Liberally sprinkled throughout my book on eating disorders and mentoring, Beating Ana, are quotes from my favor
ite piece of all times (okay, it’s a tie between “Letters to a Young Poet” and this one), “Rules for Being Human.”
Written by an unknown author, this piece speaks to me more clearly than anything else I have ever read about recovery, love, life, hope, and humanity.
In the chapter entitled “Mentoring 101,” I begin by quoting “Rules for Being Human” rule #8:
What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.
Sounds a bit harsh at the outset, doesn’t it?
I found it daunting the first several hundred times I read it (the piece sits on my desk, so I see it every day).
To be honest, I still find it daunting…..but now I find it so in a refreshingly honest, liberating way.
These days, each time I read through this unknown author’s 10 “Rules for Being Human,” I feel myself relaxing once more into the relief of not knowing.
I discover that I can find a profound sanctuary in having some sort of standard “humanity manual” to go by in my daily life, even if every point in the manual basically says, “You don’t know now, and you won’t know until you get there, and this is not only okay, but as it should be.”
This particular rule, #8, doesn’t say, “And you will know that you have made the right choice when you are happy all the time, when you have all the material wealth and relationships you have ever wanted, when you are as pretty/skinny/youthful/admired as you think you should be, when you want for nothing within or without.”
The fact is, none of this may ever happen. You may not get anything you want, achieve anything you desire, or ever know if what you “make of your life” is what you “should” be making.
Because the point of rule #8 is that there are no “shoulds.”
A good mentor, like this unknown author, lets us in on this secret. A good mentor breaks our Cinderella bubble of waiting for “the answers,” the “shoulds manual,” the “right choices,” and all the rest to come along.
A good mentor also shares that they are right there in that beingless-knowingless-answerless place with us, right smack dab in the middle of “being human.”
Finding our own resources in mentoring isn’t about making a checklist with headers like “People I can call for support,” “Coping skills I can use when I’m stressed,” or “Positive affirmations to say daily.”
Finding our own resources in mentoring is about discovering that we can survive and thrive in the presence – or absence – of absolutely anything when we get comfortable with not “knowing for sure” in any area of our lives, and still get up to live with gusto and enthusiasm ANYWAY.
Today’s Takeaway: Where have you been placing your experience of “being human” into a little measured box, with specific black or white rules, careful headers, and defined outcomes, and using these things to browbeat yourself in one direction or another, or to keep your own heart and mind sharply divided in debate rather than working to discover concurrence? Today, spend some time getting comfortable with the shared – but truly remarkable – discomfort of “being human”. Ask yourself if perhaps “not knowing” along with all the rest of us is more reassuring and perfectly okay than you may have realized until now.
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Last reviewed: 30 Sep 2011