Stirring up some February Motivation

Image courtesy of nuttakit / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of nuttakit / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

OK, the month of January has been a real slog for me. It’s not that I haven’t gotten anything done. I have, and some people might even say it was a lot. But I’m not going to make a list. I’m not looking for people to reassure me that I’ve done enough. I’m not looking for someone to tell me it’s ok that I didn’t do as much as usual, that it’s enough, etc. I’m not hoping for someone to make me feel better about it or for some kind of cop-out. I’m simply acknowledging that January was less than I wanted it to be, and that I want February to be different.

I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions, but I did put together some preliminary notes about a few activities I want to experience in 2014. I just didn’t write the post yet. And here it is February.

So while there were things I wanted to do in January, I often sidestepped those items and took the easy way out. One of the things I did when my motivation was low was to clear out some of my blog comments and similar things in my email. Just this morning, I ran across a post from the first of November, New Month Resolutions. Randee talked about how posting every day in October had been easier than she expected it to be and that it might work to set up a goal or two for the new month. Well, she set up three. And in the comments, Yours Truly also commented that she had launched three activities for November (and December). Here is what I wrote at the time.

  1. I joined a quilt-along to FINALLY work on the quilt I’ve been “thinking” about for my daughter for the last six years.

  2. I joined Curves to start working out 3 times a week, and

  3. I made an intention to finish the work on one of my textbook projects this month.

I knew I had written three things in the comment section of that post, but when I opened the post this morning, I didn’t remember what the three things were or if I had actually followed through. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that I had significant progress on these three items.

  • the quilt top for my daughter’s quilt is nearly finished (upcoming post will have pictures)

  • I am in my third month of Curves, and have accomplished 3 times a week most of the time (a record far better than  any other attempt at regular exercise EVER.

  • One textbook went to press, and I made some progress on the next one.

WOW!

So I thought to myself, “It’s February 1. Set some new intentions! Put them out there. It’s a short month. Don’t worry if they’re ‘the best’ ones. Just get something going! Get the wheels turning! Stock up on exclamation points.”

So here goes! While there are many things that have deadlines and will occur naturally, these are the three things I will focus on in February

  1. De-clutter my work area, and begin work on my closet.

  2. Set an intention to do regular writing and follow through with it.

  3. Continue to make progress on my quilting projects.

It’s too early to tell if this will jump-start my motivation, but I have a focus now instead of just having all those to-do things bumping around in my head. Now I can settle down and put the others aside as I start my new plan: Focus for February!

471 days to 60

I am also posting this for FanFoFeb. You can check it out here:  http://willowdot21.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/fanfofeb-the-lovers/

A Coffee Date with Plate Spinner: Our Follow-up Conversation

This is Part 2 of an inner dialogue between me and Plate Spinner, the part of me that can’t seem to stop doing all the time. If you missed Part I of this “conversation,” you can find it here.

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platesME:  Would you like a cup of coffee?

P.S.: I’d love one! I can’t remember the last time I could take a break and just relax for a few minutes. Nice choice of music by the way.

ME: Thanks! I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said yesterday, and I realize things need to change.

P.S. I’d like to jump up and down for joy, but I can’t. First, I don’t really have the energy with all the spinning I’ve been doing. And second, forgive me, but I’m just a tad cynical about you changing your ways.

ME: I know I don’t have a good track record. But I really do get it. I can prove it. I totally resisted an interesting plate earlier today.

P.S.: Yeah, but that’s nothing compared to the moratorium you took on last year, and that only lasted a few months before you started collecting plates again. Granted, some of them were smaller plates, but they still require lots of attention to keep them spinning.

ME:  OK, you’re right. Just a minute while I link the moratorium stuff here. Some of the people listening to our conversation won’t know what we’re talking about.

P.S.: I’m sure they will be as amused by it as I was.

ME: Oh, come on! Seriously, I want to make things better between us. But your attitude is getting in the way.

P.S.: All I know is that we are currently on semester break, and we can’t take a real break. We have so many plates still spinning that we have to fill these days with to-do lists and projects. I mean, look what it took just to get your attention so that we can have a cup of coffee and talk about this stuff.

