You can if you want to. And, you don't have to.

I've started taking walks in the morning after dropping off my son at school. Not for exercise, but simply to get present, and to get some fresh air.

This is what came to me this morning, which felt profound to me as a basic mindset for peace and happiness:

If I want to do it, I can. And, I don't have to.

In other words, remember my free will. Just because I have a belief about the importance of something doesn't mean that it's True.

That dreaded phone call I think I have to make today? I don't have to make it. Nor do I have to dread it. But I can if I want to.

The fact that I've got mice back in my house again? I can do something about it if I want to. But I don't have to. And I'm allowed to have any opinions about the situation that I want. Or no opinion at all.

The class I'm teaching tonight? I don't have to come up with detailed plan for it. But I can if I want to. Everyone may or may not show up, and I can choose to worry about that, or not. 

The point is, we human beings and societies make up all sorts of rules about how we're supposed to act, think, and feel that just aren't real. There is absolutely nothing that says we have to follow the rules as we have understood them.

But Anne, these words are dangerous! What if someone reads this post and takes it as permission to commit some kind of atrocity?

To that, I am inclined to say, I am not directing this to them. I am directing it to you, the person reading this now. 

We have absolutely no control over what any other person does. But we have absolute control over how we see the world, and what we choose to do -- including whether we want to spend our time worrying about what other people will and won't do. 

I invite you to consider:

What do you feel like you have to do today, or in your life in general? 

You don't have to do any of those things. But you can, if you want to.

What do you feel like you must not do, now or perhaps ever?

You absolutely could. But you don't have to.

The world will not end, regardless of your actions. We are all pretty insignificant that way. But even in our insignificance, we still have the power of choice.

What do you want to do with this idea? What do you want to do in this moment?

You have full freedom to do whatever you want.

And, you don't have to.