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Do This, Don't Do That, Can't You Read the Signs?

Join Me for Some Reflections on Life

“Signs, Everywhere, there's signs Blocking.

out the scenery Breaking. my mind Do.
this Don't! do that Can't! you read the signs?”

My thanks to the Five Man Electric Band for that introduction.

The song, “Signs,” was, of course, a metaphor about a person spending their life following instructions and being told what to do, rather than living free and easy, which is what the Eagles wanted us to do.

Welcome to the mind of a writer. I was sitting at my desk this morning, minding my own business, when that song popped into my head. No sooner had it done its popping thing than reflections followed, reflections about the structured way most of us live our lives

I know all about structure. In fact, for me it is a matter of life and death.

A bit dramatic you say? Allow me to explain.

I am an alcoholic. For me, the most dangerous real estate in the world is the six inches of property between my ears. I call that area the “Danger Zone.” I have had to learn the hard way over the years that I need structure to keep my mind from wondering, because once my mind is left to its own devices, I can make a typhoon out of a glass of water.

And then all hell breaks loose for Bill.

So I live a structured life. Up every day at the same time; in bed every night at the same time. I do quite a few things each day on schedule and rarely deviate from that schedule. Luckily I am married to an understanding woman who allows this to happen. Many have tried to change me with disastrous results.

Anyway, today we are going to take a trip on the wild side. I’ll use a little free-form writing to delve a little deeper into the lyrics of the song “Signs.” I hope you enjoy the journey as much as the destination. And for those of you unfamiliar with free-form writing, please, don’t tell me in a note about some grammatical error. I fully intend to break a few rules of grammar in this article.

It starts at an early age

It starts at an early age

Pop Goes the Weasel

Out the birth canal we go, slimy, slippery as a greased pig, pop goes the weasel into waiting arms, wash us off, dry us off, and thus the journey begins. Mommy and daddy, loving eyes, loving words, protecting us against all dangers. Must not do that, they say, baby will get hurt and those owies can pain you something fierce. No, no, darling, don’t touch that. No, no, darling, don’t go near that. Come over here and play, close to mommy, that’s a boy, now, isn’t that better? Well no, mom, it really isn’t. There’s a lot of fun in them thar hills, if you’d only let me crawl over there but damn, mom don’t speak no baby talk and I just can’t get her to understand.

I know what I’ll do….I’ll scream. Screaming’s good…screaming gets results. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, but screaming is always good for a reaction, and a reaction means I’m being heard, so here goes…..WHAAAAAAAAA!

Hush now baby, don’t you cry, mommy is here and everything will be all right, so we hush, and we whimper, and sleep envelopes us in our new womb of blissful rest.

And continues

And continues

And the Years March On

Wear your helmet, Billy, and not so fast, Billy, and if you trip you’ll skin your knee, remember the last time, Billy, it wasn’t so fun, was it now? Well no, the skinning wasn’t much fun, but man alive I felt alive, the window blowing through my hair and me fast as a scorched rabbit, defying the odds while risking it all for one rush, one mind-blowing journey on the wild side of life.

Gotta go to school now and get my smarts, learn it all now son, be smart now son, do the homework now son. Get with the program, learn those times tables, conjugate those verbs, diagram those sentences, make us proud, Bill, make us proud, and don’t forget to wipe your feet when you come home. Be home straightaway from school, don’t you be dilly-dallying with your friends, dinner is at six and don’t be late, mom worked hard over the stove in her dress and high heels, cooking and slaving so you could eat better than those starving kids in Africa, and for God’s sake say your prayers at bedtime, don’t you be forgetting your maker now hear me, son?

Them’s new clothes now, Bill, so take care of them and no roughhousing. For the love of God, would you act your age? You’re getting older now, son, and you can’t be acting like some five year old. What will the neighbors say if they see you acting like some damn clown? Tuck in your shirt and comb your hair, then go mow that lawn. If you want to play then you gotta pay. That’s the way it is in life, so might as well learn that lesson now.

