Another Season: Another Keyword

Four Seasons

Four Seasons - Longbridge Road

Four Seasons – Longbridge Road (Photo credit: joiseyshowaa)

Wednesday was the first day of spring, and in keeping with my commitment to seasonal keywords, I am ready to announce my choice for spring. The habit of using seasonal keywords has provided me with a way to visualize my short-term goals in an effort to free-up the future. I want to have more time for pursuing the things that give me meaning, but my schedule has been too hectic, a condition that is a direct result of a lack of awareness. If this practice and focus have done nothing else for me, they have shown me that I have been moving through my life on auto-pilot, responding to distractions without having a solid compass that leads me back to true north, or my authentic self.

For each season, I choose a keyword. Then I look for a visual representation that helps me keep these keyword in sight throughout the season. The picture for each season reminds me of my intention and keeps me focused on the spirit of the keyword. Interestingly, the process also leads from one season to another without a lot of thinking about what keyword is next. In other words, once I came up with the first keyword, the next ones have presented themselves with little conscious effort on my part.

Fall 2012

(photo credit: Gustave Miller)

CLAMOR (photo credit: Gustave Miller)

When my friend recommended that I try this keyword thing, I struggled a little bit to find just the right keyword. Not that I was going for perfection–that’s not my thing. But I wanted something “worthy,” something that was worth focusing on for a whole season. However, I found myself in a state of confusion trying to figure out what keyword could possibly help me focus on what needed to be done. All of my responsibilities were so overwhelming that I felt I was simply rushing from one crisis to another. So whatever activity or project or deadline was clamoring the loudest got my attention. That was how clamor came to be the keyword for fall.

As I struggled to find some way through all of the intense activity and create some kind of path to make the future less chaotic, this picture helped focus my attention on making sense out of all the noise and confusion. I started recognizing how my lack of attention had contributed to my lack of understanding about how I was letting my whole life be hijacked by unexamined requests and projects. Still, I couldn’t just drop everything. So all the clamoring led me to the next season.

Winter 2012

3186629203_bfcf404f50_mFall had taught me that I needed to be more aware, more intentional about what I did. By the time Winter was approaching, I knew that my keyword needed to be clearing. While I could not simply abandon the activities that filled my days and weeks, I knew I had to focus on finishing things up and clearing space for the new. The big difference, however, is that the new would not simply be whatever popped into my line of vision and grabbed my attention. The new had to be the things that would bring meaning to my life. Activities that would make it exciting to get up in the morning and would energize me.

I declared a moratorium on new activities and responsibilities, and tried to focus on completion. I did the moratorium for 30 days. I’ve officially renewed it once, and I’ve unofficially continued it into March. It may be time to tighten up the reins on that one and rededicate myself to it.

The winter keyword has been helpful, but still difficult because I don’t have a good sense of what is next. I’ve been so busy responding to all the distractions (disguised as opportunities) for so long that I don’t really know what I’m clearing for. This is partly explained by my personality type. It’s easier for me to let the needs and desires of others determine my path than for me to choose my own. Yet, I knew that the next step required that I find out what exactly will be meaningful to me, not just something that sounds interesting or something that I do for someone else’s definition of meaning.

Spring 2013

clarityIn my post about choice a few weeks ago, I discovered that when I’m clear about what is really important, the doing of the necessary tasks is not in question. I just do them. Even if they aren’t pleasant. It’s just what I do. As soon as the clarity is gone, as soon as I start thinking it’s time to choose what to do next, I get tangled up and accomplish very little. So my keyword for spring was simple: clarity.

Like the keyword for winter, this one came to me organically out of the experience of the previous season. By the time fall came to an end, I knew that clearing was important. Likewise, as spring approached, I knew that clarity was essential. The keyword of clarity is my attempt to create a sense of space and meaning in my life. To enjoy the day to day experiences of doing activities that reinforce that meaning. It can lead me to know what my next move is. If I have a strong inner compass and know who I am and what I want to create, I won’t be lost. I wilI stop choosing activities and responsibilities that have no connection to meaning. More importantly, I will stop simply responding to the multitude of diversions floating around me. I am looking for my center and will test new ideas and projects before giving them a home in my calendar.

