Rhythm. What a word! Close your eyes and spell it. Not that easy, is it? Rhythm is one of the deepest connections we have to everything. Truly, EVERYTHING. Space has a pulse. Energy moves through and around us in waves. If we find a way to make a pleasing, moving rhythm within the world, things just seem to fall into place and feel better.
Most of the winning moves in video games I used to play with my kids were related to finding the correct rhythm within the game. Rhythm was the key to getting past moving obstacles or lining up those green mushroom sections for the coveted '3 UP' bonus.
Rhythm is important in communication. If you get out of rhythm during a conversation, you can talk over each other and bruise relationships as you step on each other's ideas. Writers can even make the reader more interested in what they've got to say by using rhythm. Biographer Douglas Brinkley reported that Hunter S. Thompson admitted to typing and retyping F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" over and over because he wanted to study the rhythm of the writing; capture the music of Fitzgerald's words. If anyone has ever heard Johnny Depp recite Hunter's work, you'll immediately be drawn in by the cadence of each compelling word. A message, delivered in an enticing way, can capture a reader's imagination and pull them into the story. Again, it's all in the rhythm. "Rockin' with the Rhythm of the Rain" and "The Rhythm is Gonna Get'cha" are just two examples of how musical artists are drawn to its power. Rhythm is absolutely critical to music. All the beautiful swirling of melody and harmony can be dashed to shreds by the wrong rhythm and actually make a song unbearable. As a musician, I can recount the horrors of performing with a poor rhythm section or a drummer that is constantly speeding up and slowing down. Initially, we often find ourselves drawn to music by its rhythm, even more so than by its lyric or tone. All the uproar about early Rock and Roll centered on the rhythm. Remember, the rhythm is gonna get'cha.
However, rhythm, I'm discovering, is not an easy thing to manage. It goes haywire at times and can rip through our lives like an earthquake. The earth out of sync with it's own rhythm bumps and grinds clumsily, its destructive power building and swelling with each seismic wave. As in our lives, until the right rhythm is re-established, chaos and destruction rule.
Lately, I've noticed things happen to me in rhythms. There's this recurring pattern in my life that seems to have a rhythm gone wrong: a seismic fault with erupting geysers and a monster to unleash upon my world. Sometimes, I even think I'm its willing captive. It's not that I want, or even ask, for the weirdness it brings to my life. Most of the time, I'm trying to do what I THINK will avoid it. Instead, though, I wake up one morning and there it is: stomping all over my own private Tokyo and spewing its radioactive fury. I wonder if I've become addicted to the guilt of being its victim...over and over and over. How do we get in a place like this? Every attempt I make to change the pattern seems to wrap or warp back to the old destructive rhythm. How do I re-establish the right one? Why do I keep stumbling back into the wrong one so easily? Egad...I'm like one of those drummers I just bashed! Thinking back, I can't really remember when I had the right rhythm going. Was it when I was too young to know better? What led to the shift in my rhythm...the place where it went wrong? Does it get worse over time? It seems like it does. Bigger and deeper and progressively harder to recover from, afterward. Could it be that the wrong rhythm's ability to come back so readily is that there are just simply very few 'right' rhythms. So, I try to change something to get the rhythm back on the right track, but it just creates a variation to the 'wrong' rhythm track, instead. Is it, then, the work of our lives to constantly try out options until we get that right rhythm? What happens then? Will the chord resound in all it's harmonic glory? Is that when we get to live happily ever after?
I heard someone say something that really seemed to hit a rhythm I needed to hear recently: "You can't love someone for what you think they can be; you have to love them for what they are right now." It was like a big "DUH" went off in my head. That's exactly what I had always done: fallen in love with the potential of what someone could be - once I helped them find it, of course. Dangerous stuff.
But, thinking through the statement, I also realize it isn't really only true for "LOVE" relationships...husbands, wives, significant others, etc. We usually do have to love other things in our lives and other people for the potential we see in them. It's part of the human experience; changing things around us to make them better. What struck home with me, however, was that if you're going to commit to someone for the long haul...to have and to hold, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health...then you have got to love them for who they ARE RIGHT NOW. When we partner up with someone to take on life, there are too many other areas to address to spend time fussing about "fixing" each other. There's a whole world of fixing to do as we build your nest together.
Perhaps when all the energy is wasted in fruitless efforts to 'change' our partners, the rest of everything else that actually needed that energy goes unchecked and damages our chances to avoid the wrong rhythms. Is that why our rhythm goes wrong? Maybe it's in loving each other for who we ARE that we finally find the right rhythm. God promises that if two of you shall agree, mountains can be moved into the sea. The right rhythm could be all in the dance. After all, it does take two to Tango.
But this isn't an article about relationships...or is it? It is about rhythm and how it relates to our lives. Our lives are basically a relationship with everything around us...right? The experiences we share make up our existence. So, then, how much of the rhythm of our lives is affected by our relationships? How much am I willing to blame on my dancing partners? How, in this big, wide, world do we NOT step on each others' toes? Maybe the problem is that I'm trying to dance with a rhythm I don't really feel. I never was much of a dancer, after all, and faking it to keep my dance card filled has not been very successful. A guru once warned that if we are not genuine, our efforts will be wasted. In anything we do, we must be genuine. That's a tall order in this world, especially in these times of instant gratification and robust materialism. Image and labels and corporate advertising have driven the ideal of happiness into our brains in a way that we have learned to smile and agree to almost anything, as long as it makes us look good. With jobs on the line and people struggling to hang on to what little they may have, we also learn to "grin and bear it" to keep our hold on security. Allowing our morals and ethics to be sidelined by what it sometimes takes to be successful has to be a major contributor to a faltering rhythm. At least, I believe it was for mine.
From a young child, I learned to smile and say, "Yes, ma'am." It's what got me through my home life relatively uninjured and guaranteed good reports all through school. I lived with a lot of rules and learned to bluff my way through what needed to be said in order to get away unscathed. I learned to make the grown-ups happy by smiling and agreeing with them, yet cursing at them from behind closed doors. Old habits die hard and I think I'm just now, in my mid-life, realizing the damage I've done to my own rhythm by holding on to my childhood defense mechanisms.
We don't normally tap our feet unless we feel the music. I want to feel my life without pleasing the 'grown-ups' any longer. The 'Pleaser' in me cringes at the thought, but I am going to try being more genuine in my life. I can't bare the thought of my efforts continuing to be wasted. The current rhythm is so off, it has to change - somehow.
Maybe I'll write a different story and sing a new song, as I go off marching to the beat of a different drum.