The holidays. . . ho, ho, hum

These holidays are a tough time for everyone.  Doesn’t matter what your religion or creed, it can be a struggle.  Sure, we love to spend time with friends and family.  But it’s hard not to get caught up in all the other stuff.

We may say that we’re ‘not commercial’ or ‘don’t have expectations’ about the holiday season, but if we’ve been raised in this society we’ve been inculcated with Norman Rockwell’s perfect Christmas.  We don’t have to consciously buy into it, but subconsciously it is the standard against which we judge ourselves.  Don’t have a turkey?  don’t have the perfect gifts?  don’t have the perfect family?  you suck.  At least that’s what we think in the back of our minds.  And advertisers are really good at playing up against those subconscious feelings.

The reality is that no family is perfect, no gift is perfect, no amount of money or cooking time is going to make everyone behave and get along.  Doubly so because we’re all stressed about getting along and that makes us even crankier.

So what can we do?  Here’s what I’m trying.

1.  relax.  there’s nothing you can do about it at this time, so you might as well go with the flow.  In a very Zen fashion, if we let go of our expectations of others and events, we might actually enjoy them.  Sometimes hanging on to expectations only sets us up to be disappointed, so if we go in with no expectations we have a better chance of having a good time.

2.  avoid if possible.  Some people and situations are just toxic.  If you can, skip them.  If you can’t skip them, minimize them.  If you can’t minimize, be as good as you can to yourself while you’re there.  Go for a walk to get away.  Spend time with the pet — they usually don’t talk back.  Do something that can mentally take you away from the situation.  I’m an avid knitter, so I always have knitting with me.  People expect me to have yarn in my hands, which I can use in stressful situations in my favor.  If I expect it’s going to be a tough time, I’ll take knitting with me that involves cables.  For those of you that don’t knit, cabling involves having an extra needle on hand that you use sporadically to create the cables.  When I’m not actually using it, I hold it in between my teeth.  It’s kept me out of several arguments — although I have to be careful sometimes not to bite through the needle!

3.  don’t expect perfection from yourself.  I’m a big girl.  I could stress myself out more by telling myself that I can’t eat this or that.  It’s not worth it during this season.  There’s food EVERYWHERE.  So I pick and choose what I eat, but don’t deny myself except where I know it will hurt me.  I’m gluten intolerant, so I absolutely avoid wheat.  I’m diabetic, so I should avoid sugar — but it’s not worth the extra stress right now, so I just be careful and choosy about how I’m taking in my sugar.  And food triggers abound for everyone right now, because so many of us have equated food with love.  The messages we get (either spoken or unspoken) from family and friends is that I will show my love to you through food — and you damn well better eat it and accept the love!  Boy, what loaded messages!  It’s no wonder we make ourselves nuts trying to eat well.

4.  try to be good to yourself.  The more slack we cut ourselves at this time, the more we can cut others.

5.  understand that people are carrying their own griefs.  Whether it’s grief at missing loved ones who have passed, or grief at not being with someone far away, people are in pain.  If I can understand that and remember that part of the reason someone is being so mean is that they’re hurting, I can empathize with their pain and maybe not get so hurt by their actions.

So part of why I’m posting this is that I can go back and re-read my own suggestions to help myself remember!

One last note.  It doesn’t matter whether we say Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Holidays, Happy Hannukah (yes, I know Hannukah is over already this year, but you get my point) — it’s a holiday.  Someone is celebrating it.  Accept their wishes and give back your own.  You don’t have to be celebrating the same holiday, but you can exchange good will.  Don’t get picky about which holiday is being celebrated.  I heard one of my knitting students the other night exclaim that she didn’t understand why people celebrated Kwanzaa, because it was just a ‘made-up’ holiday.  Here’s a clue — ALL of our holidays were ‘made-up’.  Some were just created more recently than others.  Each is just as valid as the other to the people who are celebrating.  In the end, it doesn’t matter what we’re celebrating.  Let’s just celebrate!

So a joyous holiday season (no matter which one you’re celebrating) to all!

Photographers and fear

Today one of my wholesale clients came to visit.   She brought a photographer with her.  She has a blog and wants to do an ‘artist of the month’ about me and my work.  Quite an honor, I think.

Photographers, however, make me nervous in so many ways.  First off, I’m a big woman.  It’s okay when I am in my mind’s eye, when I feel the comfort of being in my body and I know how it works.  It’s a totally different experience when faced with a picture of myself.  Who is that woman, I think.  Not me, I think.  And because photographers make me nervous, there’s usually a plastic quality to my face.  I’ve heard that 9 out of 10 people wouldn’t recognize a clone of themselves when faced with it, because what we think we look like (even after years of looking at ourselves in mirrors and pictures) isn’t what we actually look like.  It might be because pictures are still and flat and we’re so three-dimensional.

I thought that’s why I was nervous.  I cleaned the studio area, put junky stuff away, and thought about what I would wear.  The photographer was very nice, very inconsipcious, and I was talking with my client trying to totally focus on her and not the photographer.  It was okay, I told myself.  I got up to show my client something that was on the shelf, and the photographer slipped behind my loom and positioned herself behind where I would be sitting.