The clearing isn’t finished, but as I continue the process, I now seek clarity as I take the time to know myself better and discover what kind of meaning I really want to create in my life. I have so much Farther to Go!

Keyword: Fun (Compliments of my daughter, Kate)

The Non-Quilting Retreat

study time

(Photo credit: calebcherry)

Instead of a quilting retreat last Thursday and Friday, I reframed it into a textbook retreat, which took place Sunday and yesterday. You can read about what led to that decision in the posts listed below, but as a result of that shift, I rediscovered that it wasn’t actually quilting that was missing from my life as much as the experiences of play and fun, regardless of the forms they take. My life has become so crowded with tasks that I forgot to just enjoy the small moments of life. In fact, I didn’t seem to recognize small moments anymore.

Luckily, January was the beginning of my intention to set aside ten small moments a day to work with the exercises of Farther to Go! One day, in my writing, I remembered how I used to make “play” a daily practice, and even kept a journal to track the fun things I did. This memory helped me let go of the need to quilt “no matter what” and just open myself to the experience of quilting as an enjoyable hobby. If Farther to Go! can make a difference in ten minutes a day, so can ten minutes of opening myself to even small pockets of fun. But I didn’t make that connection until I packed away the sewing machine and let the small moments just be. I needed to stop planning everything.

Pinwheel Quilt

Pinwheel Quilt (Photo credit: jenniferworthen)

By letting go of the need to quilt no matter what, I reopened myself to experience the fun and exploration that intrigued me when I first became interested in the craft. So when I needed a little break on the second day of my textbook retreat, I knew instinctively what I wanted to do. I sent my daughter a Facebook message with a few quilt designs to get her opinion of them. She and I are halfway around the world from each other, but we have conversations on Facebook. Sometimes, the conversations aren’t continuous. One or the other of us puts something out there, and then the other answers the next time she is online.

For those of you who don’t know, my daughter, Kate is the youngest of my four children and she is the mother of Mr. Logan, the “not so little” guy you see at the top of the blog. When I gave Logan his quilt last summer, Kate asked me when she would be getting hers. Funny story!

The Little Quilt that Could

Several years ago, Kate showed some interest in having me make her a quilt. She had colors in mind, and I began collecting fabrics in pinks, greens, blues, and purples. Occasionally, I would see a possible pattern. But then, as now, I never had much time for quilting. In fact, when I was making Logan’s quilt two years ago, I actually found myself wondering whether Kate was still interested in having me make her a quilt. If so, would she even want the fabrics I had started collecting.

Well, last night happened to be one of those times when Kate and I were able to carry on a conversation for a bit. It was–dare I say it–FUN! She didn’t really care for the first images I sent her, but she gave me some good clues. For example, while I knew she didn’t want a pattern that was as “random” as the one I used for Logan’s quilt, one of the images I sent her was “too” traditional. That helped narrow the field.

Something with structure, but not too traditional. And something that when I get to it, I would enjoy making it. I’ve been wanting to play around with log cabin blocks. Maybe that would work. So I sent her some in pink blocks–not exactly like the ones shown here. Actually, I didn’t ask her about the “wonky” aspect, but my sense is she would like the straight line kind. Here is some of the conversation that followed:

wonky log cabin

wonky log cabin (Photo credit: MissMessie)

ME: ok, here’s another. If I did this log cabin pattern, I would incorporate purple, green, and blue as well, unless you want just pinks.

K: If you want to roll with that you can. And if you do, you should do each block a separate color.

ME: ok 🙂

K: or whatever you want 😛

ME: When I start playing with some blocks, I’ll send you pictures and you can tell me which you like best 🙂  It will be a while, but I like to at least think about quilting, and yours is the next big project I want to do

K: Do an all blue one, and one that includes all four colors.

ME: ok 🙂 that will be fun:

K: keyword: fun. don’t make it a job! if it’s a present for my 30th birthday so be it.