And continues

And continues

And On

The last ringing of the last bell, and it’s out of school we go and hooray, hooray, the last day of May of the last year of book learning, now let’s get out there and be a fully-functioning adult in a poorly functioning society. Make your mark, Bill, tote that barge and lift that bale, and always, always pay those taxes on time. A man don’t shirk responsibilities and it’s high time you learn that, so be a good little soldier and go get a job and start contributing to the economy, a good little worker bee among millions of such bees, all looking for a piece of the action.

Nine to five, suck it up and pay more dues, and if you’re lucky you’ll retire a few years before your body gives out, and won’t that be a miracle?

Green means go and read means stop, and don’t forget that caution color, and caution is the word of the day, the week, the month and the year, careful where you step cuz you don’t want to be stomping on another man’s toes, or stealing his thunder, and thunder means lightning and sparks like the sparks when a man meets a woman, kissy kissy, I do, I do, marriage license in hand and a bun in the oven.

Now you’ve really got to work, Bill, you are now part of the system, two kids, two cars, debt crushing you down and the only answer is to keep working, keep working, keep working. Make those payments on time, be at work on time, make love not war on time, your whole damn life is now a punch clock, clock in, clock out, day in, day out, marching to the tune of suburbia and the endless drudgery of a self-imposed prison.

And On

This is your new home now Bill, don’t you love it now Bill, we think you’ll be very comfortable now Bill. Meals are served at nine, twelve, and six, every day, the schedule is posted on that wall over there, but if you forget we’ll have someone come and get you for each meal. Don’t worry, now, everything will be taken care of for you, just sit back and relax, watch that soap opera and don’t forget to wear those slippers while in the building, because our staff works real hard to keep things neat and clean and we don’t need no scuff marks.

Oh no, Bill, you can’t go for a walk by yourself. That just wouldn’t do. What if you got lost. No, no my friend, we’ll have someone come get you when it’s time for exercise. Just look out that window now and everything will be all right. These rules are to protect you, don’t you see that, don’t you comprehend that? Of course you do, so be a good soldier and just let us do our jobs the way they are supposed to be done.

There, there, now, everything will be all right.

A Note from the Author

Hey, that would be me. I hope you enjoyed the journey through the Land of Signs. Come back real soon now. Feel free to drop by any old time. I promise not to make you follow any rules during your visit.

2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 05, 2014:

Thank you Mathira. That is the effect I was trying to capture. I appreciate your kind words of support.

mathira from chennai on June 05, 2014:

Your way of writing this post was different and I enjoyed it. Very fast paced as you had written as the thoughts flowed into your mind.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 28, 2014:

Those are tasty apples indeed, Deb. LOL Thank you!

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on May 28, 2014:

My drum isn't like yours, and my road ain't paved, so I'm off with a smile. How do you like THOSE apples?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 12, 2014:

LOL..no wonder I like you, Liz. :)

Elizabeth Parker from Las Vegas, NV on May 12, 2014:

I'm not a big fan of rules so I'll definitely be back to visit soon! :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 12, 2014:

savvydating, thank you. I don't think anyone but my mother thought I was adorable in that picture. LOL I did tan very easily...now I don't allow myself too. We do, at times, get wiser with age.

Love the words by Gibran and so very true.

Thank you again.

Yves on May 12, 2014:

Wonderful story! As an aside, it is interesting that too many rules are stifling (to say the least) for a growing child, yet at the same time, solid structure is helpful in allowing our children to understand the value of personal discipline as they grow into adulthood. But then rules and structure, although related, are not the same thing.

Your story brings to mind the words of Kahlil Gibran, who said:

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you."

If more parents would take these words to heart, we'd have less troubled children and adults in this world.

I thank God that I learned from my own childhood--that one has to honor the individual spirit of one's children... with structure, of course.