Suddenly I felt totally naked.  There she was, taking pictures of all my stuff.  The little mementos.  The stones and plants.  The things that inspire me.  The things that I view with pride.  The things that remind me that I’m good enough, talented enough,’ enough’ enough to face the world as an artist every day.  It was the most frightening moment of the morning.  I wanted desperately to run over and explain items, to perhaps move things to be less conspicuous (which would, of course, only made them more conspicuous).  It was all I could do to turn away and ignore what she was doing.

It was like someone was taking pictures of parts of my soul.  Now I’m extrovert enough to b.s. with anyone (I say I have a B.S. degree, with a More Added and Piled Higher and Deeper to go with it).  I can crack jokes and carry on, and my laugh is as big as I am.  But all that hides the inside, the part that worries that I’m not good enough, not pretty enough, the side that can worry itself into a downward spiral if I let it.  And now there are pictures of some of that side, some of the physical ‘self-talk’ that I give to that side.  And they’re going to be out in the world so that people will KNOW.

That’s the incredibly scary part.  That people with KNOW.  And with knowing, comes judging.

So why am I writing this?  To convince myself that we all have these fears.  To convince myself that it will be okay to let people see that side.  That if we let each other see that side of ourselves more often, we might get along better.

Maybe some people don’t have that side that worries.  Maybe some people are totally balanced and okay with themselves.  I’d like to meet them and know how they do it.  Either they’ve got it all figured out, or they’re just hiding that part of themselves from themselves.

A very wise friend told me once that when faced with a choice between two options, she’d learned to take the one that scared her the most.  When she took the scary path, she learned the most.

So I’m just breathing and telling myself that it will be fine.  I’m walking down the scary path to see what I will learn this time.  And waiting to see what will happen when that blog post gets published.  Waiting to see what pictures will be chosen to represent what the photographer sees as representative of me.

Change and progress

Wow! I can’t believe it’s been a month since my last post. Where has the time gone? It’s gone into decisions and changes. I’ve been working on naming and packaging product, creating new colors, working on inventory. When you’re in the midst of the changes it feels so overwhelming. Hard to know which way to go, and I have a tendency to get bogged down by knowing what all the choices are! But once one decision gets made the rest seem to fall into place. The new packaging is at the printers and will be unveiled in a couple of weeks. The new website is underway, and the new e-store is nearing completion. Everything will be new by the end of May. Whew! How busy! But busy in a good way. I look forward to showing you all the new things soon.

Birth of a new pattern

One of my favorite color towels is the Purple Edge

0246_dish

Stripe.

 

It’s a periwinkle-ish purple (called Special Purple by the dyer — my thought is that a straight guy was naming the colors and ran out of purple words, so he just called it “special”) with magenta and yellow-green stripes.

 

It’s been a very popular color, but the pattern is three years old so it felt like it was time for a change.

I’ve been thinking about it a while and thought I’d share some of my processes with you.

 

 

process1

 

First, I start out coloring, looking for rhythms in the color patterning.

I just sit down with my colored pencils and start looking for a pattern.

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes it takes a while to emerge, but when I find it I can recognize it.  Once I find it, I start working on the counts that I’ll need.  I know that I have 400 threads for a single towel, so I have to find a way to fit my pattern into my size requirements.

process2

process3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once I get a preliminary count worked out, it goes on the loom.  And here it is in process!

newColorOnLoom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections, Realizations, and Joy

January is my time to catch up with folks.  I’m incredibly busy in the fall with shows, so I have to do catching up.  I’ve been seeing old friends quite a bit the last month.

 

I’ve had several careers since I’ve been in Maine and I have sets of friends from each one.  The first group I saw were my academic friends.  I have a Ph.D. in Applied Philosophy and used to teach Philosophy and Women’s Studies at the college level.  Had a lovely lunch with them catching up.  Left lunch with my wife, looked at her and said “I’m really glad I don’t have to do that academic type posturing anymore.  It’s just so not my style.”  Often in academia it seems to be about who knows who and who’s written what, who gets what grants and who makes what presentations,  and it all stacks up in sheets of paperwork, diplomas, and standings.  As someone who never taught at an institution where there was a degree program in my field and who had no interest in publishing, I was usually at the bottom of the standings.

 

When I lost the ability to teach professionally due to limited job options and a commitment to stay in the state, I’d taken the logical approach to finding a new career.  Went to the career center, took their aptitude tests, and logically went through the list determining what was possible for a 40ish year old woman to retrain herself to do professionally.  Computer programming came up on the short list; I’d done it before and it was okay, I could retrain myself in a reasonable short period of time.  So I got myself certified and got myself a job.  Worked with a lovely bunch of people in an organization that was going through a lot of changes.  Bonded with my pack; disliked the new management style and direction.  Was totally stressed in the job.  It just didn’t fit my style. Ended up getting fired.   But since I totally bonded with some of my peeps we get together occasionally.

