Humans are strange and complex. Often times we do things that baffle us and those around us in equal measure. We say things then think, “I don’t actually believe that.” We establish rules to govern ourselves, create boundaries that situate others into our world views like stars in a constellation, and sometimes make compromises to keep both in balance. If you zoom in too closely, these unspoken rules don’t often make logical sense. Which probably explains why most humans aren’t quick to verbalize the guidelines of their own inner world. I don’t know if it’s something about turning a quarter of century old, but I am slowly identifying rules that guard my sanity and by extension, organize the constellations (so to speak) in my own reality.
Number one: turn off all phone notifications, except for text messages. I find this one to be especially sacred. There was a moment earlier this year when eliminating all of the notifications felt like a tortuous, never-ending game. Imagine, if you will, the game snake on the old Nokia phones. For every dot you eliminate another one immediately replaces it and each dot takes longer and longer to get to and you chase them to more and more remote corners of the snake universe until you feel you’ve covered every square pixel. Eventually you are so tangled in this dot-destroying, snake-filled universe you fail to realize three hours have passed. Same goes for notification eliminating. In the end it is an unsatisfying endeavor with intangible results.
So why leave on text notifications? The simplest way to explain this is by imagining three rings around a core point, like the way roads are organized in Chinese cities, or how planets are arranged around the sun. Those I interact with face-to-face regularly are reserved for text. They’re the usually the nearest in my world which situates them closest to the core in ring one. Individuals I do not often see or have limited need to correspond with are reserved for other social media—ring two. Meanwhile, most “business” or “work” level interactions are done via email in the outermost third ring. People I am unsure about, well they tend to be placed in the email category until I can figure out where they land. I did not set out to create these rules. I only recently realized I have been subconsciously sorting people for years.
Number two: eat a lot of veggies, except when you don’t. I don’t buy meat or many animal by-products these days, but when I go out to eat with friends or family nothing is off-limits. This isn’t so much a “rule” as it is a pattern I’ve settled in to. Partially because of how expensive meat is and partially on account of my own lazy cooking habits. I just find meat (in all forms) tedious to cook. My budget and my body often thank me for the vitamin nutrient ingredients of my weekly meal preps while my tongue loves every minute of dinner plans with friends. In a weird way, it is a balanced diet.
Number three: give my dog twenty minutes of time every day, no matter what. I actually remember cementing this one into my daily routine. It was some time this last April when I was beginning my new job as a case manager while still working at my old position within the same company. Meanwhile, I also took on a second job at a backpacking gear store. I barely had enough time to cover my needs much less anyone else’s, and I remember clearly thinking, “My dog does not deserve to suffer neglect simply because I’m working more.”
I don’t know why this felt so important, but it did. Like my identity as a decent human being was riding on my ability fulfill this simple task. I held myself to it until it became habit. Come home, unload my lunch pail, play with my dog (or go on a short walk) for twenty minutes, pick up his poo in the backyard, shower, and finally make dinner. Some nights this meant not eating until nine o’clock or later, but it always felt like the right decision. It still does. It is also a measure of making sure I’m getting outside, and breathing fresh air, and doing some form of exercise. I have no regrets about this rule.
Obviously, there are several hundred other rules by which I live my life, but these are a few I feel have found their way to the center of my being and keep me, well me. Somehow, placing them in words makes me fond of the person I have become. I realize we are never really complete, we’re always changing and growing, but right now I am satisfied with this woman who ignores notifications, eats a “balanced” diet, and makes her dog a priority. Right now they keep me sane, which keeps me happy.
Until next time.