Shiny, Black Boots

I don’t like when people tell me what to do. 

And no one really does, I know. No one wants to be ordered around. But unlike most, I really show it. Ask my mother: when she tried to ask me to color when I was young, I would throw the crayons and walk away. Ask my fiancée: if he even suggests that I do something, like don’t eat chips before dinner, I don’t listen and I actually do the opposite (eat the whole bag). 

I have a little problem with authority. 

Why? Where does it come from? That’s the tricky part because it baffles me too. I’m not really a rebel without a cause. I didn’t make trouble in school. I hardly stepped a toe out of line.

 I have just always wanted to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it (and still do.) And the devil may take anyone who says otherwise (says me). 
But imagine my surprise when now that I’m an adult, I’m the authority for others. And how uncomfortable that makes me. Partly because I know how much I hate authority but also because it scares me. (Want to know your true power? Be placed as an authority figure for kids. Most of them are so unquestioning of you that they’ll walk across hot coals before they notice their feet are burning.)

And I have to wonder if that’s necessarily a good thing. That I resisted authority only to become authority myself. If we shouldn’t all try to resist someone telling us what to do with our lives…well, for the rest of our lives. 

I guess in the end we all become a part of the authority life cycle. As we grow, we have to listen to ourselves as authorities of ourselves. (Talk about a catch 22!) And ultimately, decide if we can resist resisting. 

Ma’am, Put the Cookie Down and Step Away

Authority. We all know that it likes to wear shiny black boots. We may call it the po-po or the fuzz, but it also comes in the form of our first-grade teacher, our doctor, and our dear, sweet mother.

From the moment life begins, we encounter this over-arching presence that works in the name of our safety and tells us that we need to follow orders, for our health and the health of others. And like I said, this presence comes in many forms.

Except, one day you’re an adult. Somewhere between losing a bunch of baby teeth and earning your first dollar that isn’t allowance, you become the authority. That’s right. You start to realize that you are the captain of your soul.  You are driving this bus, and you, only you, can turn the steering wheel left or right.

So, why do you still feel like you need to do certain things to live a satisfying life? Or even have a good day at all? Why do you feel like there’s a Twister board, and you need to step on green and put a hand on yellow to feel fulfilled? Why do you feel like you have to follow the directions in the box instead of creating your own?

A succinct but sad example. Today, I had some tasks to do after work. But I couldn’t do them until I exercised. But, as is usually the case, I didn’t feel much like going to the gym, which inevitably halted my progress. (I know. This story seems as painful in the retelling as it was when I was experiencing it.) So, I finally decided that I would take a walk. And upon that decision, I asked aloud:

“But is that enough?”

Is that enough!? What do you mean by that? I had to ask myself. According to what? To whom? Who is measuring my daily progress? Who is pinching my fat rolls and telling me that I should have gone to the gym? Who says that I need to complete so many things a day in order to be allowed to exist?

The answer is I don’t.

This may be difficult to understand, but there isn’t going to be anyone leaning over your shoulder, making sure you fill any kind of quota once you have left work for the day or school for life. No one is going to berate you for not working out. No one is going to scream at you for not attending that party you said you’d go to. And no one is going to leap out of your cupboard and smack the cookie out of your hand that you snuck in the wee hours of the morning.

Now, you’ll have to live with whatever decision you make. And that’s an entirely different kind of punishment. But that also means that you can let yourself off the hook indefinitely.

When you’re the authority of your own life, not only can you decide the consequences but you can define the rules.