“Some changes look negative on the surface but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge.” ― Eckhart Tolle
I wish I could say that the picture on the left is me at my sewing machine. But I can’t. Wikipedia doesn’t have images of me in its database. At least, I don’t think it does. Anyway, it’s not me. I don’t have a sweater that color. And I’ve spent so little time at the sewing machine lately that there is likely no photographic evidence of such an event..
What’s wrong with this picture? If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I love quilting.Yet, in spite of my desire to quilt, something isn’t working. I’ve noticed lately that whenever I do have a few minutes of “discretionary” time, I am always torn between quilting and some deadline or task that is clamoring for my attention. When I do have a few minutes to relax, I pick up things that only take a few minutes. This happens even though I have a relatively dedicated sewing and cutting area.
I had also noticed a few potentially bad signs. For example, the last time I sat down to sew, I only completed a couple impatient seams. They didn’t line up quite right. That made me impatient. It had been a few weeks since I had sewn anything, so I couldn’t put my hands on the seam ripper. My somewhat minimalist approach to keeping a sewing area did little to stem the slow tide of teaching and research clutter that often became entwined with my quilting. I began to wonder how–in one year–I had gone from daily work on Mr. Logan’s quilt (see here) to the upcoming semester break with no real prospect for time at the sewing machine or cutting board.
Maybe it has something to do with the constant visual reminder. For starters, it gives me the mistaken idea that I can quilt anytime. The problem with that situation is that all my other projects are also in my visual radar, but they have more priority. Quilting will lose every time. But more than that, it was a constant reminder that it was losing every time. After all, if I really wanted to quilt, I’d just do it, right? This kind of thinking becomes a little dangerous for me. I began to think the best solution was to pack up the quilting one more time. I could still look at books, play with fabric and patterns, and make plans for when I can make the time to quilt.
Then came the 30 day moratorium for January 2013. When I decided to try that out for the new year, I had already decided to pack up the quilting stuff. But that didn’t stop me from becoming overwhelmed by the other stuff that was still left for me to catch up on and bring closure to before I can pursue the things that interest me the most. For the time being, responsibilities and obligations have become the headliners.While I knew the moratorium was the right thing to do, and that mapping my way out of the avalanche of projects was imperative and worthwhile, I still had a nagging feeling about the quilting. I mean, I do know I can’t do everything, but I forgot one important thing!
Life is not black and white! Most people who know me marvel at my ability to be flexible and to brainstorm lots of options about any given problem. So, why did I limit my choices to having everything out in the open or packing it all up? I finally remembered something from thirty years in my past. I used a responsibility-free weekend to set up my own personal quilting retreat. The boys were visiting their father for the weekend, and I took the weekend off from work. I can’t tell you what project I worked on that weekend. But I cleared the dining room table, and brought out the sewing machine and ironing board, the cutting mats and fabric, and I spent a weekend doing nothing but quilting. It wasn’t just the weekend itself that was great, it was the anticipation leading up to it and preparing for the time when it came.
I can’t tell you why I didn’t continue the tradition. Oh yeah, life probably got in the way again. And at the time, I wasn’t strong enough to identify what I wanted and schedule it in. But now is the time to resurrect that custom. After all, quilting in my life has never been a constant. It has always found its way into my life in specialized containers of time. So I am now planning Quilting Day 2013. It’s the perfect time for a quilting retreat. I have four weeks with no classes. I have worked out a schedule to map out the tasks that need to be done. But most importantly, once I set the retreat dates, there is minimal chance of interference with the plan. The moratorium is in effect. Instead of a couple hours a day that I had hoped for during the semester break, I will take a two-day mini-vacation and spend it playing with color, fabric, and pattern. And in the process, I’ll have a less cluttered work-environment overall.
What started out as a potentially negative decision has brought new options. If I hadn’t been willing to pack up my quilting, I would have continued to encounter the frustration of never getting to the machine. I wouldn’t have rediscovered the alternative of setting up compartments of time that are totally dedicated to quilting as a workable solution to the problem. While some may think this seems like a negative change, I am reminded that a weekend once or twice a year is considerably more time than I get throughout an entire year. I can capitalize on the moratorium, begin to manage the backlog, move my projects forward, and anticipate a creative getaway to energize myself. When the sewing stuff comes out, it will be a visual and tactile picnic. And maybe the start of a new tradition.