Breaking Rules

I don’t believe that most rules are made to be broken . . . but I don’t mind testing limits and pressing boundaries. Often, opportunities are found in that way. And without some bent (or broken) rules life would quickly stagnate.

Of course, I’m not just talking about the standard for everyone rules – otherwise known as laws. I’m also not just talking about the quiet rules – the ones we knowingly create for ourselves. Morals can fall into this category and so do most religious tenants (though people tend to refer to those as God’s laws). But laws, morals, and religious tenants tend to be things that people are actively aware of.

For instance, most people would agree that it’s breaking a rule to steal something or hurt someone – speaking both from a legal and a moral perspective. And my Orthodox neighbor would say you’re breaking a rule if he caught you eating pork or crab.

But what about those rules that are entirely self-created and self-enforced?

Things like not drinking soda, or always doing the dishes before bed, or always wearing mismatching socks and NEVER EVER wearing plain white cotton socks. ESPECIALLY the kind with the gray toes. UNLESS you are going to be going on a jog or a really long walk.

Yeah. That last is one of my own personal rules. And I actually realized today that I am completely uncomfortable if I don’t adhere to it. Even though it’s something that no one else on this planet actually cares about or  even notices, really, because I tend to cover up my mismatched socks with my shoes (which are not mismatched, by the way).

I can see the benefit of having some personal rules. These types of beneficial rules – when followed in a routine-like pattern – are actually considered habits and not rules . . . possibly due to the lack of an outside punishment if one does not fold ones clothes as soon as they are clean or if one forgets to count those chocolate-cake-calories.

So. Laws, morals, habits . . .  it generally makes sense to obey these types of rules, regardless of whether or not there will be negative consequences, because they offer some sort of a benefit to either society or your own person . . . but what about odd personal rules that often seem to come about accidentally or without any real forethought.

Like my mismatching socks.

Absolutely nothing bad will happen if I happen to grab two black ankle socks from my drawer. Or two blue socks with purple owls. Or two socks that both say Platform 9 3/4. The only thing that will happen is that I will wear matching socks instead of socks that don’t match. That’s it. And yet . . . yet . . . I feel as though I am obligated to mismatch my socks.

Understand, this is not something caused by the recent craze of mismatching socks. I mismatched my socks before that. I actually think it started during my first read-through of the Harry Potter books, because the character Dobby mismatched his socks. Something about that amused me and charmed me. And I’ve literally been doing it ever since.

Not to date myself . . . but that means I’ve been mismatching my socks since I was twelve.

I’m turning twenty-five years old in October. And I still do this thing.

Sure, it sometimes gives me a mental boost to know that I have on one pink sock with little yellow stars and one blue sock with little purple telephones, but not all the time. Sometimes I don’t even realize that I have mismatched my socks until I have it pointed out by my Significant other that one of my socks is an ankle sock and one is not.

(This is usually the only time he brings it up, because he can’t fathom how the “height difference” doesn’t bother me. Then again, he only wears the dreaded white socks with gray toes. And he puts them on the same feet, each time. He has left socks. He has right socks. He will hate his entire day if he accidentally leaves the house with a left sock on his right foot, or a right sock on his left foot. We do not see eye to eye on our socks. I believe they should go on whichever foot they happen to be placed on. My socks are ambidextrous.)

I was thinking about these things today, because I started to put on two purple-white-black striped socks. And then I stopped. Put one back. And selected a plain black sock. I didn’t realize what I did until after it was already done, but I then found myself musing about what my motives had been. Until that point, I had been thinking only of getting to Starbucks. It was six in the morning and I wasn’t even fully awake, but I had interrupted my action to adhere to this weird personal rule about having on mismatching socks.

I found myself thinking about Steve Jobs wearing the same outfit. And Einstein.

I also found myself thinking about one of my all-time favorite novel characters – Ian Malcolm. He only owned black and gray clothing items. Because that way he’d never not match. He could grab gray socks with his black pants and no one would care or think he didn’t look put together. “Because what could be more mundane than worrying about what socks to wear.” He actually says something like that in the book.

And here I am – following my own made-up rule about always mismatching socks.

Because of something that another fictional character did.

The realization made me question all of my quirks. I was actually alarmed by my lack of self-awareness, because I usually feel as though I have myself pretty much figured out – at least as far as my motivations are concerned. And I understood what people talk about when they say that you can sabotage your goals with your habits (again, I feel that habits are just really consistent personal rules). For example: One of my goals is to get in better physical shape . . . but I have this rule that I can only exercise if my significant other isn’t home and isn’t going to be home within the time it will take me to finish a work out.

This is an enormous problem. There are only two days a week when I am home by myself for more than an hour and when I also don’t have other obligations that preclude working out. I will never meet my goal of getting in better shape if I continue to stick to my rule of not working out when there’s a chance my significant other will catch me cussing, because I’m winded ten minutes into a work out video . . . because I only make an effort to be active for about half an hour on two days a week. It’s a vicious cycle.

*insert epiphany light bulb here*

So. My goal for tomorrow and this weekend will be to see how many of my personal rules I can break successfully – not the good ones, like waking up in time to see the sun come up (even if I don’t actually watch it rise); but the bad ones, like spending money I shouldn’t on Sunday Morning Breakfast just because it’s something I always do and if I don’t do it I’ll . . . what? have more time to work out? get to try another new breakfast recipe?

Yeah, because those are totally bad things that should be avoided. *sarcasm*

Okay. The TL;DR version: There is more than one way to choose socks. Dobby and Ian Malcolm both make good points. Tomorrow I’ll be wearing colorful – but matching – socks. Or I’ll mismatch two color socks. Or wear two black ones. Whatever I feel like. Because there aren’t really any rules about what socks I should put on my feet. And believing that such rules exist is sillier than getting advice on socks from literary characters.


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