I’ve started this post four times. The first one was on New Year’s Day. But after several tries, I’d decided that waiting a few days into the new year would give me a better perspective. It did, because I think that putting focus on what I have done, instead of just a long list of what I want to do, would be a better use of my time, and better for my psyche.
2017 was not particularly bad for me, in fact, it was pretty terrific (outside of politics). Last year was such a teaching year for me. I’ve gained so much in skill: creatively, emotionally, and physically. Ironically, in the year that I’d added new tech tools to my life, I also spent more of my time with old school making and working with my hands. One day, when I have arthritis, and it’s painful to do these things, I’ll be glad I’d taken this time. In late September, I’d started paring down “things” and living a less chaotic and more organized life. No, to my knowledge I’m not dying. I’m not having some mid-life thingie. I’ve always been anti-procrastination, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t done it (and continue to do it). It really does get you into debt with time and is rarely good, unless you’re waiting for something you really want to go on sale.
Putting things off has a lot to do with taking on too much. Where that threshold is, is different for everyone, and we do need to recognize why we’re pulling our hair out over accomplishing something in our free time. If it’s that frustrating or overwhelming, we likely shouldn’t be doing it. Or, at least have the wiggle room to walk away from it for a little while, and be able to come back to it. There’s enough chaos outside our control (like deadlines) without adding chaos to what is within our control. Our brains have a need to experience boredom. I’m learning to be present, and satisfied with what I have instead of leaning over the fence, comparing. There is nothing wrong with healthy, motivating competition, but it’s destructive when you find yourself feeling bad about what you accomplish (as if it’s not enough) and obsessed with the accomplishments of others.
I’ve reconnected with quite a few friends, and disconnected from a few others. When my kids started middle school years ago, I was so distracted by everything going on, it was a lot to unpack if I’m comparing against elementary school. Now at the high school, things are weirdly less complicated, I can really connect and reconnect better. That said, I’ve been judicious with it. When you have young kids in school, that’s your common denominator. When your kids are older, there are some parents you stay acquainted with, others you don’t, for no other reason than you no longer have anything in common. Staying quiet on some of the social media has really helped me, though I do find myself on Instagram Stories, Twitter, and on Facebook checking in on groups and pages. As much as I resist it, I can’t deny it’s a benefit having everything I want to read in one spot. Pinterest has changed a lot, but I’m adapting it for organization (more about that later). I’ve met new acquaintances, volunteered more for the I things that I really care about and not at all for things that were essentially just ‘face time.’ I think I’m getting a bit closer to being the ‘change I want to see in the world.’
Hopefully, that will cascade to our sons. My husband’s and my most overused phrase this year was “lead by example” and I think it was as much for us as it was for them. If we want our older son to experience certain things, we just need to do those things, and the fact that he is learning to do them isn’t always going to be obvious or a conscious effort on his part. We have to accept that as parents, we’re not always going to get validated instantly, but that validation may come years later, when our kids are living their lives independently of us, making their own choices (I think our younger son’s autism has helped us reacclimate to slow and deliberate expectations). Yesterday, my older son finally hit a high note on his trumpet that has sort of eluded him…for years. His HS band didn’t work at all with scales or getting better at the instrument. They work on learning a song, to play for parents, that’s sort of positive for esteem, but it’s not educating. He could always hit the note he wanted to hit accidentally. The education kicks in when he wants control over when he hits it. He now takes a lesson once a week, and just practices and plays and enjoys. That’s how you get better, by doing things, developing a process. It seems living more deliberately has become more of a trend than a routine. We’re so used to looking busy to others, have we even lied to ourselves about not having time to learn or practice things? I found, when I cut out most of my social media time, and took the time to stare out the window, I learned a lot about myself by what I’m thinking about. Maybe you’re thinking that because I’m writing a post for my blog, that I’m still looking for that validation. Sure, but, it’s my blog, not under an umbrella of a large conglomo. I know it’s not going to have the exposure that my Twitter would have, but I’m not reduced to 280 characters, I’m improving my writing skills. It’s not popular like IG or FB, but I have control over available content, and if you visit a blog, that’s what you see: exactly what YOU wanted, not what an ‘influencer’ wants to corral you into seeing.