 

So the week after our lunch with academic friends, we had dinner with a bunch of folks from the programming company.  It was great to see them.  Several in particular I miss frequently — like the woman I shared an office with for 4 years! I listened to them talk about their jobs (although many have left the old company, they’re still all programmers) and talked about what I was doing.  We left the dinner, and I looked at my wife and said “I’m really glad I don’t have to do that anymore.  I was so totally stressed doing that.”

 

Last weekend I went to the Fiber Spa in Freeport.  I was giddy on the way down, as were the women I was riding with.  Had a lovely morning spinning and talking.  Shopped for fabulous fiber.  Ogled creations other women had made.  Touched fiber, talked, laughed, had a thoroughly enjoyable day.  As I left with my wife, I looked at her and said “I’m SO GLAD I work in fiber!”

 

Sometimes we think we’ve suffered a great loss and it will never be the same.  I was devastated when I lost the ability to teach at an academic level.  I’d worked so hard for it, and I really did enjoy the teaching part.  Now that it’s far away, I can look at the work and see how dissatisfied I was in some areas, and how it was not the best situation for me to be in.  I always knew that programming was ‘just’ a job, not a vocation, but it still hurt when I got fired.  But it gave me the opportunity to start my own business – nothing that I would have done if I’d had to quit, but definitely something to try rather than look for another job/career.

 

Now I’m so glad that it happened!  I love the work I create.  I love the fact that I can make something that is beautiful and useful.  I love working in the fine yarn that I do – how it looks, how it feels, how it wears.

 

I’m so lucky to have friends, still, from other aspects of my life.  But I’m luckier still to have found a life where I can have balance, where I can love all the things I do.  I own my own business creating functional, artisanal art; I work part time for a non-profit that promotes vibrant downtown areas; I teach knitting classes.  I get to do it all, and for that I am grateful.

 

Knitting and life

I had a great knitting class yesterday.  It wasn’t great for the knitting that was taught.  That was simple stuff — how to add a new skein of yarn to a project, how to weave in ends, how to increase or decrease stitches.  Simple to me, anyhow, because I knew how to do it.  It was amazing to the students who didn’t know and I was glad to share my knowledge with them.

 

What made it a great class for me was that I got to share my philosophy of knitting.  Be there with the yarn and the needles.  Enjoy what you’re doing.  Don’t worry about perfection , because it’s not a question of IF you’re going to screw up but WHEN!  So, know that you’re going to screw up and learn how to fix it.  Much of the time, you can fix it because you’ve paid attention to what it’s supposed to look like, so you can see what to do to fix it.  Sometimes you can just let the mistake stay there, because it’s really not worth trying to fix.  Sometimes it’s not about doing things perfectly, but doing things consistently.  But most importantly, it’s about allowing yourself to enjoy what you’re doing.  If you get too wound up in making something perfect, you can easily loose the enjoyment of the process itself.

 

And while you’re enjoying the process it allows you to really be in the moment.

 

My goal is to spend more of my life that way — enjoying the process of the moment, not worrying about perfection, noticing flaws but accepting them as part of the whole, knowing that errors will be made but can be fixed by appropriate attention.  It sounds much less stressful than worrying.

A Wedding, A Funeral, No Regrets.

I was married on New Year’s Day.  It was a wonderful ceremony — intimate, relaxed, full of love and light.  Both my partner and I had been married before.  As we were coordinating tie dye tshirts for our ceremony, I looked at her and said “Isn’t this SO Much easier than the white dress, hose and heels?!”  Our boys (they’re young men, actually, and dear friends, but they’re 25 years younger so we call them our boys) were happy but a little subdued.  We soon found out why.

 

When we were at the celebratory breakfast they got a call.  His grandmother had died that morning.  Mom needed him then for support.  The death was no surprise,  due to ALS — but she had died before our ceremony.  He knew when he got to our wedding but refused to tell us.  He didn’t want to ruin our day.

 

Last Monday, I went to her memorial service.  I didn’t know Janet, but I know him, and it was important for me to go.  As I sat listening to her life, she sounded like the kind of lady I’d like.  Spoke her mind.  Enjoyed her life.  Enjoyed the people around her.  Lived right up to the end.  No regrets.

 

It’s easy to say “oh yes, I have regrets”.  But are they really?  And if they’re regrets about things that haven’t been done, why not do them now?  Either do them, or let them go, because regrets only take up space that can be filled with life.

 

I want to live with no regrets.  Sometimes it’s easier said than done, but when I look back I find that the regrets I have are on small issues.  On all the big decisions, I have none.  So why worry about the small ones?  At our marriage ceremony, we were married under a sign that said “Love with your whole heart”.  I believe that is the easiest way to live with no regrets.

 

Welcome

Welcome to the musings of Dr. Lynn.  It’s the 2012 Winter Solstice, the start of a new season.  We made it through the end of the Mayan calendar — I like to think of it as the start of a new epoch.  Hopefully there will be new ways of interacting with the world, new ways of thinking about our relationships with each other and the world.  I’ll be musing about philosophy, fiber, and fun with my distinct sense of humor.