ME: But if you’re going to argue with every idea I have, how can anything get better. I really want to change.

P.S.:  OK, I’ll play along for a moment. How is this time going to be any different from all the other times you said you would change? Are you going to retire a few of these plates?

ME: I think I could make a plan for that.

P.S.: Oh, great! Isn’t THAT encouraging? When you make plans for something, the plan itself becomes another plate to spin. Do you even know how many plates you have in the rotation?

ME: Of course . . . . not. Ok, ok, you make another valid point. But I realized something else this morning. As I was explaining my decision to Avis this morning not to take her up on the quilting thing, I told her that one of my big problems is that I think things will only take a few minutes, and that I can manage that . . . . .

P.S.: You mean that you figure I can manage another one of your shiny plates.

ME:  Well, yeah, . . . .  when you put it that way. And then of course, it finally dawned on me, that those few minutes multiplied by the number of plates and projects just makes things impossibly tiring!

P.S.: I’d like to believe you’ve seen the light, but you can’t blame me if I’m still a little skeptical. Do you realize that if we were just going to store these plates–never mind spinning them, we would need more cabinets than will fit into this apartment?

ME: OUCH! Don’t you think that’s a slight exaggeration?

P.S.: Sorry, truth hurts!

ME: OK, so a moratorium must be re-established and maintained. That’s obvious.

P.S.: It might be a step in the right direction, but it’s certainly not enough to make a real difference in the here and now.

ME: Well, you don’t want me to just sort and reorganize. You yourself said that would just be another project added to the huge pile we already had–the pile that I just accumulated without really thinking about the consequences.

P.S.: Look at it this way. I’m willing to accept as a starting premise that most of the plates need to be brought to completion. And I will also–for the moment–attempt to believe you won’t add any new ones.

ME:  I hear a “but . . .”

P.S.: I demand better working conditions! Have you looked around? It’s a disaster area around here. All of these plates have paperwork and paraphernalia attached to them. It’s a miracle I haven’t broken my neck!

ME: Well, I can’t argue with that. I find myself overwhelmed by all the clutter around here. I sometimes gather up the stuff I need for a project or two and head for the coffee shop just to have space to think and work.

P.S.: But that’s my point. YOU can leave! I can’t! It would take a moving van and a crew of at least four for me to go anywhere and still keep all of this going.

ME: Yes, the stuff has to go. That is clear. I don’t really need it all. Even with all of these crazy plates, there is still stuff here that has nothing to do with the plates that need to be finished. And I have to be honest. If stuff doesn’t go with any of the over-abundance of plates, it doesn’t belong.

P.S.: Right, and don’t forget. You’re planning to leave this place in 18 months. Couldn’t we have some breathing space while we wind down this spinning production?

ME: You’re totally right. Time to tackle this de-cluttering thing, once and for all!

P.S.: I know it’s a major change for you, but we can’t simply have all of this stuff. We can’t continue to DO all of this stuff.

ME: Well, why don’t I make an intention to de-clutter the apartment?

P.S.: I’d be more inclined to believe it if you make an intention card.*

ME:  You’re on! Let’s do this!

P.S.: OK, so what do you want?

ME: It seems pretty obvious. I want . . . we want more time and space in this life we share.

P.S.: And why do you want it?

ME: To get you off my back, of course!

P.S.: Very funny! Somehow, I don’t think that will motivate you in the long run. If you’re serious, you need to figure out what the payoff will be when this place is de-cluttered. What will you get?

ME: Well, just thinking about the place being de-cluttered helped me feel relaxed a bit. I don’t feel as stressed or as trapped. If I focus my attention on this intention and persevere in spite of the obstacles, I can enjoy life more. I can enjoy people more. I can be more, instead of simply doing more. I can discover what it is I really want from life, rather than spending all our energy on this plate spinning thing. The idea of not having to spend all of our energy just treading water is very freeing.

P.S.: OK, it seems like you might really want this. Of course, this is a huge project. So we have to be realistic.

