Rules For Life – One Last Rule
by Ken La Salle
For the last three years, I’ve been welcoming you back each month as I’ve analyzed a series of rules we can use to help us through life with as little pain, as little regret, and as much satisfaction as possible.
I knew the day would come when I would write my final rule and, let me tell you, it was going to be a good one. In fact, I wrote this final rule down about a year ago and thought to myself, “Yes. This is it. This is the one. The final rule. I’m ready.”
And then, this past year happened.
I could just talk American politics to give you some sense of just how haywire the year has been but you know about that already. To extend my list of shocks and indigestible moments, then, this also happened: My dog died. I lost my car. My mom became very ill. My wife’s uncle, John, was diagnosed with Stage Four cancer. There’s more I can add but I think you get the idea.
My grand, final rule was something along the lines of empowering yourself and making your way, etc. etc. etc. But this idea started looking more and more ludicrous with every event mentioned above.
Then, too, there’s the reason why I am concluding this series: My upcoming hike on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). My attempt last year is another shock I could have added to the above list, except that I kept convincing myself that it was a learning experience—for more on that, you can check out my audio monologue The World’s Worst Backpacker. I believed that if I trained myself, I would get better at backpacking, good enough that I could return to the PCT triumphant!
And then, winter came… and dumped more snow along the PCT than anyone has seen in years. So much snow has fallen, in fact, that the level of difficulty for hiking through it is unbelievable.
But I tried not to let that discourage me. I kept training. I kept hiking. I even hiked a section of the PCT a couple of weeks ago. Thirty-two miles through desert wildflower blooms and sunny skies and the friendly faces of other backpackers.
… I’m still not certain if I liked it at all.
The hike was miserably hot, incredibly difficult, and I remember a moment, sitting on a perch on the side of a cliff beneath the shade of a sad, little cactus, when tears came and I didn’t know what the heck I was doing with my life. Or how I would get through the snow. Or anything, to be honest.
In that moment, all the rules vanished—just as they had when my dog died and when my car was totaled, when my mom got sick, and when we learned of Uncle John’s diagnosis. There are times when nothing makes a whole lot of sense and the very thought of rules goes beyond laughable, beyond even comprehension.
That moment comes to us all. It’s simply a part of life, without malice or intention. It just happens.
What can you possibly do when such events strike? Try not to overthink it. Try not to expect too much of yourself. Because the rules you set in your life create the unexpected benefit of helping guide you even when you can’t be bothered by rules. Kurt Vonnegut said that we should beware what we pretend to be and I would add that we should take courage and solace in who we try to be.
That person you’re trying to be—be they good or funny, supportive or decisive—that is the person you are deep down. That is the person who will get you through the tough times. It was the person who got me off that cliff and sat me down before a creek in the shade of an oak tree.
Trying to be a good person makes you a good person. It doesn’t make life easy but it does make life better.
Thank you for joining me for this set of rules and, now, the time for rules has ended. This list was never meant to be comprehensive and I’ll bet you have a few rules I never considered.
It’s time for me to set off on my next adventure, wherever that leads. As always, you can find me at www.kenlasalle.com.
Be good to yourself. Be kind to others. And let’s make this world a better place.
About the Author
Author and Playwright, Ken La Salle grew up in Santa Ana, California and has remained in the surrounding area his entire life. He was raised with strong, blue-collar roots, which have given him a progressive and environmentalist view. As a result, you’ll find many of his stories touching those areas both geographically and philosophically. His plays have been seen in theaters across the country and you can find a growing number of books available online. Find out more about Ken on his website at www.kenlasalle.com.