Column #14 Motherland magazine

Clare Dwyer Hogg’s resolution for 2015? Building internal foundations strong enough to weather personal storms

I am in no way a builder. I possess no skills in structural engineering. People who know me will grin widely even at the thought. But I’ve been thinking about foundations. My own personal foundations, and how I’ve built them.

The wisdom is to build foundations before the structure, but really things happen in a much more skew-whiff sort of way. Marriage, relationships, stepping into a new job or way of life – often the first thing you get is the fancy building for all to see, foundations not included. Once you’re through the doors, that’s when the work begins: that’s when you’re prising open the floorboards and digging down to create foundations to make the thing last.

It’s a strange perspectival shift. And I think it only works if, no matter what’s going on in life, you are always strengthening your own personal foundations. How? An ongoing process of digging down to find what anchors you in the surety of who you are. It goes deeper than what you like or don’t like about yourself, what decisions you made, or didn’t. Foundations reach the core, as you dig down to the very knowledge of how you want to live – what you will and won’t do, what your own boundaries are, what your deeply held rules are for living a life that is yours.

I don’t think I’ve been very good at this, because I haven’t until recent years been as conscious as I am now of the importance of cultivating my own inner life. The outside was too dazzling, and I was too open to offering myself as comparison. The priority was to invest in the thing, rather than figure out if the thing could take root in the core of me.

One thing to note: as I dig deeper into my own space, I often look at choices I made and think I probably wouldn’t have made them if I had been more sure of myself, had stronger foundations. But beware of the regret that will try to sidle in along with these realisations. Here’s the valuable conundrum in which regret has no room to breathe: without those choices, I wouldn’t be where I am now.

I am very happy to create a mindset that suffocates regret.

If my foundations are in the process of being firmly established, this means that when I open the floorboards of whatever new thing appears in my life, I am not starting from scratch. Instead, I’m digging down to meet the foundations that are already there. I’m joining the new enterprises with my own foundations. This means they won’t float away with the first storm, and neither will I, because I am my foundations, and they are not subject to the vagaries of weather fronts. Equally, if relationships, jobs or ideas I have taken on start to crumble – as they have been known to – my foundations will shake with the tremor of loss, but the deepest part of me won’t crumble with them.

It isn’t a scientific process, but it’s a heart-felt one. I think that nothing I’m involved with has much of a chance of meaningfully lasting unless it is connected to my own personal foundations. And there’s no point doing that, unless my own foundations are deep and considered, and true to what I want for my life.

Written for Motherland magazine, 30th December 2014

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