ME:  Right. I need Intention, Attention, and Perseverance. I’m not crazy enough to say that I’ll do the whole apartment in the next two weeks. I want to work on it a bit every day, maybe even twice a day.

P.S.: Right, but don’t set yourself up. Let’s make an intention that is do-able, that gives us breathing space. If you do more than the minimum, that’s fine, but let’s make sure we find a workable minimum an commit to that.

ME:  I know. I just get excited about the possibility of space. But I didn’t get into this mess overnight, it’s not going away overnight or even in several overnights. I’d like to think I can make some strong headway by summer though.

P.S.: OK, let’s start with an hour three times a week.

ME:  OK, that seems reasonable. And I will schedule three times in the calendar right now. I will write it in for Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

P.S.: That sounds good, too. What else can you do to keep your attention on the intention?

ME: I’ll ask Dave to either help me, or to at least check in on me. I could find another person to check in with, too. Maybe even find someone else who is trying to de-clutter. We can check in and keep each other on track.

P.S.: And now, how will you reward yourself when you stay on track? And even more important, what will you do when things get in the way of following through? You need a plan for perseverance because you KNOW something will happen to pull you off track at some point.

ME: Oh yeah, I remember when I started the exercise program. If I hadn’t had a plan for perseverance, I wouldn’t have made it through the first two weeks.

PS: Right! and now you’re already in your third month. So what will you do to keep perseverance going for this intention?

ME: I think I would like to have some quilting time on Sunday for a reward. And if I haven’t met the goal of de-cluttering time for the week, I could do some on Sunday.

P.S.: I think this might just work.

Taiwan 047ME:  I’ll think some more on it, and refine the intention card a bit. And while I’m at it, I’ll write an intention card for restarting the moratorium. I obviously need some attention and perseverance when it comes to that intention as well.

P.S.: Excellent! I feel better already. I’m really glad we had this little chat.

ME:  Haha!  Me, too. I think that might be another way to stay on track. Checking in with you on occasion.

P.S.: Put on the coffee and send the invite! I’ll be there!

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*For information on making and following through on intentions, see the following:

INTENTION IS POWERFUL:  http://farthertogo.com/2013/07/17/intention-is-powerful/

ATTENTION IS ESSENTIAL http://farthertogo.com/2013/07/19/attention-is-essential/

PERSEVERANCE IS MAGIC:  http://farthertogo.com/2013/07/21/perseverance-is-magic/

11:21 a.m. on 1/4/14

Jigsaw puzzle on New Year's Eve

Jigsaw puzzle on New Year’s Eve

As the new year begins, I am doing a lot of reflection and planning for what I want to pursue. But I won’t be making resolutions. I’m not out to resolve things. I am out to live more fully and to embrace my goals and dreams for the future. Part of that involves really discovering what it is I want in life. And I intend to do some explorations in many areas of my life to refine what it is I want. I’ve started making lists, and I’m excited about the possibilities. You’ll be reading about some of them in my blog over the next few weeks, but at 11:21 this morning, I had just revealed one of my fun intensions to a friend, and now I’m going to share it with you.

At 11:21 this morning, I was talking on Skype with my friend Joycelyn of Farther to Go! fame. She and I have been friends for forty years and have been through a lot together. For the last few years, while I’ve been in Taiwan, we try to reserve this time every week to catch up, and to support each other in our respective endeavors. I knew when we started our conversation that the specified moment would arrive sometime during our conversation..

Joycelyn and I were having an interesting discussion about our respective fitness programs and how we were feeling differently because of what we were doing. We realized in the discussion that most people talk about going to the gym as a goal, when that’s not really the goal. It’s the means TO a goal, such as feeling better, getting stronger, getting in shape, or other possibilities. But at this time of year, people set a GOAL of going to the gym as if going to the gym in itself is something we really want. No wonder fitness goals often fall by the wayside. There is no real desire and motivation behind them, except maybe prodding from a doctor or loved one, or guilt, or some other negativity that we’re convinced we can (re)solve if we just have enough will power. Right!