I loved this piece. By the way, I have to say that you were a really cute little kid. I had seen the 3rd kid pic before, (the one with the glasses) but forgot to mention that I thought I was looking at an adorable African American child. You must tan really well... you're pretty lucky for a white guy. ;) (I was born with my tan.) Up & awesome!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 12, 2014:

Vellur, very true. There is only one way out of that circle and I'm not ready for that yet.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on May 12, 2014:

Interesting read, this is life I guess and we keep on going caught up in the circle of life.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 11, 2014:

Thank you again, DDE!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 11, 2014:

Not too scary I hope, DDE, but true in many ways. Thank you!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on May 11, 2014:

Great writing and you shared such a wonderful hub.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on May 10, 2014:

This is a creative and very interesting piece of writing, Bill. It's also a bit scary, because it does describe the life of many of us!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 10, 2014:

Very true, Pam, and I'm glad you enjoyed this rambling discourse. Happy Mother's Day to you.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 10, 2014:

Thank you Cecile...I think many of us share similar memories, and they keep us warm at night.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 10, 2014:

Thank you vkwok!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on May 10, 2014:

I really enjoyed this hub and it sure held many truths in a very entertaining way. I had to laugh as it is impossible to not relate to many of those instructions we all received throughout our childhood and the beat goes on.

Cecile Portilla from West Orange, New Jersey on May 10, 2014:

Enjoyed this hub billybuc! It brings back a lot of good memories. Sounds like we had a similar journey!

Victor W. Kwok from Hawaii on May 10, 2014:

Thanks for sharing this very interesting hub, Bill!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 10, 2014:

Faith, the young are born to break rules. I'm clinging to that youth as long as I can.

Thank you for sharing part of your evening with me. Now have a wonderful weekend my friend, and thank you always.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on May 09, 2014:

When I read your title here it just brought back so many memories as I loved that song growing up! I believe I was meant to be a bit behind here on HP and catching up this night, to read this specific hub.

Thank you for sharing about having to be structured and that very old quote by H.G. Bohn came to my mind, "An idle mind is the devil's workshop." So true! Then to follow that with your wonderful free-flow writing was just what I needed to enjoy reading this night.

I think my siblings and I broke all the rules growing up and lived to tell about them lol.

Have a great weekend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 09, 2014:

Laugh all you want, Dora. That's the spirit of this article, and I thank you.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 09, 2014:

Cyber, maybe you and I will lead a clothing revolution. LOL Then again, maybe not. :) Thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 09, 2014:

DrPayback, thanks, I think.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on May 09, 2014:

Starting my day laughing at something serious; or is there sign that says I shouldn't? Thoroughly enjoyable! Thank you.

Shelley Watson on May 09, 2014:

I enjoyed your article as usual Bill, the way you express yourself is always so entertaining. I have a very similar picture of me as a child, same style of clothes and car vintage as you've posted here.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 08, 2014:

Ruby, you'll be living on the edge if you do that. :) Always the risk taker, aren't you? LOL Thanks my friend.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on May 08, 2014:

I love the Eagles and i loved your time of birth till today. I even liked your word ' thar ' My life is structured because that's me. I wouldn't know any other way. Maybe tomorrow i will shop at Little Giant instead of Wallmart. Hee..

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 08, 2014:

Peggy, thank God for those who color between the lines. Life would be so boring without them. Thank you for your thoughts.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 08, 2014:

Thanks, Parrster! Always a pleasure having you stop by.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 08, 2014:

John, babble all you want my friend. Show me a tree as a kid and I was in it. Yes I got hurt a few times, but man it was fun. :)

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 08, 2014:

We do spend much of our lives following rules and most of them are made for our own good admittedly. Sometimes however we can color outside of the lines and a masterpiece is created!

Richard Parr from Australia on May 08, 2014:

Enjoyed reading your condensed journey of life. Thanks for sharing.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on May 08, 2014:

Great stuff to reflect on here Bill. My life tends to be quite free form now since I was forced to take early retirement because of my wife being injured at work. My mornings are quite structured with certain tasks needing to be done but after that we can do with the day what ever we please within the restraint of our finances and my wife's physical condition. The well known saying, "You can't see the Forrest for the trees", has become "You can't see the city for the signs". You are right in what you say that our whole lives growing up is full of signs, "don't do this or that". The worst thing you could say to a kid was something like, "don't climb that tree or you'll fall!" Chances are they'll fall because you planted that thought in their head. Anyway I'll stop babbling...good hub.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 08, 2014:

LOL...Alan, I'll be laughing the rest of the day at your comment. Thanks for a great chuckle my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 08, 2014:

Jaye, you are a hoot, and I'll be one of the crankiest old fogies in the home. LOL Here's one that drives me nuts...the seat belt laws. I know they are protective, but I resent being told to protect myself. Bev just shakes her head at me.

