Column #15 Motherland magazine

Clare Dwyer Hogg reconsiders the commitments she makes to others – and to herself

Is being flexible a positive thing? Of course it is. Of course. Except that someone pointed out to me that being pervasively flexible practically dictates that people interpret my requests similarly flexibly. It was thought-provoking. I can’t feel unhappy about not being understood if don’t make myself understood.

It is a natural progression from last week’s column about the foundations we constantly have to build. The space I share with others has to be very carefully thought about. What type of ground am I inviting people to walk on with me? If there’s a lot of give and take, it will be comfortable for others, but if there’s too much flexibility, it won’t be very comfortable for me. Equally, if my flooring is pure concrete, the people I’m in relationship with will have no doubt about what I need, but it may not be an entirely pleasant place for them to exist.

Some people (concrete flooring) have no problems articulating what they want or need. Their mission may well have to be how to temper their requests. They might have to think about how to articulate them in a way that doesn’t sandblast the needs of the hearer into non-existence. Yet despite its more benign appearance, I am thinking that my ultra-flexi approach has equally destructive tendencies. For a start, I’m not always communicating truthfully. If I shim-sham about being OK with something when I’m not, it gives a false impression. I can’t blame the hearer for believing what I say.

I’m not talking about very obvious “big” things here. I’m not flexible on dishonesty, or standing by when I think something is wrong. I mean the apparently small things, the little details that make up life. Saying how much time I really need to do something. What help I need in certain circumstances. Whether I mind doing a favour or not.

I believe that it is very important to put ourselves out for others, to sacrifice some time and effort, to swallow a sinking feeling and do something annoying if it helps the flow – I value those things highly. I really believe that life could be better if people ditched their concrete path and went with the organic nature of circumstance more. But there’s a difference between choosing to define the small important things that will make your life more bearable, and ignoring them.

It seems to me that these small important things are like the markings on a clock face. Time is a boundless entity and we have figured out a system to measure it – without the little markings, we’re lost. That’s what I’m beginning to wonder about the unarticulated things that really matter. If I don’t make them clear, then what I need in the middle of it all is lost. And that doesn’t fit with my plan to invest in the small things that make up the big picture.

Defining things properly would really help me, and I think it would help the people around me too. The markings on a clock aren’t rude – they’re just a fact. And flexibility is a state that isn’t eradicated by the existence of facts.

written for Motherland magazine, 6th January 2015

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