There was much more to the conversation, but we began sharing some of the things we wanted for ourselves in the new year, and at 11:21, I had just finished telling Joycelyn about a challenge I have given myself for the year. Something I’m excited about. Something that will keep me jazzed and move me toward a goal I have had for a while, but was having trouble getting there.

So here’s the background. I live in Taiwan. This is my fifth year here, yet I know very little Chinese. I know enough Chinese to be somewhat entertaining to the natives, but that’s it. To be fair, I’m so busy with teaching, editing, and textbook writing, that I don’t have a lot of time for language study. And I did make a real effort before arriving, but learned the wrong accent, so even my minimal phrases I learned before I came weren’t too helpful. I’ve tried working with a few students who wanted to teach me some Chinese, but that never worked very well.

But one of the students from the new writing group is double majoring in English and in Teaching Chinese as a Second Language. She and I are setting up biweekly lessons for me. Just enough to give me a bit of language without it being too overwhelming. (She is one of the puzzle solvers in the picture above. She’s on the right.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOK, now here’s another piece about me you may not know. I use to be a music director for a church. I’m a keyboardist, choir director, and vocalist. Though I don’t do a lot of singing anymore, and never did much karaoke in the past, it seems like a fun way to spend a little time with students. The students tell me that most of the English songs at the karaoke places are “old.” They obviously forget who they’re talking to. I can do “old” songs.

But a couple of days ago, I realized that if I had the Romanized Chinese words and a YouTube video, I could learn a song in Chinese! It would give me an extra motivation for my language study, and satisfy the urge I have to sing. I can go with a group of students and do some singing in both languages. I am psyched!

I emailed the young lady in the picture above and told her of my plan, and she’s already sent me a couple of videos and the Romanized Chinese for both of them. Now I just have to talk to my new tutor and tell her of my crazy plan, but I know she’ll be as excited about it as I am.

And at a future moment in time, I will be singing a song in Chinese. And the plan is to record it and share it in a blog post. Stay tuned!  I’ll keep you posted!

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A Moment in Time is a shared blogging experience, where writers document and share their stories from the same moment on the same day. The day and time for the next A Moment in Time is posted by Randee every few days in such a way that you’ll have a heads up on the exact moment to which you need to attend and focus on and, if it’s significant in some way, write about and add to the list.

http://randeebergen.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/a-moment-in-time-1121-a-m-on-1414/

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I’m also participating in Just Jot it January *JusJoJan.” You just jot something everyday, even if it doesn’t always result in a blog post. Maybe several days’ jottings end up in one post. Lots of possibilities. Check it out here:

http://lindaghill.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/jusjojan-1-the-rules-are-easy/

3-Word Resolution

Intentions carried forward

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TrifectaPicture11-1This week I’m trying my hand at Trifecta’s writing prompt:

Michael Hess inspired us with his three word New Year’s resolution – just be nice.  We’re asking for your own resolutions in just three words.  Make it count; we’ll be checking back in come 2015.

The Trifecta challenge is open to all.  If you want to submit your own response, click on the Tricycle image to check out the challenge and submit your link.

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During the past year, I’ve come to understand the power of intention in place of resolution and willpower. In this new year, I will focus my attention on my selected intentions and on making a contingency plan for persevering when life interferes. Thanks to http://farthertogo.com, I’ve discovered this powerful combination that inspired my 3-word resolution.

502 days to 60.

10:23 pm on 12/06/2013

Endless possibilities

(Photo credit: jefito)

Have you ever wondered what you really wanted? Have you ever really defined it? Or dared to admit it to anyone, even yourself? Or do you, like me (and probably many others), avoid the question or answer it superficially. In this post from Farther to Go!, there is an exercise that asks you to answer that question every day for 30 days.

I started about three weeks ago. I can’t tell you exactly without digging out the notebook I was using. I wasn’t using cards as suggested in the exercise–not at first. I am now. I’m doing several things differently now.

On Friday (12/6/13), I realized that the exercise wasn’t going very well for me–for reasons I will share below. But, the bottom line is that I decided that day that I would start over, and change the things that weren’t working. So that evening, at about 10:00, I filled out my first card for the new 30-day period. And afterwards, I had a breakthrough.

