John Howell’s “Rule is as Rule Does” got me thinking about life and how we invent rules as we go. I make rules for myself and I follow them. But I hate rules, so the only rules I follow are mine, all born of hard lessons.

What rules? I’m glad you asked.

I’ve had a life in which the light at the end of the tunnel was always the headlight of an oncoming train. At one point, I got so stressed I could barely breathe. Something had to give if I was going to survive. I had to change. I had enough issues without stressing myself to death.

I began by getting a tattoo, a symbol of life. It was an acknowledgement of change, an acceptance of survival and the possibility I might have to do it again. The tattoo is a large phoenix in full flaming color. It’s one-of-a-kind, designed for me. I had it put toward the back of my left calf. I didn’t realize it was going to be quite so big, but I’ve come to like it. I was 57 when I got my only piece of body art. Tattoos are more permanent than most marriages, so if you’re going to get one, make it something you won’t find embarrassing later in life. Spelling and punctuation count. A typo in a tattoo is forever.

My left leg

It is difficult to shoot a picture of the lower back of ones left leg. Remember: Blue jeans leave ridges. If you want a picture of a your own body or some part of it, getting someone else to take the picture is better. Both terriers were really excited when I took off my jeans and socks. I’m pretty sure they thought it was a game. Bonnie figured she’d score a pair of socks but I outwitted her and put them up on the desk. Hah! Asking Garry to take the picture seemed weird and required too much explanation. So I snapped it myself. Awkwardly.

I never wrote my rules before, so this has been an interesting exercise. I don’t expect you to follow my rules, but they are pretty good ones. They grew out of decades of doing everything wrong, worrying myself into ulcers, simmering with anger at injustice, and getting frantic over every ecological or political crisis.

Marilyn’s Dirty Dozen

  1. Laugh often. Have friends who laugh with you.
  2. If you can’t fix it, don’t brood about it.
  3. Have pets. Cats, dogs, chickens, ferrets, bunnies, reptiles, bats or birds. Anything but spiders. I don’t like spiders.
  4. Don’t argue with stupid people.
  5. When you know you’re wrong, give up and apologize.
  6. Worrying is a waste of time. Whatever you are worried about, something else will happen.
  7. Staying angry at someone who wronged you hurts you, not them. They aren’t losing sleep over you. Forget it. Move on.
  8. Be a gracious winner. People may sympathize with a sore loser, but everyone hates a gloating winner.
  9. The path less traveled is often a dead-end. Before going down unmapped roads, make sure you can make u-turns in tight spaces.
  10. When you have a choice, do the right thing. When you have no good choices, do the best you can. If you have no choice, run for your life.
  11. Brutal honesty is inevitably more brutal than honest. Be kind.
  12. If you’re an artist, do your thing. Talking about it doesn’t count.

Live your life. You are unique. Celebrate!

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