I find rules freakishly comforting, not so much in the need to follow them as in their staid, passive yet obstinate, existence. I like that they are there if only to somehow delineate a set of markers in the universe. Like, someone thought this was the limit and they marked it as such. Then someone else came along and revised that position and made a new marker. Rules are constantly in flux, which is good; and they are constantly inconsistent, which is bad. Rules also can leave their acceptable position as observers and reminders, becoming tyrannical dictators and this is also problematic, especially when one, er… I, allow these despotic, rigid little rulers to take over the whole of my daily existence.

“I must do — before I can —.”

“I cannot do — unless —.”

Perfectly counterproductive in the end.

Still, I find I rely on them the most when times are the toughest. I may have a little of Adrian Monk in me as evidenced by my book shelves, my morning routine, my underwear drawer, but my adherence to rules is really one of my coping mechanisms in the day to day. These are silly little rules, like flossing before I brush, or drying out the sink after I wash dishes, or smelling everything before I use it (yes, everything). I suppose in truth these are more like habits… but I am not entirely clear on the difference between rules and habits.

There is a rule I do live by though, and it took a friend to point it out. I live subconsciously by a rule of 3. I’ve always loved the number 3. My jersey number as an athlete was always 3 or 33. I like the numbers that are divisible by 3. I like things displayed in 3. I like groups of 3. There is just something a little asymmetrical and off-balance about it, but at the same time it can always be adjusted. I like that.

However, the rule of 3 has to do with my life-clock. [To distinguish from my biological clock to which I am not referring, and for lack of a better name I am going with ‘life-clock’.] It seems that I have a threshold of 3 years. For almost every endeavor. That seems to be my personal, psychological, professional, interest and enthusiasm limit. My friend Ron, who I have known since I was 12 and pointed this out to me, said, “Hey, 3 makes sense. First year everything is new and cool and exciting; second year you are the pro, you know what’s up and have entered the phase where it is safe to say things are not cool and exciting; third year you decide that you don’t need to feel obligated or tied down to anything that is not cool and exciting and you go find something that is new and cool and exciting. Sounds great!”

I thought about this. It sounded a little more liberated and interesting when Ron described it. For me it often feels like I am continuing to be a directionless commitment-phobe. When I mentioned this to Ron he said, “Oh, well, yeah of course! But what’s wrong with that?”

3 Years:
3 years at Wilson School, Petaluma (forced move at the time, but it counts)
3 years in Seattle
3 years before interest in High School completely waned
3 years before focus in college was remotely attained
3 years between college and Work
3 years at each school (job) since then
3 years to complete my MS
3 years before I realized that each of my last 3 relationships were over/doomed/a complete disaster (though I forced each to five – bad time to break the rule.)

And now I am coming up to 3 years in Hong Kong.

I have some decisions to make.

I am going to be 38 this year. I don’t know what that means or what that ceases to mean, but I wonder what will be next. I hope that I will have the ability to make a really authentic choice for the first time in my life, one that is not dictated by my ‘rules’ but rather by fearlessness.

Maybe that should be my new rule: No Fear.

I think I will give it a try– but not until I —

Amanda, going to bed at 11:00 pm in Hong Kong because it is a work-night. It’s a rule.