Remember being in a smaller body, sitting down at a new-to-you desk in an unfamiliar classroom on a warm September morning with a clean sheet of paper and a pencil? The teacher had a list written on the chalkboard and asked you to copy it. It offered instructions like, “Work quietly and do not disturb others.”
The Rules of Life started much earlier than that, though, didn’t they? Think back to the earliest commands you heard. “No hitting.” “Don’t eat that – dirty!” Or our personal family classic, “We don’t go in the road,” which was sung to a tune my brother composed around 1971,”Weee don’t go in the row-ode.”
Spoken or not, consciously or not, we all live by a code. Here’s a glimpse at mine.
- Remember that other people have their own rules. They are different from (and may, in fact, be in direct opposition to) my rules. Other people will not (nor are they obligated to) follow, know or even care about my rules. Remembering this helps immensely with my peace of mind.
- Treat all other people as I would like to be treated.
- Say, “please” and “thank you.”
- Don’t litter. This includes signage: if I ever put up yard sale signs around my neighborhood, I vow to take them down after the event.
- Offer all guests to our home a beverage. Even the cable guys.
- If hosting a social event, music is a must. But keep the volume low enough so that people can talk.
- Return phone calls and e-mails (somehow and before too long). That is to say, a call can be returned with an email or vice versa, but I try to occasionally use the other person’s preferred method of communication if it’s different from mine.
- Don’t J-Walk. That reminds me –I do*, sometimes, break my own rules.
- Don’t steal. (*except stealing, I haven’t stolen since that time I was around three and couldn’t control myself in the candy aisle. We’ve all been there.)
- Don’t double dip.
- No nose blowing, nail clipping or filing anywhere in public UNLESS I’m in my office and I’m sitting at my desk AND I’m pressed for time. Once in a while, as an audience member at a particularly boring public speaking event, I might push back my cuticles. But file the nails? No.
- Severe nasal emergencies involving uncontrollable mucus levels are exempt from the preceding rule.
- Always send thank you notes (preferably hand written and snail mailed).
- Never watch local TV “news” shows.
- Cloth napkins only at home, unless serving crowds larger than 12.
- Chew with my mouth closed.
- Do not say, “No problem” as a response to “Thank you”. I’ve been told I’m wrong about this point of view. That I need to get over it. I understand that people – particularly those younger than I – use “No problem” synonymously with “You’re welcome,” but it drives me crazy. There are more polite replies, “Absolutely,” “Sure thing,” or my personal favorite, “My pleasure.”
- If traveling by foot, even on the slightest errand like getting the mail, I try as often as possible to take my wallet and cell phone. Why? An earthquake could render a structure off limits at any time. Surviving would be so much easier with a few bucks, an ID and phone.
- Purses should never be put on table tops; the bottom of bags are about as clean as shoe soles. This is a rule I acquired around my late 20s/early 30s and I spent a good deal of time immediately afterwards feeling mortified for all the years I had been clueless.
- Try to let go of feelings of mortification.
- If someone behind me in line at the grocery store has one or two items, and I have a whole cart full, I often offer to let them go first.
- Tip 20% in restaurants unless the service was particularly bad. Never tip less than 15%.
- Don’t open candy packages in the theatre unless the soundtrack can mask the noise.
- When one of several passengers in a car, I offer any guests and/or the oldest person the front seat.
- Don’t lie. I experimented with lying in my youth. The outcomes ranged from comical to devastatingly painful. If I can’t tell the truth, I do my best to remain silent.
- Treat people with kindness. This usually starts with seeing them.
- If a store clerk is rude, I say compassionately, “Are you having a bad day?” Usually I see their demeanor soften immediately. Then I listen kindly and try to be encouraging. This approach doesn’t take much longer than an unhappy sales transaction.
- When blogging, I do my best to protect the privacy of other people.
- Clean up after myself.
- No hitting.
- Pay attention to when I’m feeling anger. Give space for the emotions to level before taking action.
- When people around me break the rules, I try as best as I can to treat them with grace.
- Be ready to change, abandon and/or accept improvements to the rules.
This is an entry in Genie Alisa’s Living Out Loud project. You can read this month’s prompt here: Living Out Loud Volume 20: You Won’t Read This Anywhere . . . . Or better yet, check out all the fabulous entries at this month’s recap.