When Rules Don’t Apply to Me…I get anxiety

Rules always apply. For everyone. I’m a “rules follower.” I always follow the rules. Doing the right thing is something that was ingrained in me in childhood. I hate getting scolded. There are times though that the choices we have to make aren’t so black and white and put our values in direct conflict with the rules.

I don’t like being perceived as that guy who thinks rules don’t apply to them. I am never that guy. Although here I am in a hotel room in New Jersey, not exactly quarantining. 

We got confirmation from Ann’s family about a month ago that her ashes would be interred at the cemetery this week. We had been holding out hope since March that the big memorial service she deserved could be held around what should have been her 20th birthday, also this week.

The big service was not to be, but a small gathering at the cemetery was planned as well as an intimate gathering of friends outdoors at the family’s home to mark the birthday. My daughter wouldn’t – couldn’t – miss out on this. 

Aware of the list of “quarantine states” that New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy was revising on a regular basis, I waited to book our hotel.  Of course as soon as I did, Illinois was added to the list. Not going only crossed my mind for a second. I knew this was something my daughter needed to do.

Final resting place. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. August 2020.

I reached out to the family and said that we’d come and could limit our time with them to the outdoor service at the cemetery and not participate in anything else. That wasn’t necessary they said. They knew we had been laying low and following the rules to an extreme since this started.

When we came here for the funeral in March just before the stay-at-home order was enacted (when New Jersey was the hot spot!). We laid pretty low, disinfecting as we went and slipped in and out without getting sick or getting anyone else sick. We have applied the same strategy this week. Plus now with masks required and worn everywhere we go, I feel even better about the risks than I did then.

Yes, rules always apply. The fact that I am well aware of breaking one gives me anxiety. Seriously.  I don’t want to get anyone sick. I don’t want to get sick myself. But in my benefit verses risk calculation, I decided that the benefit of my daughter being with her friend for her birthday and being part of her proper good-bye was important enough to make the trip. It wasn’t like this was an event that would be there next year.

Our friends didn’t see us as the risk Governor Murphy did because they know us. We didn’t go to the mall, we didn’t go to the beach, or even try outdoor dining. We got take-out and limited our interactions. I don’t believe the risk we presented by not fully following the quarantine travel advisory was significant. And we drive back tomorrow.

While I will rarely break the rules, in those few times that I might consider breaking them, I don’t take it lightly. As I said, I have anxiety over this – I imagine that’s why I feel the need to explain myself here. And that’s the difference between “rules followers” and that guy (or gal) that thinks rules don’t apply to them. The rules always apply. Are you willing to admit you’re not following them and  take responsibility for the consequences?

Got out for some runs on deserted streets, mask at the ready. Ramsey, New Jersey. August 2020

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