there is indeed a tribe of women out here waiting to welcome you with open arms. We need you! We need your fierce and your resolve and your energy, because we are out here changing the world: one woman at a time.
Christina Baldwin, in Calling the Circle, says it this way:
In every path that leads to maturity, there is some form of dark night, a readiness finally to enter into shadow, to explore that which we have kept hidden. We enter into darkness by dealing with the wounding we have endured and the wounding we have caused. We enter the darkness by walking off the edge of our life maps into unknown territory. There is no more meandering. There is no more escape – not one more errand to run, not one more load of laundry to wash and fold, not one more phone call to answer, not one more word I can write until I take the next step. Until I am willing to fall…I shout…’Are you sure I’m ready for this? I already feel as though I’ve been hurtling from one experience to the next. How do You know I’m ready?’ I am staring into the bright eyes of an angel. ’You cannot know if you are ready until after you fall,’ she says. ‘This is a leap of faith.’ I face the edge. I do not jump. It more subtle than that. I simply let go.
After living life a certain number of decades, it becomes abundantly clear that whatever rules are written in the accepted rule book, they are not ours. They do not work for us (nor were they meant to). Audre Lourde puts it rather succinctly:
…and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
but when we are silent
we are still afraid.
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive.
Here is your guide to breaking the Rules
1. Recognize you aren’t alone or the only one. Actively seek your tribe. You will recognize them because they are the ones urging you on, saying “hell YES!!” to each step you take. They are NOT the ones encouraging you to turn back, to not rock the boat, saying “it’s always been this way.”
Finding your tribe offers more than validation and interaction, important as both of those are. It provides inspiration and provocation to raise the bar on your own achievements. In every domain, members of a passionate community tend to drive each other to explore the real extent of their talents. Sometimes the boost comes not from close collaboration but from the influence of others in the field. Ken Robinson
2. Acknowledge and welcome imperfections as signs that you are doing something new – there is no such thing as failure, only understanding what didn’t work. Accept the mess that being imperfect often makes – as author Anne Lamott says: Tidiness suggests that something is as good as it’s going to get. Tidiness makes me think of held breath, or suspended animation.
3. Discover for yourself that there are no rules. If you want rules you can make them up as you go along (see the Morrigan’s advice on this in my last post.) Don’t worry about everyone else and what rule books they are following. You are breaking the rules (all those rules that no longer work for you whether or not they once did). You are doing what you came here to do (instead of stewing in a job you hate or a relationship that does not support your being your best and truest self). You are making the world a better place – simply by breaking worn out rules and following your heart and passion. Which of course means living life at your most courageous. At least it won’t be boring!
4. Forgive yourself. Forgive yourself whatever you need to forgive yourself, most likely for not being perfect.
5. Don’t forget to celebrate something at least once every day. Celebrate that you do not have to be stuck or live a life of “quiet desperation.” Celebrate that you have amazing choices in front of you that generations before would have gladly given their all just to taste, never mind live. Celebrate each small step towards your Real Self and ignore all the clamoring desperate voices that would have you instead focus on what you don’t yet have. Celebrate what is right in front of you right now, this moment. It doesn’t take long. Celebrate breaking the rules one-by-one as steps forward for not just you but for every woman who is waiting to find her tribe. Light a candle. Breathe in and be present. Blow out the candle, breathe out in gratitude.
Hear that sound? Joy is knocking at your door – let it in.