It may not have been exactly 10:23, but I suddenly understood with complete clarity that I could no longer settle for mediocrity. I had to think about what I want without limits, especially the limits I put on myself. Thinking that I can possibly know what’s best, or what’s practical, or what’s feasible, or–most importantly–what’s possible. My life to this point is full of experiences that would have seemed impossible by any standards and yet I’m here, living this crazy life that couldn’t have been imagined prior to living it. I realized that the starting over was important, that by changing the way I approached the process of exploring what I wanted, I would be more effective, and more free–I could imagine even impossibilities. Up to the point of starting over, four basic things were getting in my way of making the most of this exercise.

  1. Sometimes, I’d miss a day because I didn’t set an intention for writing in the notebook. If I had it would be on my daily list, and it wasn’t. I thought I could remember something as simple as adding a few lines to my notebook each day. (I know better than this!) To learn more about the power of intentions, look here. Further, the routine itself has an effect on what emerges. If I get in the habit of making the list each day, the pump is primed when I sit down to fill out the card..
  2. I started by using a notebook for making my lists, instead of the 4 x 6 index cards suggested in the activity. I didn’t realize it at the time (obviously), but it really makes a difference to have a confined space with a specific amount of lines for each day. Even if I had used the index cards, I suspect I wouldn’t have written something on every line. Many of my lists in the notebook wouldn’t have been long enough to put something on each line of a card. I took the “easy” way out, If no more ideas were immediately accessible, I stopped writing. Using a notebook made it easy to fall into that trap, so using the index cards is a much better method–for me at least. No stopping until I actually have something on every line. This problem is also related to the next one.
  3. I was approaching my list-making from a place of practicality. I knew on an intellectual basis not to do that, to let my mind go and to explore the possibilities in spite of the reasons for censoring. And while I KNEW that the sky was the limit, my lists had become rather dull and lifeless. At first, I wasn’t sure what had happened, and then I realized something that put a lot of things into perspective. I had fallen back into moving through my days and activities on autopilot. From there, it was more than a slippery slope to falling into old habits: it was a free fall into a pit of mediocrity.
  4. I needed to re-commit to paying attention, to being mindful of the process, and not just make the listing another thing to check off. Yes, it’s important to schedule it to make sure it happens, but the actual process has to be more mindful than that.
My Pile of Index Card

(Photo credit: koalazymonkey)

So on Friday, I dusted myself off and began again with 30 4 x 6 cards, a clear intention, and a plan. I can already see and feel a difference. Each of these cards is completed in just a few moments, but the impact isn’t limited to the immediate moment. Wherever this path leads me, I know that my life will be different because I dared to answer the question of what I really want. As I write this post on Sunday, I just finished my 3rd card, and I am excited about the possibilities that are showing up. Now when I finish a card, I’m smiling. I have gone beyond the intellectual grasp of the concept back to an experience of reimagining my life. I can’t wait to see where this path leads.

If you’ve never thought about what you really want (or even if you have), I recommend this exercise. It only takes a few minutes a day, but the results may change the way you think about what’s possible.

Related articles:

http://randeebergen.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/a-moment-in-time-1023-p-m-on-12613/

http://farthertogo.com/2013/11/11/what-do-you-want-2/

https://myriad234.wordpress.com/2013/09/19/reimagining-my-life/

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A Moment in Time is a shared blogging experience, where writers document and share their stories from the same moment on the same day. The day and time for the next A Moment in Time is posted by Randee every few days in such a way that you’ll have a heads up on the exact moment to which you need to attend and focus on and, if it’s significant in some way, write about and add to the list.

Eleven Things I’ve Learned from the 31-Day Blog Challenge

1. You never know what you can do until you try.

The first year anniversary of my first post is this weekend, and the most posts I had ever done in a month prior to now was ten. I kept a twice a week publishing schedule for five months before dropping off in April and then disappearing for four months. When I came back in September, I wasn’t sure about what kind of schedule I wanted to keep. I just knew it was time to jump back in. The invitation for the 31-day blog challenge came at the right time, and I decided that it was just the push I needed. Even though I got a little behind, especially in the last week, I successfully posted 31 times! If I hadn’t tried the challenge, I never would have found out what I was capable of.

