Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Flow Of Ideas

Do you ever say something out loud as if saying it out loud will make it so or put something in writing because by writing it down that thing that you're wishing for will actually happen? I don't think it works like that. I think we finally get to the things we get to when we're finally ready to get to them. Perhaps as the saying goes when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.

Writing - or talking - have never been the magic wand for me that changes wish into fact. Rather, they seem to be the process I use to work things out. Talking and writing leads to a flow of ideas which, eventually and inevitably, leads to a solution. It can drive some people crazy. One friend stopped being my friend because she said I was inconsistent and constantly changing my mind. LOL - well - yes - but - at least I'm interesting.

Life is trial and error. I've never lived before. I'm inexperienced. And since I don't believe in reincarnation, it's a one shot deal which means I'm going to make some mistakes, head off in some directions that don't work, say some things that I wish I hadn't said and do some things that I wish I hadn't done, and - if I'm lucky and paying attention - make corrections that work for me and in the process find and live into my own path. It seems to me that to embrace trial and error in a great, all encompassing hug is the only way to find that path. There is no such thing as perfect while the pursuit of perfection can be paralyzing.

Across the street from our home is a puppy park. The other day, a mother was there with her dog and her small child who happily ran all over the park chasing the dog. She - not that I could tell from this distance that it was in fact a girl child but she just seemed like a girl child to me - had that cheerful lilting toddle that makes you smile. It made me think of my daughter and my not yet huggable grandbaby and about how I'd make a better parent now at fifty than I did at twenty-five because I've - thankfully - learned a few things since then.

One of the things I'd hoped to have learned by now - and perhaps I have but keep forgetting or it's simply the process to forget and send out some generic prayer and then wish you'd been more specific - is to be careful what you pray for. Somewhere around the first of January, when I set my intention for this year as do the work, I surely prayed for help doing the work and one wonders if God is gleefully waiting for just such an opportunity. Zap. NOW she's going to learn the lesson. He has THE weirdest sense of humour.

We have had more than a few financial setbacks in the last month, setbacks of the volume and kind that overwhelm while adding up to a serious chunk of change and necessitating a major overhaul of the budget while bringing all spending to a screeching halt. Last week, I spent $1.96 on discretionary items beyond groceries and gas and only because I was already at the till, coffee in hand, when my Starbucks card ran out. It would be an understatement to say that I am learning to do the work in the area of finances. And it's good. There are some lessons that needed to be learned and better now than in retirement because I really do want retirement to be fun. Learning is often the silver lining.

I've been needing to do the work in the area of health and exercise for years but hadn't yet hit on a way to exercise that would slot nicely into the daily schedule and work through all seasons because I'm a creature of habit and because there's no use picking an outdoor pursuit when I won't go outside if it's too cold, or too hot, or too rainy, or too windy, or too anything less than absolutely perfect at the hour that I want to go outside.

One thing I hate about exercise is getting dressed twice. Once is enough for me. After that, I want to get on with the day and I'm definitely not spending my day in sweats and - as I'm somewhat vain - if I'm going to be seen, I'd prefer to put my best face forward - even at the gym - which I hate. I find it a total waste of time driving to the gym and driving back so I've experimented with different ways to exercise from home, none of which have worked out so far.

I was thinking about this problem a few weeks ago and decided to jog, in my living room, without a treadmill because I really like treadmills but I don't want one in my living room. I started jogging on the spot in front of the picture window while the world is waking up and heading off to work. To get started, I walked to one hundred - right step, left step, one, right step, left step, two - which was really two hundred. And then I started jogging slowly and adding steps in two hundred increments while walking the first and the last one hundred to warm up and cool down. And then I picked up the pace and started swinging my arms for a better workout and now I'm up to 2,500 right and left steps which is really 5,000 and it takes roughly 30 minutes. One can only imagine what the students across the street at the bus stop are thinking but then again... who cares... because so far, it works and...

... I'm not getting dressed. I've figured out how to fit it into my - habitual - daily schedule. I get up, turn on the coffee, make my bed while it's brewing, write the blog, read blogs, and head to the living room where I jog in my jammies until I'm hot and sweaty just like "they" recommend, strip the jammies off into the laundry, get dressed, journal, eat breakfast, clean the kitchen, tidy the house, and decide what's next. How I became so habitual is puzzling but is it really worth worrying over? If I like to do the same things in the same order, every day, and that works for me is that not good enough if on the days that it's necessary to differ I can be flexible? I think so.

