I am a rule follower.
I see others, light hearted and fancy free, seemingly moving about as wispy air, and I envy them. Deeply.
Because if you cut others in line, I’m there to remind you of the people behind you.
If you bypass the process, I’m going to side-eye you from across the room.
Make a promise to finish something and decide you just can’t, I’m going to pick up the work and turn it in. At 11:59 p.m. if I have to.
When I go to my grave, I know someone will ask if she should put “#responsible” on it.
I remember anxiously waiting for my youngest son’s pre-Kindergarten assessment. They held up his coloring page and bits of scissor work to equal things like “motor skills” and “readiness.” I saw his spray of wild orange lines and characters with blotched purple faces, and I was proud. Proud that color belonged wherever it landed. But, in the same flash, I remember thinking, “We should have practiced more. What if he doesn’t have enough control to stay in the lines?”
The regret I felt in that moment was overwhelming because that one little exercise in fine motor control for me has spilled over into a lifetime of proving I can color inside the lines. I felt a desperate gurgle come up in my chest. “I hope he fails! I hope he never colors inside the stupid lines!”
Every time I sit down at a piano or pick up my dusty guitar, I’m reminded that I have to push myself to be loose. I am lost in the fog of just-do-what-comes-natural. I look for lines.
Years of addressing the chaos in my own life has produced an adult that desperately craves order.
Years of having to prove myself has crafted a woman who excels at following the path, crushing a goal, and cruising past a destination I did not make for myself. The surest way to prove I could was to do what I should.
I cannot riff. Sitting down to create feels irresponsible. I am reminded of all my internal and external commitments that demand structure. I’m reminded of the people I might let down. I tick off the people expecting me to do something. I am aware of the people who will breeze in and take, and then leave without giving anything back (I have to give twice to make up for them). It is an unseen sacrifice with riddled with nobility and resentment.
Because I’m also terrified of a world without order. The chaos of no lines or lists. I’m terrified of the people who only understand their priorities on what they want and need NOW. I am anxious as I see them grab for power and prestige and provision, knowing there is a whole group of people behind them. Even if stifling my own needs means creating order that blocks that nonsense, I will do it. I will draw a line. You will not get to bleed your chaos on everyone else. You will make space for others.
What do I do? I look on the other side of the fence with intense longing and curiosity. And I also feel the earth shake under the weight of that disorder. It’s a world I crave and I also don’t want to understand.
So I measure out my little rebellions. Something that reminds me that in a sea of predictability, I am open to surprise. That I delight in the unexpected. I twist the valve to breathe, just a little. I deeply inhale. One thing purposefully out of place. An extra note or chord. I open my windows to let in the air of irresponsible winds. I furiously whisper to my own soul, “Scribble.”
Eliza Cortes Bast is a fierce and honest follower of Jesus. She is a pastor and denominational executive, dedicated to helping churches think missionally. She lives into her passion by connecting people, advocating for the community, and helping organizations think strategically so they can be healthy, vibrant, and sustainable. Eliza lives in Michigan with her patient and handsome husband EJ, and their two boys. Her loves include her home country Puerto Rico, her interracial marriage, a good steak, salsa dancing, writing, empowering emerging leaders, making the impossible possible, Diet Coke, and mentoring. She is not a big fan of anger without action, generalizations, basketball, and saying you can’t live without coffee. She believes you can because she believes in you.