The Door

Finding the Door

green doorHave you ever had one of those days when it doesn’t matter what you have planned; everything (at least in your own mind) seems to be stuck. That happened to me today. Even after I’d been up for two hours, I had not yet crossed off a single thing on my to-do list. Most noticeable about the situation is that this was is supposed to be my quilting day. The day I’ve spent a couple of weeks anticipating. I will admit, I’ve been feeling a little at odds the last few days. Not really sure which part of myself to listen to, the part that is frustrated and overwhelmed, or the part that wants to skip ahead and “get on with it already.”

So, when I checked my email and looked at a couple of the blogs I follow, I was surprised to find that the image that pulled me in was a door. The content of the blog wasn’t nearly as intriguing to me as the door itself. I felt like it was offering me a whole range of opportunities, if only I would open it. Since I am in the midst of a couple of blog posts that require more focus than I had at the moment, I decided to look for a door to express my thoughts and feelings. I spent more time with Google Images than was warranted by someone who is behind in projects, but I enjoyed looking at all the images of doors. They were inviting. Some had relatively easy access like the one here, and others had long stairways or narrow pathways leading to them. And while my foray into all of these door images did not move me toward completion of anything on my to-do list, I felt like I was responding to something deep within me.

Opening the Door

open doorWhile I was looking at all of these doors, I kept thinking, “When I find the right one, I’ll know it.” And that divided part of me knew that I was really looking for two different doors. One I would know when it was the right picture to save and put in this post, and the other was when I recognized the door I would be willing to open. That latter part of me was willing to stay with Google Images, because if I didn’t find the right one, I wouldn’t have to open it at all. I could just keep looking.

I suppose in many ways, that part of me just wanted a break. It was a little bit afraid of what might be behind the door. Not that there would much behind the door that would be a surprise, but things were a little disorganized in there. But with the ideas and projects stacked haphazardly in the space that lay just beyond the door, what if opening the door led to an avalanche too overwhelming for the limited energy and attention of the day?

Stepping Through

Something about my “door therapy” worked! It took another hour of making a few notes and saving some pictures, but I was able to find my way to the one that was right. I knew what project most needed my attention. I was able to devote myself to it and make progress beyond what I had hoped. I have a long way to go to get things sorted out so that I don’t trip myself up regularly, but to start, all I have to do is step through the door.

Reframe, Retreat, Renew

A Change of Plans

Packing away the sewing machine into its prote...

Packing away the sewing machine (Photo credit: Miia Ranta)

It’s Friday and no quilting took place yesterday or today. No quilting will take place next week either. In fact, I packed up my sewing machine and cutting boards. They are tucked away in a corner of my closet. I know I kept saying I needed a break. I know that I need some time for me.

Unfortunately, as a couple people pointed out in my last post, I had unintentionally attached too many expectations to this retreat. Worse, I had–dare I say it–turned it into one more job with its own set of pressures. I didn’t want to admit it at first, but thinking back on Logan’s quilt made it pretty clear. Two years ago, I had the fabric for his quilt, I found the pattern I wanted to adapt, and I had motivation. With those things in place, it worked. This time, although I was motivated, it wasn’t for the right reason. And I had no pattern in mind, no fabrics calling to me. I ended up trying to create an agenda for the retreat, a sure sign that I had lost sight of the purpose of the retreat. In fact, I had lost sight of my keyword for winter–clearing. 

Frames

Frames

Frames (Photo credit: Editor B)

Frames can contain many different items: pictures, mementos, diplomas, and other markers of significant events. Not everything that is framed is tangible. We also capture ideas, expectations, plans, and hopes for the future in frames that can’t be seen, but that can be quite powerful. I think that’s what happened to me with my quilting retreat. I got an idea in my head about how I could get back to quilting and give myself a break from the stress, and that frame was pretty set in my mind. It wasn’t until after I made the decision to NOT quilt, that I began to reframe my thoughts about what was really going on.

I began by reframing my week. After accepting the fact I wasn’t going to do the quilting retreat, trickles (read floods) from my current commitments went up. Four new ones on Thursday, what would have been the first day of the quilting retreat. A real verification that I made the right decision. However, my stress level still went up. It took me a couple hours to wrap my head around what was happening with the projects, but then I did make some progress toward regaining control of the day. I spent the rest of Thursday patching things together, just nothing that involved bright colors and fabric.