Thank you my friend. The check is in the mail.


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 08, 2014:

And David, where it stops nobody knows...and that's part of the great fun. :) Thanks, buddy!

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on May 08, 2014:

Don't forget how it feels, Bill, 'cos it's going to find its way back to you. When you get old they'll start to talk to you the same way, only it'll be your kids (and somebody else's kids) that talk to you that way in your 'dotage'(nice word for 'proto-senility').

Of course they might stop talking to you like that - or even at all - if you give one of them a bunch of fives. Then they'll treat you with respect (spell that with a capital 'R' - for raspberry).

Well call them p**s-takers here.

Jaye Denman from Deep South, USA on May 08, 2014:

You're right, Bill, about not only the printed signs we're expected to follow all our lives, but the aural instructions (the DOs and DON'Ts) that we get from numerous sources throughout the years.

I lived a fairly structured routine as long as I was in the corporate environment, for I had no choice. Early retirement due to health issues changed my schedule quite a bit. In fact, I no longer have a true schedule, though I do set some time and date goals for myself.

I still work pretty hard for a retiree, trying to keep a roof over my head, but I don't look at the clock frequently. Since my dog has a 'built-in' alarm clock in her brain, she can tell me when to get up in the morning, take her outside, feed her, and give her treats. Ha! Other than her routine bossiness, I do whatever else I'm doing according to my need and no longer wear a watch.

As for visual signs, I obey traffic signs (but don't get out much anyway, so they aren't a frequent irritant for me). Other than those signs, I am pretty stubborn for an old gal. As long as I can take care of myself, I go my own way, do my own thing and don't take too kindly to instructions, even when they're supposedly for my 'own good.' Here's hoping that if I ever have to go into one of those old people warehouses, I'll have lost my marbles sufficiently that I won't be a total pain in the butt to the staff, as I'm known for my assertive personality.

That is what happens when a long-time control freak gets old! She (or he) no longer wants to follow signs. The flip side is that the former control freak stops giving as much advice.

Voted Up++ and shared.


David Warren from Nevada and Puerto Vallarta on May 08, 2014:

ROFL, at myself that is! I "fell off that merry-go-round" when my neck gave up long before the rest of me. The funny thing is I have been living in fear of not living that dream and avidly look forward to getting back on, around and around we go.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 08, 2014:

Jo, I will gladly accept your kind words. Thank you so much. I hope all is well with you. Blessings always.


Jo Alexis-Hagues from Lincolnshire, U.K on May 08, 2014:

Bill, this really makes one stop and take stock. Life can really grind us down into predetermined shapes that has nothing to do with what we really want, no matter how much we rebel, we just keep right on following those signs, because we know if we stray away from that path, we'll be helplessly lost. You my friend, with the amazing Bev beside you, have had the courage to jump off the merry-go-round to find your own path.

Brilliant writing, my best to you both.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 08, 2014:

Larry, it's a shame we didn't teach together. We could have skipped school together and gone hiking.

Thank you as always my friend. Have a great day in Ann Arbor.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 08, 2014:

Thanks, Brian! Yes, I loved Calvin, but then who didn't? :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 08, 2014:

one2get2no, thank you very much.

Larry Kitzmann on May 08, 2014:

WOW--Again my friend well done on so many levels. Yes rules, rules, rules. As a student I often skipped class on nice days just to walk in the park or go downtown. Later I became a teacher and damn if I didn't do the same thing as a teacher. My last 2 years in Colorado Springs were especially hard as the school which employed me was only a 10 minute drive from Garden of the Gods. On more than one occasion I would take the day off just to go hiking and be alone with nature. I mean really you have to find the flowers before you can take the time to smell them.

