I don’t know how many times I've heard students say, “I’m warning you. I don’t have any rhythm”
I don't remember but I may have said this also.
I have been drumming now for 33 years.
I wasn't one of those kids who was so full of internal rhythm that I had to tap on surfaces. I was the opposite, a quiet self contained, seen but not heard little girl. In my home we listened to classical music, opera, choral music, the symphony. It never occurred to me that I could actually participate in this world. It was a world of perfection and genius. It was a world unattainable.
My parents had been taught that to be involved in the arts as a way of life one really had to show giftedness by a very young age. They wanted this very much from their biological children yet dissuaded me. So I was an admirer of music. I was bathed in it as my parents exposed us to the arts. The world of music felt so gigantic and I was a speck of sand on the beach watching the ocean of notes. I never questioned my position, just lived it.
When I was in junior high school, I was given the assignment of reporting the daily weather forecast in my homeroom class. For me to accomplish this task a radio was brought into my room. My instructions were to turn the radio on at 8 am, record the information and then turn the radio off again. In my rebellion I started to keep the radio on longer and turn the dial to explore what sound waves might escape into my room.
For some reason my parents allowed me to keep the radio and this improved the quality of my life immensely. But still I didn’t tap on surfaces. I did however, dance. I was a figure skater and used to dream at night that I was choreographing skating routines to the songs I had grown to love from the radio.
I remember one time many years later I became conscious of rhythm in a more awakened way.
I tried tapping the rhythms I was hearing, on my legs. It didn't come naturally. I didn't know how to flow. So I practiced it until I could do it with confidence. And I danced. I danced in my room, I danced on skates, I danced in high school gymnasiums and when I was old enough,I danced in bars to live music.
Dancing became my life source.
As a young single mom, I found babysitters to be in my house once a week so I could go out and dance.
I had a friend who went out dancing with me. She had been classically trained in ballet. Unbeknownst to us, we had become known as “the dancers” by the bar patrons.
This same dancer friend was also my next door neighbour. One day she came home with a conga. It was pink. She had an affinity for a particular shade of pink. She dressed in pink, painted her bike, steps, and walls pink, and now she owned a pink conga.
I remember pulling it up to me for the first time. I tapped it with the shyness of a virgin drummer. I had some sense of rhythm from all the dancing but absolutely no self confidence. When I hit the drum it made a big noise so if I made a mistake, it was a loud mistake. I had learned to be very quiet in my childhood household and there was a BIG expectation to be as perfect as possible in appearance, word and behaviour. So to make loud mistakes that cant be hidden was indeed a challenge for me.
I believe trauma causes us to lose touch with our own rhythm. I believe following clocks and schedules removes us from our rhythm. I believe school removes us from our rhythms. I believe the imposed rhythms of our caretakers removes us from our rhythms. I believe every time we are yelled at or struck, our rhythm freezes.
To find our way back to our own rhythm can be scary, challenging, embarrassing, invigorating, releasing and the path to our own personal freedom.
We all have rhythm. We all walk to our own rhythm, work to our own rhythm, sleep to our own rhythm, talk in our own rhythm. Everything we do is rhythmic.
It is amazing what happens when we find a safe environment to consciously and maybe even loudly reclaim our rhythmic selves.
Now I am one of those really annoying people who rocks in my seat at EVERY concert I go to and dances in the aisles or at the back of the venue because to not move to music is to me a waste of music. Now I have reclaimed my sense of rhythmic bliss I refuse to stop rhythmic flow.
In this blessed life I am living I now create safe spaces, for others to also reclaim that which is intrinsically theirs, and watch their joy bubble up and their light shine brightly in rhythmic ecstasy.
And perhaps most of all I watch people make mistakes and learn to be REALLY OK with that. An understanding that our mistakes do not measure our self worth but alternatively, our bravery and courage to grow, expand and find our rhythmic freedom.