Retreats

3186629203_bfcf404f50_mThe next thing I needed to reframe was my idea about retreats. This part is kind of crazy since I have lots of experience with retreats. A retreat is a good container, a dedicated time and place to explore art, personal growth, creativity, spirituality, journaling, or quilting. I’ve had good experiences with retreats, but something wasn’t right this time. Maybe it was just the timing, but I was beginning to think I had the wrong focus for what is going on in my life right now.

I reviewed the purpose of retreat for me:

  1. To get away from everything and focus on what’s important; a time to renew, explore, refresh.
  2. Get away from stress; a break from routine and habits; a chance to look inward and reassess; to rediscover my path..
  3. Get away from distractions; a chance to focus and move forward on what is important. Set a course for the next steps.

A quilting retreat, in my current circumstances, would not have satisfied any of these for me. The results would have been a different kind of stress because I wasn’t focusing on what was important, and had made “relaxation” a job. Further, what I really need to focus on–away from distractions–is my my largest work project: the textbooks.

The Textbook Project

Disclaimer: Feel free to skip the next two paragraphs if you’d like. It would take away from the point of this post. However, I thought that since I keep mentioning it, I should give a little basic information about it for those who are curious.

One of the projects that moved up the list of priorities on Thursday involved the textbook project. I haven’t given many specifics here, so let me give you just a brief picture of what’s going on. I helped with a proposal to revamp our curriculum, which also meant producing 8 new textbooks (1 per semester for four years). The proposal also had other components, but the textbooks are the most demanding in terms of time and ongoing effort. I proposed a three-year timeline for implementation. The powers that be liked the ideas of the curriculum reform, but not the timeline. They want to implement this coming fall. So four books need to be to the printer at the beginning of the summer to be used in Fall 2013 and the others have to be done by December to be used in Spring 2014. I am the coordinator of this project which involves many things, including developing budgets and timelines.

I’ve completed two textbooks in the past, but only working on one at a time. Juggling the production schedule for the first four has been challenging, to say the least. It has taken a lot of adjustment and rethinking and revising to finally get the production timeline figured out. In the past, I only worked on one book at a time, so juggling the production schedule for 4 books at first and now 8 books has been challenging and stressful. I had to re-do the timeline for the first four books, to make some adjustments. Then I had to do another timeline for the second semester books. Suddenly, the project became more manageable. I could see that once I work through a few of the remaining snags for the first set, the second set will be much easier. All the set-up and planning activities will already be done. Having the layout and the basic plans set up frees up a lot of time

Reframing – Part II

So I will have a retreat next week, but it will be a retreat that focuses on the textbook project. This time I have the materials, I have the tasks, I have the motivation. Not quite a quilt, but a project that will benefit from the dedicated time and place to work on it. The textbook retreat idea finally takes away a lot of the stress and focuses my energy on moving forward rather than putting it off while I quilt without passion. Because my passion is tied up in moving these books forward. If I spend two days with the books as my focus, I can really make some significant progress, and move more toward the clearing that is really what my intention is.

Renewing the Moratorium

My 30 day moratorium on new work responsibilities ended on the 28th of January. Today is February 1, and I am renewing the moratorium for the rest of the month. I hope to make it a monthly commitment, but I will do it one month at a time. I have to say that I was surprised how full my days and weeks have been in spite of the moratorium. Even though I added nothing new, the obligations already in place continue to fill up my time. I am making some progress toward finishing a few things, and that will continue. The textbook retreat will also help..

Although I’m renewing the moratorium in terms of new responsibilities, I am instituting a daily “play” requirement. Before you think that I’m turning play into another responsibility, let me assure you that this is merely a mindfulness technique. In the past I had a play journal to remind myself to do something fun, something playful, even if it was just for five or ten minutes a day. I think part of the mistake of the quilting retreat was that I was forgetting that I don’t need a huge chunk of time to feel renewed. I can incorporate smaller quilting activities until a project actually grabs me.A regular infusion of playfulness, even small ones, can go a long way.

For me, play can be as simple as looking at quilting patterns, looking at pictures of quilts others have made, taking a puzzle book to a coffee shop, watching something on TV, or doing pleasure reading. Sad as it is to say, most of these things have vanished from my life lately. Rather than try to grab a two-day chunk of time, I will make a habit of noticing the small moments that bring me joy and kindle the sparks that could lead to a creative project that will tell me when it’s time to make a retreat.