If I'm cleaning house, doing laundry, running errands, or have an appointment, it's scheduled next if at all possible because after that it's creativity time. YEAH. I am extraordinarily lucky to have raised my children to adulthood, retired from my career, and been able to stay-at-home with time to explore creativity BUT as you know it's also been difficult. After years of working 8-10 hours a day, to suddenly have no hours of work has been a huge adjustment. Too much time can be as equally difficult as not enough time. I think I'm finally there with the adjusting but gosh did it take forever.

Since around the first of January, I've been thinking about how to do the work of being creative. The financial setbacks of the last month are definitely going to have an impact. I'm being careful to pray specifically... like for the Design Outside the Lines workshop in June... because I really Really REALLY want to take my sewcation... and based on the finances that's going to be an interesting trick on God's part but I believe it'll work out.

Having attended DOL once already, I have a better idea of what to expect and have been thinking about how to approach the workshop this time. I'll take better notes and integrate them with my pictures immediately lest I forget... which I will. And I want to experiment with the paints, stamps, and mark making materials. Shams gave me that idea from her trip last fall when she focused on those areas and said the resulting fabric was great for piping and trim. What a good idea! I've been wanting to find time to explore mark making techniques for what seems like forever but I want to explore so many things and it's impossible to find time for everything. Slotting marking making into the DOL retreat sounds perfect plus I'll have the input of the other participants.

Just before my blogging break, I wrote that my direction was creative everyday wear and my focus was knit garments and specifically t-shirts. Having given that some thought when staring at the empty spaces of my closet and the near n-k-dness of my body while recognizing that in my mind these were not ordinary t-shirts, or even nice t-shirts, or even somewhat unusual t-shirts, they were beyond amazing, give me that immediately, t-shirts and that's slightly too much pressure even for a competitive girl like me - if you know what I mean. I don't think the way to advance creatively and do the work is to set such unrealistic - even if unverbalized and not written down - goals for yourself so my goal is to simply to sew whatever I want, to sew every day, and to explore the new techniques and ideas that tickle. We'll see how that works out.

In the chapter on thinking in Today Matters by John Maxwell, he writes: If you want to become a great thinker, you need first to become a good thinker. Before becoming a good thinker, you need to become a thinker. In order to become a thinker, you need to be willing to first produce a bunch of mediocre and down right bad ideas. Only by practicing and developing your thinking daily will your ideas get better. Your thinking ability is determined not by your desire to think, but by your past thinking. To become a good thinker, do more thinking. Once the ideas start flowing, they get better. Once they get better, they keep improving.

It's as I've often said, we learn to do by doing and as we do our sewing, knitting, writing, reading, cooking, home making, art making, or fill in the blank _____, our abilities grow.

I can't sew all afternoon which means I'm also doing a lot of knitting. I like the idea of mindless, meditative knitting but once I'm in the rhythm, my mind wanders so I try to give it things to think about like design. I've been developing a scarf pattern using an alpaca, wool, and nylon blend originally intended for socks but since I'm not a sock knitter - nor a hand knit sock wearer because they just feel yucky on my feet - it's another sock gone scarf. This time in turquoise. It took me ALL DAY to work out the first six inches. I don't consider that a day wasted. I consider that a day of exploring possibilities, of learning, of increasing my knit thinking abilities, of inviting my inner artist out to play, of having fun.

Why are we so hesitant to sample and start over? Why do we think we need to get it - whatever it may be - perfect the first time when there is no such thing as perfect? Isn't failure the greatest teacher and shouldn't we therefore be grateful for failure?

To be a great sewist, you must first be a good sewist and to be a good sewist you must first sew and to sew you must first explore a lot of mediocre and downright bad projects and through practice become a great sewist. To be a great knitter, you must first be a good knitter and to be a good knitter you must first knit and to knit you must first explore a lot of mediocre and downright bad projects and through practice become a great knitter. YES YES! That's how ideas flow.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - hard but good lessons


  1. Just love this: "Life is trial and error. I've never lived before. I'm inexperienced." I was laid off two weeks ago and these words really resonate. I'm the same age as you and am thinking similar thoughts about what I really want to do in my fifties. Thanks, as always, for your thought-provoking posts!

