Column #16 Motherland magazine

Clare Dwyer Hogg on working with – rather than against – the ebbs and flows of life

Rhythm. I’m using this word a lot recently. Not in the musical sense (singing is something I must do in a strictly private capacity). Rather, as a description for elements of my life. When I’m not happy about how I’m doing something (this happens a lot), I’ve heard myself say: “I still haven’t found the rhythm”. I’ve discovered this helps. It wards off constant self-beration. It negates the need to get something right first time. Finding a rhythm is about experimenting and adjusting and figuring out how things work best. Turns out, it’s much less pressurising approaching life in this way.

This mode of thought isn’t a tool to give myself a high-five every time I get something wrong. It isn’t a cunning ruse to ditch work, either: in fact, it promotes work. I’m trying to find something, and working until I find it. The work, though, is buffered by grace.  If I’m thinking that I’m searching for a rhythm, then I will afford myself some extra grace in the meantime while I’m still jarring along uncomfortably. I got it wrong. Fine. I wasn’t aware of a counter-current – now I am.

Thinking like this also allows time to bring wisdom. Otherwise, I’m inclined to force the processes of time through the very narrow neck of a dam hurriedly built to Try And Make Things Work. Less this, more Samuel Beckett (‘Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’) The creeping fear is that letting time help me figure it out is inefficient. That getting things wrong lots of times is a poor reflection of me. This is just a strange early-school hangover from believing that getting things right can be learned from a text-book. Finding rhythms in the threads of life is different from getting grammar right.

There is a buffer of grace that comes from knowing this. Similarly, accepting the presence of time rather than trying to beat it, helps. Acknowledging that time swirls around as I move through experiences, gives me the space to figure out when to walk, when to sprint, what moves worked, and what didn’t. This isn’t hippy-talk, it’s literalism.

Living like this is very different from trying to leap the high-jump and failing, taking another run and failing again. The process, when finding rhythms, is not as static. Like a river, life and what I must do within it, flows on. It isn’t a series of stop-start failures and successes. It is everything, together, flowing through me and around me. I can mentally section it off if I like. But I should be aware of the danger of becoming like an outsider, evaluating my life as a collection of wins and losses.

No, I’d prefer to learn to find the grace that takes more time, but is fully immersed. I think I’ll be less judgemental of my failures then, because I’m not divided – one part judging, one part trying. And if I’m less judgemental, I’ll be less regretful when things don’t work out the first or second or ninetieth time. I’ll know that I’ve waded in, and tried, and am fully committed to finding the best path through the water. I think to be immersed will give a clarity infused by grace. This is something that’s just not possible when I’m standing on the river bank making a list of what’s going wrong.

written for Motherland magazine, 13th January 2015

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