2. Once I committed to my intention to write more, I actually wrote more.

This isn’t really rocket science, and it isn’t that big a surprise, but the reality is that once I know I need to write, and I actually START writing, it becomes easier to keep writing. By following the intention to sit down and blog regularly, it was easier than I thought. The commitment kept me motivated. The limited time of the challenge (31 days) made it seem possible. It wasn’t forever, it was 31 days. And I could do it if I set up ways to keep my attention focused on it.

3. Having a specific number of posts to do in a specific amount of time makes a difference.

You may think that I have already learned this from other endeavors in my life, but it’s always amazing to me how often, some ideas have to be learned again and again. But when I make specific intentions about what I’m going to do and when I’m going to do it, I have a higher rate of success. Go figure!

4. It’s easier to follow through on an intention with a system of social support.

Knowing other people are also working on the same thing is powerful. Even more powerful is the fact that when like-minded people support each other, the synergy exceeds. I know beyond a doubt that trying to carry out an intention that I keep secret is going to be much harder than it needs to be, and that I am setting myself up to fail. Telling other people about my plans and intentions makes it more likely that I will stick to them.

5. The more posts I write, the more ideas I get.

I found this particularly interesting. I had a few drafts in reserve when I started the challenge. And I wondered if I would have trouble coming up with ideas to write about. But the more I wrote, the more I ideas I had. I now have more pieces waiting in line than before I started, and several more ideas that I’ve got jotted down to do. Writing definitely begets writing.

6. The more I write, the more I learn about myself.

I have discovered that I can explore my own thought process, that I can make discoveries about what’s going on inside this brain. That I am becoming more willing to take risks and try new things, especially when it comes to blog posts. Following up on #2 above, I also discovered that I am now ready to tackle other short-term challenges. I’m participating in a quilt-along in November and December. If I could focus on this challenge and complete it, I can choose another that appeals to me. I choose challenges that are specifically focused on things I’ve been wanting to do, and the results are powerful.

7. Maybe the most significant discovery, is that I can be too “practical.”

Fear of failure is a crazy reason to lower the bar on what I want from life. To limit myself because of potential disappointment keeps me locked in a place where I will always have and be less than I could be. I the dreams and ideas I have for my life. In spite of the fact that I keep the bar too low as a result. I talk myself out of things before I even start. The spill-over effect of succeeding at a challenge leads to other possibilities beyond I thought was possible. For example, I just completed my first entry in a Trifecta Writing Challenge.

8. Taking time for me and what I enjoy energizes me.

It may seem counterintuitive, but being busy can actually be energizing IF the activity is based on things I want to be doing. Most of my busyness before was based on the wrong things, and that’s what wore me out. I need to focus on what will nourish me, what accomplishes the things I want, or simply finding what it is that I want to accomplish. Having an intention like this one has made me feel more alive, more tuned in to the people and events around me.

9. Perseverance really is the key.

I can do what I set out to do if I persevere. Making intentions and setting up ways to keep focused on them has made a huge difference for me. When things don’t work out, it’s much easier to pick up and start again because a system for accomplishing the intention is already in place. This was particularly significant both for the blog challenge (when I went four days without writing a post), and for starting up an exercise routine. In both cases, I had several strategies in place to keep my focus going, so there was no need to throw up my hands in frustration. I just could go back to the plan.

10. The reactions of my audience rarely matches my expectations.

I have been surprised over the last month about which posts get people excited and which ones tend to fall a little flat. Of course, in the blog world, timing is significant. No one can follow all the blog posts that show up on their readers. By the same token, blogs are ongoing. So you never know when someone is going to go back to earlier posts.

11. Blogging is now something I pay attention to.

I am constantly surprised by new ideas, new things I want to try. I’m paying attention to blogging in a way I never did before. All kinds of ideas emerge: I take notes, I try things, I have fun. Now that I’m focused on it, it flows more often than not. Sure, it’s early in this process, but I am finding that the time spent on the blog is making a big difference in the way I approach life. It’s a great tool for exploration and for boosting my willingness to try new things. Who knows, I may be up for another blog challenge one of these days.  .