    1. You're welcome. HUGS. It'll all come around. One thing I've learned is that what at first seems devastating can have wonderful outcomes. I cried over the abrupt reversal in our finances and found myself staring sightlessly into space for several weeks with grief and then picked myself up, made some decisions, and started moving in that direction. We're not recovered and it's going to take all of this year if not longer but I feel powerful and able and committed and like this could end up being one of those worst/best moments.

  2. Great post M! These sentences are SO resonant to me (especially in light of where I'm at in my learning process):

    "To be a great sewist, you must first be a good sewist and to be a good sewist you must first sew and to sew you must first explore a lot of mediocre and downright bad projects and through practice become a great sewist. To be a great knitter, you must first be a good knitter and to be a good knitter you must first knit and to knit you must first explore a lot of mediocre and downright bad projects and through practice become a great knitter."

    1. I've printed the original quote out with _____ where there was the word thinker and have slotted all sorts of words into it - artist, knitter, runner, pattern drafter, cook, friend, parent, grandparent - it's endless and a wonderful process to think with. Such a powerful paragraph.

  3. "I think we finally get to the things we get to when we're finally ready to get to them."
    Yes indeed. If you don't tell anyone what you are looking for, you won't get support in finding them, so sometimes you need to voice those needs in case the right person is listening. However, I really believe things happen when they should. My husband and I figured out that we lived in the same city for a year, went to the same bars occasionally. But if we met then, the timing wasn't right for either of us, it wouldn't have worked like it did 3 years later. I believe there is a plan of some sorts, I'm just evolving into the person who is needed for that next event.

    1. Asking never hurts. I think it was in Harriet Lerner's book The Dance of Anger where I first read that concept. That you are here - and if you ask and the answer is yes, you might be there - and if you ask and the answer is no, you are still here. No loss. Why not ask.

      I definitely believe there's a plan.

  4. this is one of your most resonant posts for me... so many good lines for me to mull over, and so many similar issues. The whole paragraph about "Why are we so hesitant to sample and start over?..."is just one place where I struggle and struggle, not with my sewing, but with my enameling and metalwork. For me, with my sewing, the materials seem not so "precious" (especially since I have plenty of stash to draw upon), but in my reduced circumstances jewelry-making seems to be sooo need to get it right the first time, when in fact I could find ways to do sampling there as well. The whole concept of just getting yourself to start, being willing to do enough bad and mediocre work to get to the better and superb work that can only come with time. I need need need to remember this - I have been sewing for over 50 years, so of course I have a reasonably functional skill set, while my metalwork and enameling has been more sporadic, and didn't start when I was a child... Thank you so much for writing this post, it will be tumbling through my mind all today, and definitely be re-read more than once...

    1. I think also that when you're quite talented in one area, you want to fast forward the process in another. For yourself. And because you are used to the praise around great pieces and perhaps not ready to accept oh, that's nice, what is it? along the new curve. At least, I want to fast forward it and subsequently avoid it. I put things off for fear of the learning curve or - what I think is true as well - because the time isn't right, the desire isn't great enough yet for the pain. I would love to paint but I'm not ready for that curve and jewelry is tickling very loudly. This awareness of the need to make down right bad pieces first is quite helpful. And true. Because I've lived it before.

      What really helped me with being brave in sewing and especially earlier with my textile art pieces was the idea that it's only "fabric" and I could cut it up and make it into something else if the first idea didn't work. I know absolutely nothing about enameling and metalwork but is there a way to recycle things that didn't work into new pieces? That certainly lowers the risk and fear factors. And definitely if you can do samples GO GO GO.

  5. oh, the learning curve. It's something we often fall out of familiarity with once we leave our younger years. That's why, in my mind, artistic pursuits are so important. Keep on learning. Beginner's mind is a very good thing....

    1. And once you get started, there's so much energy that you wonder why it took so long.

  6. Great post, Myrna. Lots of food for thought here. Doing the work - yes, that's what it takes to become good, then great, at whatever one chooses to do. Learning never stops.

  7. And hopefully the desire to learn never stops as well. I like to like learning.


Thanks for commenting. I appreciate the feedback and the creative conversation.