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

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
Three Steps to Summer Wellness (that I attribute to my mom)

Three Steps to Summer Wellness (that I attribute to my mom)

My mother always said the three ingredients that made a successful summer were 1. read a good book, 2. take a long walk, and 3. make a new friend. So, since I was very small, those were my summer goals. Now every summer about this time, I like to check in with Mom to see how I’m doing.

I’m currently reading Words On Fire: The Power of Incendiary Language and How to Confront it by Helio Fred Garcia, who taught a spokesmanship class I took back in the late 90s at NYU (an important read at this moment). He was kind enough to send a signed copy.

I also recently read Deena Kastor’s very inspirational Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory which I highly recommend (and not just for runners). Last month’s read was Tricky Twenty-Two my next installment in Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series (which is now up to #26). That is my guilty pleasure. 

Sunday, I ran 10 miles. It was my fifth double-digit run since Memorial Day weekend (that’s even better than a long walk, right?).  I’ve committed to running a 5k (3.1 miles), a 10k (6.2 miles), and a Half Marathon (13.1 miles) every month for a year (which began in July). 

I just finished running and biking a 300 mile (virtual) challenge on Historic Route 66 (I wrote about that last week), signed up for another virtual challenge (124-mile Ring of Kerry), and also started a quest to run every street in Vernon Hills, Illinois (I ran every street in Ramsey, New Jersey in 2017). On top of that, Kurt and I have been doing a lot of biking. Longest ride to date: 30 miles.

Making friends has gotten a bit more difficult as an adult and this summer it’s even more so. I am happy to report that thanks to my work with Gilda’s (Run) Club and CARA ‘Go Runs, I’ve made some nice connections and at the very least, new Facebook friends. 

Keeping a social distance, I’ve also met some new neighbors, and joined the Vernon Hills Moms group on Facebook (figuring if I’m gonna be up in the suburbs awhile longer, I might as well make the best of it). I have also worked to maintain old friendships by scheduling a monthly Zoom call with the “girls” from my hometown in New Jersey, who are now spread out all over the country.

Mom would be proud, I think.

In my reflection, I see the lessons she wished to convey.  The three of the most important things we can do for ourselves – anytime, not just in summer – physically, mentally, spiritually…

Never stop learning. Keep your mind sharp. Read. 

“Common sense should tell us that reading is the ultimate weapon–destroying ignorance, poverty and despair before they can destroy us. A nation that doesn’t read much doesn’t know much. And a nation that doesn’t know much is more likely to make poor choices in the home, the marketplace, the jury box and the voting booth…The challenge, therefore, is to convince future generations of children that carrying a book is more rewarding than carrying guns.” 

— Jim Trelease

Keep moving. Stay active. Swim. Bike. Run. Walk. 

“Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person’s physical, emotional, and mental states.”

– Carol Welch

“Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.”

John F. Kennedy

Stay connected. To your family. To your friends. To your community. 

“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.”

– Herman Melville

Mom was a lot smarter than I ever gave her credit for. I only wish she was still around to say, “I told you so.”

Mom and me. A summer long ago. Montauk, New York.
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How virtual challenges are keeping me motivated and saving my sanity

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Wear a mask to prevent facial recognition!

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(Plus a guide to the best ones for Runners)

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