Return of the Quilting Bug

Fabric Stash

(Photo credit: clumsy kristel)

As I’ve written about reimagining my life and taking time for me, it became clear that it was time to write about my quilting escapades–real and imagined. And before you think referring to quilting as having a bug, let me reassure you that I don’t mean bug in the sense of an illness, but rather the little gnat-like things that buzz around you sometimes and just won’t let you be. No matter what you try, they keep coming back. That’s how quilting is for me. No matter how many times I set it aside (because there are too many other things to do), it still buzzes around, capturing my attention in spite of myself.

Several times in my life, I have started to make a time and space for quilting, but I have usually waited to play with quilting until AFTER other things were caught up. So I either had marathon sessions with a specific quilt project in mind, or I did nothing, waiting for the magical moment when I could devote gobs of time to exploration and play. No middle ground, happy or otherwise. As a result, I have started and stopped quilting many times, the most recent incident having been documented in my blog over last fall and winter. To be honest, considering how little quilting (read NONE) I’ve done since I started blogging, I sure have dedicated a lot of space to writing about it.

Cutting Fabric

Cutting Fabric (Photo credit: designsbykari)

If you missed the posts I’ve done about quilting, I’ve included links to them below. But what I find really amazing about looking back at these entries was how much time I spent fighting with myself about doing something that I so thoroughly enjoy. I suppose it seems even stranger to me now that I am more focused on making my life more something that I am happy with in the here and now, not some distant far-off hope that is left to chance, never to actually see the light of day.

Taking time for me means answering the call to create, and for me, I feel most at home creating in fabric. I think that’s why the quilting bug keeps coming back. As I worked on materials for Farther to Go! over the summer, it was clear that bringing quilting back into my life on an ongoing, regular basis was one of my most important intentions. I have come to realize that quilting isn’t something that I do when (if ever) the time presents itself. I want it as part of my life, and it is now my intention to make it happen.

The first step was to make a regular weekly time for quilting. To have at least one day a week off from working that I could use for quilting. So far, I’ve made it two out of four times, but that’s two times more than I would have had before the intention. And what has happened in those two days of fabric play has far exceeded my expectations. More on that next time!

593 days to 60!

Links to earlier blog posts about quilting.

Finding Fabric  (November 13, 2012). In this episode, I find a great fabric district in Taipei where I can build the stash I’d re-started.

An Idea Whose Time Has Not Yet Come. Or . . .  (January 1, 2013). Rather than keep trying to put in small moments of quilting, I put together the idea for a two day quilting retreat. I mapped out my calendar and found a two-day spot during winter break.

Quilting Retreat: Planning or Resisting   (January 29, 2013). As the quilting retreat approached, it didn’t hold the appeal and excitement that I had anticipated. And so many things had been left undone.

Reframe, Retreat, Renew   (February 1, 2013). I once again packed up all things quilting.

Keyword: Fun (Compliments of my daughter, Kate)   (February 5, 2013). A reminder from my daughter about what quilting really meant to me, and how far away from fun I had let it go.

The One that Won’t Let Go

Party hats at dawn 1

Party hats at dawn (Photo credit: Derek John Lee)

Today I publish the 20th post for Container Chronicles. That means I have been blogging for ten weeks, just over two months. People suggested for a long time that I start a blog, but I kept dragging my feet. Partly, I couldn’t decide what to write about. I had lots of requests for stories about my time here in Taiwan, but that wasn’t a topic that pulled me to the keyboard. Maybe someday I’ll do a small series as part of this blog, but my own struggle with sorting out my life and becoming more intentional about what I want to do is a bigger draw than a travelogue–at least for now.