ME: 30th birthday present! Crap! I only have 4 years! LOL

Full Circle

Kate’s quilt won’t happen soon, but now when I do have some time for quilting, I have a pattern and a motivation. Even though I have to wait to cut and sew, I’m excited about it. Obviously, the colors are still a go. Best of all, I’m already having fun: the chat with my daughter, thinking about variations on the log cabin theme, and looking at the colors in my fabric stash. It feels so much better than those days when I was planning to quilt no matter what. And she’s got me focusing on the right keywords.

Thanks, Kate! And maybe you won’t have to wait until your 30th birthday for the quilt. But no promises. The keyword is fun!

Keywords: Power Containers

(ReDiscovering Keywords)

I haven’t always thought of keywords as powerful, but they now play a key role in making my life less stressful and more infused with meaning. I have dabbled with keywords over the years, as my friend, Joycelyn, has developed and used keyword lists in countless ways. As she points out, single words can “evoke a concept or a mood or an attitude or a way of being , . . [that] can send you off on a journey . . .” As someone who knows how the written word can  inspire, motivate, heal, and challenge, I had failed to recognize how much power can reside in a single word. But there was no denying the power it held for for Joycelyn, or the impact it was having on her life.

A few months ago, she challenged me to select a seasonal keyword for fall. She had chosen one, as well as a song to go with it. I had to admit, the idea came at a perfect moment. A thematic focus was something I certainly needed. I was feeling really scattered and overwhelmed. And her explanation of using the keyword for a season at a time made sense to me. Choosing a focus for a year was a little too long, but changing every month might be too often, but a season seemed just right. I felt like Goldilocks and that I had just found the perfect bowl of porridge.

My Fall Keyword

I hemmed and hawed over my selection, looking for the right keyword. One that captured my motivation, my inspiration for the season. I was already well aware of the consequences of my over-commitment, and I needed something to help me focus; something to help ground me when I started to feel overwhelmed by the seeming impossibility of ever catching up. I eventually settled on clamoring. For me, it evoked an image of lots of things all vying for my attention. For one reason or another, one (or several) would emerge as the top contenders at any given time, until something else was pushed into consciousness, sometimes by internal urgency, but more often something clamoring from outside. The point is that even the things from outside could be traced back to my unbridled assumption of tasks, ideas, and projects.

(photo credit: Gustave Miller)

(photo credit: Gustave Miller)

Interestingly, I had a really hard time coming up with a song, whose lyrics fit my theme. Realistically, I had to acknowledge, looking for the “perfect” song for my theme of clamoring seemed to be pointless considering all the things on my already overly-full to-do list. I moved to classical music and settled relatively quickly on Ravel’s Bolero. The dissonance throughout the relentless rhythm that builds and builds throughout the piece seemed to fit the way I felt about all the clamoring. But I also thought that maybe having a visual focal point was as helpful to me as the aural one. After looking around, I found this painting, Clamor, by Gustave Miller (see website). I love how it all the parts of it try to demand equal attention. I was ready.

The power contained in that keyword changed my life throughout the fall. I became more and more conscious of how my life was slipping away because of all the things clamoring for my attention. I hardly had a moment to think. The power of that word led me to my conscious decision to have a moratorium on new responsibilities and to focus on making space in my life for what was really important. In fact, I needed space to discover what I actually think is important. My schedule has dictated what I do, and I need to find time to listen to my heart instead of my calendar. My calendar needs to serve me, not the other way around.

My Winter Keyword

A Clear Path

A Clear Path (Photo credit: Michael Loke)

As fall leads to winter, my keyword clamor led me to a new keyword for winter. Clearing. I’m a little late in choosing this one, but it’s perfect in terms of the school calendar. We just finished our 18 week semester. I have four weeks before classes start again. I need to see how much of these excess responsibilities I can move through before classes begin. I will also build in restorative breaks, reflection time, and other gifts of time to help bring a sense of space and well-being to my hectic life. I will make friends with the calendar and with myself.

The picture on the left will become my visual cue for this season. I especially like its title, A Clear Path. As I explore the keyword clearing over the next several weeks, I like the image of creating a path to the new life that I will envision during this time. For music, I’m going to use Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. I will primarily use Winter, but since I want to reconnect with my sense of the seasons, the entire album will be a good way to reconnect with the seasons, as I use my semester break for clearing.