When to break rules

I am not a “Goody Two Shoes” by any means, however, I usually play by the rules, regardless of the situation. I would never, ever, park in a disabled parking space unless I am transporting a disabled passenger, I do not try to outrun trains at a railroad crossing, and I clap my hands along with the beat of the music, as examples of my rule following tendencies. There are times, however, when I believe rules can, and should be, broken. A long time friend and colleague of mine was dying in hospice care recently. She and her life partner decided to get married before her untimely passing. David and I visited my friend and her new husband (who was also a long time friend of ours) a couple of days after they were married for what all of us knew would be the last time we would be together. David suggested, and I wholeheartedly agreed, that we should break the rules of hospice care by celebrating the marriage of our friends in the way many people celebrate, by toasting with a glass of champagne. We bought champagne, plastic goblets, and for my dying friend who preferred gin over champagne, a bottle of her favorite gin, then we sneaked our contraband past the wary eyes of the person staffing the reception desk. We surprised our friends with our rule breaking wedding gifts, then we toasted to our friendship and our friend’s dying wish to be married to her long time love. Did we break the rules? Absolutely! And with pride and pleasure! Was it worth it to comfort a dying person and her new husband (who had been her partner for over 30 years)? Absolutely! Rules are fine, as far as they go, but sometimes, the rules have to be bent or broken. The challenge is knowing when to break the rules and being sure not to get caught! R.I.P. and cheers to the afterlife, Linda!

It is probably because of my schooling from 6th to 12th grades which, while not Catholic school, was very strict. Lots of rules, and at some point I started asking “why?”. I did not ask “why” to be obstinate. Rather, when things seemed arbitrary, it seemed like a fair question. Some things were clearly safety issues – I’m not debating those or things legal/illegal – generally anyway. It was the things like hair length or why someone in pseudo authority could do things that were not permitted to the rest of us. It was a warped school, but perhaps it was valuable in teaching me to question what I was told – not to “buy” everything someone said. When I got into photography, I learned there were many rules in photography. In fact some are called rules – the “rule of thirds” for example. Others rules include “don’t shoot into the sun” – well, I’ve successfully broken both of those. Again, learning when the rules apply and when they don’t was important in photography, and learning that in life is also critical. In the legal arena there are many, many rules. Lots of them don’t seem to make sense to laypersons – some make no sense to the lawyers or judges either. Fortunately, we rarely have to fight those frustrating battles. With the event Melissa described, I weighed the rule with the question, what could they say if they caught us? Why would any rule like that matter? The same is true when dealing with my mother’s progressing dementia. At some point she clearly preferred dessert over her main meal – a lesson in breaking rules that was difficult for my father. Sometimes the rules don’t matter. Sometimes they need to be questioned. Sometimes they matter and the reasons need to be understood. But going through life abiding by all the rules, without question, is abdicating control over one’s life. That lifestyle works better for some more than others. I find it inspiring when others break the rules, not to be defiant, but to stand up for what is right or to make new, better rules.

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