I decided on Container Chronicles about three months before I launched it. During that time, I thought about the blog, I talked about the blog, but I did very little to actually start blogging. It wasn’t exactly perfectionism that kept me from it, but I did have a fear of sorts that it wouldn’t turn out like I imagined it. Which is crazy in many ways, because if I had stayed with that line of thinking, I’d still be thinking about it and I wouldn’t be publishing this 20th post. Sometimes, it helps me to make an external commitment, so I’m not just accountable to myself. So I came up with a gimmick. I gave the “promise” of a launch as a birthday gift to a long-time friend who had been pushing me to blog. On October 9, her birthday, I sent her an email that announced my intention to launch the blog in honor of her birthday. The announcement gave October 31 as the launch date. I missed by a couple of days, but it didn’t matter because my blog was real! I felt such a sense of accomplishment! Seeing the actual blog post as others saw it was amazing. I got excited updating my stats and seeing how many people visited my blog. I wanted that feeling to keep going.

CSS Bar Charts

CSS Bar Charts (Photo credit: alykat)

Once I launched, I was determined to maintain a schedule. Twice a week seemed like a good starting point. Not too often, but often enough that it wouldn’t drift too far from my consciousness. I made a list of potential topics along with a schedule for posting them. I could start writing, schedule them to post, and move on to the next ones, keeping ahead of the schedule a bit. It was a good plan on paper, but in reality I struggle to meet the midnight posting deadline almost every time. It felt a little stressful, but I knew it was something I wanted to do, but every Tuesday and Friday, I found myself racing the clock to get it done. But seeing my “body of work” grow each week made it all worthwhile. Tuesdays and Fridays became “blog nights” in my world. I liked this new part of my world.

Then something strange happened.  People tried to help me. Not just the expected comments, like “Kudos for getting started.” Or,  “Wow, you’ve done this for how long? It looks great!” But a lot of unexpected ones as well. “Why are you adding something else to your schedule?” Or, “You do know that it’s OK if you skip a post or two, don’t you?” Or, “Maybe you shouldn’t put so much pressure on yourself.” I felt like I had to defend my blog and my decision to spend time on it. Sure, maybe I needed to figure out a way to not be up against the deadline as often, but even that didn’t bother me that much. But it was bothering a lot of other people on my behalf.

To be honest, I was baffled by that response. After all, when I was struggling with how to make time for quilting, no one tried to talk me out of it. I had a lot of support to keep at it, even though I was stressed by my inability to quilt regularly. Luckily, my friend Joycelyn* heard me when I was pushing too hard to make quilting fit into a life already overflowing with responsibility. Even though I resisted at first, she helped me see clear to changing my attitude toward quilting (and therefore helping me to have SOME rather than no quilting in my life). Joycelyn also understood the satisfaction I was getting from blogging and commitment to continue it. But my puzzlement over the concerns of others was still baffling.

my new table and computer

my new table and computer (Photo credit: slackware)

Then it dawned on me. If someone watches (or imagines watching) me while I’m working on my blog, it looks no different than when I’m grading papers online, or when I’m doing an editing job, or when I’m working on the textbook project, or when I’m answering student emails, or working on any of the other multitude of tasks that I do at my computer. In fact, if someone took a picture of me doing each of those activities, and then put those pictures side by side in a row, it might be difficult to see any difference, particularly if they are taken from the back. I like to think if the pictures were taken from the front, there would be more a glint in my eye as I worked on the blog. From the back, however. these four pictures would likely look the same. On the other hand, if someone saw me at the cutting table or at my sewing machine, they could clearly see the difference. The quilting activities would appear to be creative and relaxing, even fulfilling, maybe just because they aren’t happening at the computer.

What I know now is that twice a week, I accomplish something tangible. I add two posts to a blog that didn’t exist three months ago. I find that I want to do more. While I will still spend my focused quilting retreats a few times a year, the blog gives me something that quilting isn’t satisfying right now. I am learning as much about process, both in terms of blogging itself as well as what helps me find meaning in the rest of my life. Blogging has become a tool that helps me de-stress, that helps me clear away a lot of mental clutter. In the end, it pushes me to reexamine my life  In the end, it may even open up more quilting time. It can certainly help me decide the purpose on which I want to spend my time. It can help me focus. But for now, it pushes me to finish this post so I can publish by midnight.

*Joycelyn knows well the satisfactions of blogging. Check out one or all.

Nine Paths

Farther to Go!

give me a daisy