Sunday, May 18, 2014

Social Convention and How I Let It Go

From time to time I notice that I deeply believe that social convention is a total load of hog wash.  I've believed it for such a long time, and it's so deeply ingrained that I forget about it.  Then something will come along to remind me, and I feel such gratitude that I let social convention go so long ago and how much more beautiful my life is because I did.

I usually am reminded because someone I've visiting with will say something snarky about one of my friends who is more visibly rebellious about social convention than I am, and I find myself putting up a defense.  I realize that I fly under the radar so effectively that lots of times those folks who are deeply committed to fitting in see me as one of them.  It's always a little bit of a shock!

My parents were intelligent, educated people and raised me to believe that because we were intelligent and educated, social convention didn't apply to us.  Our education and intelligence made it possible, they believed, to use good judgment in running our lives instead of relying on social convention.  They also raised me to understand that if you openly defied "the rules" you would pay a price, so, you can do what you want, but it's better to do it on the down low. 

Weirdly, I also had an extremely low opinion of myself along with having been raised to believe that intelligent, educated people like myself were actually much better than other people.  What a dichotomy!  It just depended on my mood whether I thought I was better than others or a piece of garbage.  But I didn't look down on myself because I wasn't following the rules, just because I thought I was generally no good.

When I was in my early 20s I read "The Feminine Mystique" which convinced me that the trappings of femininity were all a load of hogwash.  That was the final marker of the place where I let go of every scrap of belief in social convention although I continued to be a rebel on the down low.

When I came into recovery, I was scared to death that I was going to have to follow "the rules" in order to get well.  But I was willing to do whatever it took.  So, for a little while I tried (not very successfully)to do what I was "supposed" to do.  Finally, my dear spiritual mother explained that recovery was not about "supposed to's" but was about being myself with all my individuality.   That was a huge relief.

Eventually I got well enough to go on a journey of seeking out who I really was.  I still believed that social convention was hogwash, but I went even further and believed it was actually a barrier to a joyful life.  It was the precursor to shame because it set me up to fear judgment from other people.  Eventually I let go of even the fear of being judged as long as I was doing the best I could to live by spiritual principles. 

At my now advanced age I am increasingly aware that I wouldn't have the beautiful life I've had and have now if I had spent even a teeny, tiny bit more time trying to follow the rules.  I must still be on the down low, though, since I'm sometimes mistaken for those who worry about social convention.  But even that's okay by me.  I'm fine with being a little bit of a secret total rebel.

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