When I switched my blog to a different format years ago, I lost all my blog links. But, I have several new blogs I love to visit and going to add, so if I have a goal for 2018, it will be to get my website and my blog, cohesive and on track. I say that a lot, so another goal is staying organized so that I can also be spontaneous! I don’t want to be in debt with Time, I want to have a savings account for Time. This also includes my wardrobe. Being a care-giver and a gig worker, it’s easy for us to get comfortable in the same tees and jeans for years. Eons ago, when I was in college and later worked in a product development department, I used to draw out things I wanted to make, add a few swipes from Vogue, Elle or Mirabella and then just make the stuff. We had a lot of fun fabric places nearby in Royal Oak and Berkley, and all my friends were punks as well as sewists, artists, stylists, or photographers. Sound like Project Runway or Pretty In Pink? Well, John Hughs took that from fashion students, that’s what everyone did. We had six studio hours a week per class, we had to do something when we got bored with the assignment. So I’m back to planning my closet. What’s fun is now I can use Pinterest for it, and I’ve created a private board with just key items and key colors for me to reference. I’ll sketch them out in a notebook with yardages and colors, and keep it with me. When I find a fabric or yarn I like (esp. if I’m in MI or WI), I’ll have all the info I need right there. If you search Pinterest for “apparel capsules” it will bring up all those familiar Polyvore images. There’s a reason they’re done that way. Being able to make twenty outfits out of ten pieces is terrific! Karen Templar does this on Fringe Association. I’m still working on my Goode sweater, but that will be done before the warm weather, so I will get some mileage out of it this Spring! I’ll post periodically on that, and other knitting and sewing pieces I’m planning. I do have a jacket and some trousers on the horizon.
Also, more creating (I had work in the Over and Over show this year at Columbia University Chicago, worked with some new clients, was contacted by a recruiter of all things, and was featured on Creative Playdate). I have so many ideas that I’d put in a notebook over the Winter Break, I’m bound to flesh out some really good ones. I have slowed down, I have actual working hours and playing hours, I’ve learned a ton of knitting skills, I’m really developing my stranded and color work, and I have been more diligent with my Passion Planner and keeping more than one notebook. I exercise and get sleep regularly already. I’m healthy and I find I have a lot of ideas after some elliptical time. We all put on a couple pounds at the holidays, but I wonder if people would feel more optimistic about exercise if it were as benign and routine as laundry, not an event or worry. For me, it is. Losing weight isn’t a goal, but maintaining is. It’s as important as clean clothes to me. Spending time planning and planting is also exercise, and even if you don’t have a plot of your own land, just a little row of pots, or being part of a community garden does wonders.
I’m happy with my life, I’m grateful for what I have. I AM going to share my Christmas gifts from my guys, they’re so wonderful, and so thoughtful and got extra hugs. Some of these are from Fringe Supply Co., if you’re a maker, and get dry fingertips, the Etta + Billie balms smell gorgeous and feel amazing. Lykke (pronounced lek’ yuh, or leg’ yuh) is Norwegian for happiness. This is my second needle of theirs and I’m looking forward to working with it. Charley Harper is my all-time favorite illustrator, this is literally the biggest book I’ve ever seen, much less own! It’s also gorgeous…
After reflecting on all of this, I’ve enjoyed 2017, and that’s what I’m going to make an effort to focus on: the good things. There will always be bad things, but, sometimes that makes us do good things (like making lifestyle changes, protesting, or running for office). There are always people who will listen, and help us find our way back. I hope you have a wonderful 2018, and I wish you all the best. You can do it, and you deserve it!
a : )