Brian Leekley from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on May 08, 2014:

Sounds like you were the prototype for Bill Watterson's Calvin.

Excellent demonstration on how to free-write.

Philip Cooper from Olney on May 08, 2014:

Great hub Billy....you've hit the nail on the head again. Voted up and shared.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 08, 2014:

And Marlene, it's kind of fun not following those, isn't it? :) Thanks for stopping by my talented friend.

Marlene Bertrand from USA on May 08, 2014:

Yes. So many signs. About the only ones I'm happy to see are the ones where, "Green means go and red means stop." Think of the chaos if that was otherwise. Anyway, as for the rest of them, well I do believe we have a lot of do's and don't that are really not all that necessary.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 08, 2014:

LOL...Eric, you are too funny! It's the rebel in me, my friend. I just need to break free and run occasionally. Thanks for the laugh and good luck with that apostrophe.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on May 08, 2014:

Just fantastic, I just love it. But I look at the irony. Bill the Buc, the best freestyle writer on hubpages yet that came from learning and following all the rules. The dichotomy is glaring. And so at least in this space I will continue to learn where the rules say to put that damned apostrophe ;-)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 08, 2014:

breakfastpop, those were the days my friend. I miss summertime as a kid. Little did I know then....right? We had it pretty good.

Thanks for sharing your runaway story.

breakfastpop on May 08, 2014:

Frankly, your fine writing makes me want to catch a plane to Costa Rica and live free in a new place with lots to see and do. Routine is comforting in so many ways, but there always comes a point when it's time to shake things up. When I was a kid I went to a fabulous sleep-away camp. One day, I decided that it would be an adventure trying to run away from the camp. I left on foot with a friend of mine. Our absence was discovered and the camp owners picked us up on the road. I believe I got into a bit of trouble, but the experience of it all was worth it. I always followed the rules in school (for the most part), but in the summer I felt the need to bust loose! Voted up, interesting and awesome.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 08, 2014:

Thank you Debra! I appreciate the visit and kind words.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 08, 2014:

Thanks, Sha, and now I expect a poem from you about Jeremiah the Bullfrog. :) Playtime will come later this afternoon if the rains hold off that long. Until then I have editing to do.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 08, 2014:

Mark, very nice...I've always loved that song. Thanks, buddy!

Debra Allen from West By God on May 08, 2014:

I sure did like that trip. Life is full of those kinds of signs ....from other people. I did like this article very much. Voted up!!!

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on May 08, 2014:

I love this free flow tale. I also love the two songs that inspired it. Now, for some reason Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog just popped into my head! Where'd that come from???

There's a time for work and a time for play. We need to remember the play part and act on it or life becomes the drudgery we're trying to leave behind.

Love this post Bill. It's a fun read yet still makes a point. Have a wonderful day and don't forget to get in some play time!

Curiad on May 08, 2014:

Come gather round people wherever you roam

And admit that the waters around you have grown

And expect it that soon you'll be drenched to the bone

For the times they are a changin....

Or not, Great message Bill!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 08, 2014:

Janine, I'm so glad to hear that you liked this and that you will be having some fun today. Enjoy my friend and I'll talk at you tomorrow. Thank you!

Janine Huldie from New York, New York on May 08, 2014:

I am with Carol and loved this, especially the way you began and ended this one, too. Absolutely perfect and I am with you that I need some fun too in my life and I am so grabbing some today with Lily's end of the year pre-school show. So, won't be on much during the day and planning on enjoying every moment. Have a wonderful Thursday now, Bill!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 08, 2014:

Carol, thank you my fellow Libra. An ice cream break sounds marvelous and now, of course, I'll be having one at the end of the day. Thanks for that great suggestion. :)

carol stanley from Arizona on May 08, 2014:

i loved this and it so rings true. You are amazing as always. As for routine for you..how wonderful it is you know what will keep you putting one foot in front of the other. People spend so much time of their lives trying to keep up this and that. Working and more working..Doesn't human being..mean just being sometimes. I like routine to a point and keeping busy with things I love is what makes my world work for me. As a fellow Libra we have to have this structure and occ. have an ice cream break.

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