Breaking The Rules: Listening and Knowing When It’s Time to Let Go

Sep 02, 2019

Photograph by Jason Long

A self-professed rule follower lets her hair (and her guard) down — and learns to trust in her own rules


My name is Lea and I’m a ‘rule follower’. And rule followers, well, they like to follow the rules.

By nature, I’m a people-pleaser. I don’t like conflict or discord and will go to great lengths to avoid it or ‘fix it’. I want people to be happy. I want to create comfort and beauty around them. The irony isn’t lost on me that I grew up in my parent’s restaurant and ended up in the service industry creating experiences for others and managing a staff.

But it is also a calling (like all experiences in our lives) to go deeper, to learn and accept more of myself…like how to break the rules, in particular the self-imposed ones. The ones that tell me I will be judged. I am doing things wrong. I need to be better.

I’m certainly not talking about laws of society, I’m talking about giving our power away to fears, roadblocks and managing expectations of others. When we accept roles, we allow others to make the rules and to decide how we are going to respond to situations (even when they don’t know they are doing it).

Oh, this is a work-in-progress for me! I’m consciously reteaching myself to stay calm, to feel my way through scenarios differently — to not keep myself up at night worrying in bed tossing and turning about any zillion outcomes that I can’t control. Well at least I try.

We think we can’t help it, but we can. And trust me, any shift of consciousness that you make in that direction, has impact. It’s a practice (and I’m practicing).

Things come up all the time in the restaurant business; equipment breaks down at the most inopportune times, staff can get tired, grumpy and rub each other the wrong way, mishaps happen…and I begin to worry because I want to make it better, to clean it all up, to play nice.

Old, unpracticed me, would take it on. Can you relate?

I’ve committed to allowing myself to step back and breathe. When staff or friends have disagreements, I sit with them. I don’t try to negotiate it or tell them what to do. It’s not mine to fix. When a fire inspector tells me that I have to reorganize the basement during the busiest week of the season, instead of creating more resistance — I move in the direction of solving the problem. I know if I don’t, I’ll just spend sleepless nights thinking about it.

We create so much of our own suffering simply by not owning it or taking action (which can sometimes be inaction). But we can agree that worrying doesn’t solve anything.

What if we worried less and tapped into our own inner wisdom more?

There is a wise sage within each of us waiting to emerge and be heard. I’m learning that there are rules to be broken, that there isn’t one way to solve any problem.

Start with identifying where your energy leaks.

The more I listen to myself, the more I love each visitor at the restaurant, accept each staff member having a bad day and each mishap that arrives at my doorstep — the more I see we are all just trying to do our best.

We all come with our own baggage — the downloads of ‘shoulds’…you should do this, you should be this way, you should respond like this.

The golden rule is learning how to find your way home again, to trust that you are safe and well and strong enough to handle whatever is before you (even when it doesn’t feel like it). And when we focus on ourselves, we allow others to do the same. When we stop judging, we might just feel less judged.

I’m so grateful for this crazy life ride and for you being on it along with me. It has been a glorious summer in the Hudson Valley, such a blessing. Just the other day I commented to a friend on a walk how we have had the nicest customers ever this summer. Maybe it’s all a matter of perception, but I do believe when we are kind to ourselves we attract kindness and create a space for others to be kind to themselves.

What more could we ask for? So, as I let go of this beautiful season and stand before the doorstep of fall, I ask you to break some self-imposed rules, let your hair down and trust yourself.


Get the Cafe Newsletter

Get the Garden Cafe's beautiful newsletter delivered to your inbox every month. It's chock full of musings, recipes, music, good reads and more — to nurture your mind, body and spirit. Simply enter your information below to join our free community!