Monday, February 10, 2014

There's Enough Blame to Go Around...

Some people have a hard time admitting they are wrong, or have made mistakes.  I don’t have that affliction.  In fact, my tendency is in the opposite direction – I tend to blame myself for every problem that occurs in my life – boots don’t fit me?  There’s something wrong with my foot.  Something isn’t working – I’m probably using it wrong.  After an argument, I’m pretty much always the first to apologize, and usually I assume the brunt of the blame for starting it too.
 Now-some things really are my fault, so it’s a good thing, I think, that I can own up to it.  On the other hand, sometimes I end up blaming myself and feeling like a loser or (this is the worst) feeling guilty when it’s really not me causing the problem, and there is the rub, as they say.  I will blindly continue trying to use something or do something a certain way (as the instructions or whoever tells me to do it) and it turns out I’m not doing it wrong at all – I’m just suffering from faulty instructions! 
Take for example a recent revelation I had with the machine I use for quilting.  I inherited this machine from my excellent mother, who taught me how to use it and happily shared it with me when she was still on the planet.  Now I’m in my tenth year of quilting, and I’ve probably made at least fifty or more pieces, ranging from queen-sized bed covers to twenty-four by twenty four wall hangings.  I’ve done the majority of my quilting work on the old Brother, and I’ve always felt like I must be really uncoordinated, because I’ve never felt like I mastered the rhythm of the machine.  I secretly (or maybe not so secretly) have dreaded the quilting stage of a project because I feel like I’m really weak at it.  I’ve struggled to improve for ten years, and really have felt badly and even been sometimes even unsatisfied with some of my pieces because I thought I just couldn’t master the skill and the piece didn’t turn out exactly the way I wanted it to.  Not to mention my ripper and I are on frightening intimate terms, if you know what I mean. It may soon become a sixth finger for me.        
Turns out it’s not really me that is the problem at all – it’s the machine!  I discovered this when I decided to use my Bernina to quilt a small piece I was working on.  I figured it was small enough not to want to have to change machines, so I put on the free motion foot and practiced for a few minutes.  I couldn’t believe the control I had with it!  That piece was literally FUN to quilt!  That’s the first time I have enjoyed that step of the creation process so far, really.  I just felt so in control – amazing!  The reason it is so much more fun, I believe, is because I didn’t have to worry so much about the length of the stitches or how fast I was going – turns out this machine has a stitch regulator, and that, my friends, makes all the difference in the world!
Anyway, I learned something about myself, too - I’m afraid it’s an ego thing – whereas some people absolutely have to be right, I always believe I’m defective.  I hold myself to this high standard that I would never impose on anyone else – never!  But I don’t need to delve into the psychology of it, it doesn’t really matter – just making the connection – well, it may sound nuts, but ever since I made this realization, I’ve been able to stop myself from listening to that inner mean voice that always tells me I’m wrong and analyze the situation BEFORE I blame myself - that’s a good thing! 
Another good thing has come out of this situation, too.  When I told my husband the story of me and my machine and my great realization, he rubbed my back and said, “See you’re too hard on yourself – it’s not that you can’t do it, it’s just the machine.”   I cuddled up next to him and said, “You know, honey, you’re right – I need to not always assume that I’m the problem.  That machine I’ve been using just isn’t that great.  In fact, it stinks….that’s why I might need to get a new machine.  What do you think?” 

Hey, maybe I do blame myself too often, but I ain’t STUPID!  

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

T-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-Too Much Time On My Hands! (from a 1970's Styx song, for those of you who might know it and want to hum the tune)

The other day I made a realization.  When one has a lot of ideas and suddenly has the actual time to pursue said ideas, it’s hard to figure out what to focus upon.  It’s not a new realization, really – I always seemed to struggle when I was taking only twelve hours in college, and my best semesters of all happened when I was working twenty or more hours and taking eighteen hours.  I was busy as hell, but I got everything done and made good grades to boot.

At the moment I have the opposite – I am completely in charge of my day, which is a heavenly luxury.  But - I’m having a hard time getting things done.   I don’t know which “project” to focus upon, and I end up either completely neglecting one thing for others, or just feel overwhelmed and end up spending way, way too much time lost in the cyberworld.  (It really is addicting- there’s so much to see, to research, to be inspired by…sometimes I feel like I’m Harry Potter and the internet is the Penseive thingy – I get too close and suddenly I’m sucked in, trapped until it decides to spit me out!)

One might say that I have too many projects.  Well, too bad for that – I am determined to work at all these things to their ends, or until and unless they no longer make sense to pursue.  I can let go of things if they aren’t right, but sometimes one has to keep pushing to make things happen.   I don’t feel like I’ve ever really given some of these things that kind of effort, time and attention  yet.   So they are all still on the docket.  Period.

It’s ironic, though, that we often wish we had more time to do this or that, but when we have the time, it still goes just as swiftly as it did when we didn’t have it!  I now see why my older sister is so hyper-organized - she seems to have schedules for her schedules!  I understand - she has so much on her plate that she simply won’t get things done if she doesn’t have time budgeted for it.   To me, that has always seemed too rigid - I’ve always been more of a “take things as they come,” sort of girl.   After all, I don’t want to miss out on any serendipitous events!   (I’m sure my sister will tell you that it leads to my being somewhat flighty, and I won’t deny it.  But I do have the good grace to feel guilty about it, at least…) And I’ve managed to get things done and be successful without it – mostly.

 Too, when I was the mother of a young child, I ran across mothers who would never alter their child’s routines – everything revolved around the child’s schedule.  That was NOT me.  If there was something to do and it was naptime or lunch time, we skipped naptime, ate on the run and went and had fun!   Yet I will admit that most of the time, we did have naptime, and a bedtime routine, and yes - a set schedule. 

So I guess I need to do both – set a schedule and maybe some deadlines and follow them the majority of the time, but still be flexible enough to stay with something if it’s inspired, or needs attention right now.    After all, creativity and inspiration are not subject to schedules – they appear when they appear, and I’m still me enough to have to go with them when they do their dance on my head.  

Such a lovely dilemma to have, anyway.   I’m not complaining – just, as usual, working things out as I write.  I wonder if most people feel torn, as I do, between being a disciplined grown up and a free-spirited will o’the wisp.  For me, it’s been sort of a lifelong battle between my two, seemingly equal, natures.  It’s difficult to embrace both sides and make it work.  The practical side has won out mostly and I frankly resent it sometimes!  But now that the other me is free, I fear it needs to be reined in a little because it’s a little scary!  And maybe not so productive, and life is short! So once again, I'm trying to balance the two with an uneven scale.   I’ll try to be honest about how things are going.  For example, I did plan on blogging on Mondays, and here it is Wednesday…oops - already off schedule!  J