Hey, you friends and readers who are older than me. Younger people too probably. A question.

How do you KNOW?

You all seem to know your own hearts, your own desires. To have gained or found or created your peace and confidence with who you are and where you’re going.

Maybe you think that’s true of me too.

Afraid not. I remember realising on my 25th birthday that I had never imagined being older than 24. In the 20+ years that have passed, I have only rarely felt that I knew simply and wholeheartedly who I am, and where I want to be.

There are really good things about this.

I believe I’ve thought more about what matters, about who I admire and why, more about my choices, than if I had an autopilot managing my course. I’ve felt more deeply each decision that comes my way. I like to think I’ve been more open to hear others’ thoughts and ideas.

I’ve come to be comfortable with that uncertainty. Maybe I do KNOW.
Maybe I’m The Woman Who Makes It Up As She Goes Along And It Works Out Just Fine.


Lessons of distance and duration

You can go a long way to get to home truths

One of the great things about travel is its ability to reveal new information – about the destination, the process, the people. In the slightly uncertain number of hours since I left Auckland on Wednesday, June 25th, I’ve come 9,841miles (16,481 km) and revealed at least three things about myself:

Revelation 1: I am much calmer and more tolerant than expected – where the object is a stranger, officialese, weather, geography, animals and even children. This is happy discovery
Revelation 2: the reverse applies to close associates, where I find myself to be excessively judgemental. and irritable. This is not so happy, and I need to work on it. Still cogitating on the approach. Suggestions welcome! Especially from associates.
Revelation 3: probably a cause of R2 above, my management of my Bipolar II disorder is not quite as effective as I would like. Or perhaps the travel experience has specific challenges. It’s been rather unpleasant at times. However, I have managed it well enough to not be disabled, which is pleasing. Maybe I was a little overconfident.
Maybe these are not news to you, dear reader, but revelations to the humble writer.
What have you learned while traveling? How have your travel experiences revealed you to yourself?

Convenience – a little rant

What’s the famous quote, about something being a good servant but a poor master?

Maybe it applies to everything. It certainly does to the idea of “convenience”

I have watched people, myself included, become so focused on our our entitlement to having things suit us and be easy, that we give second place to our compassion, our sense of perspective, our humility and our dignity.

I would never suggest that anything be made more difficult than necessary, but really people, how easy and ‘catered-to’ do we need to be? Especially if we want to think of ourselves as independent, healthy, intelligent adults? 

A couple of days ago I heard an obviously well-educated, prosperous man in his 50s berate a ferry ticket clerk for 10 minutes, because a boarding gate change meant he lost his place in the queue and he would have to wait what turned out to be 2 minutes longer.

Today’s example was worse – on hearing of the plane crash in San Francisco (2 dead, 60+ injured, many rescue workers’ lives endangered) all that one of my companions could think of was that her neighbor, flying out of SFO, might be delayed and have to wait around in the terminal.

What’s this all about?

 Today’s convenience phenomenon is largely created by the retail industry, especially fast food.  It is a marketing mindshift designed to make people more likely to purchase products, particularly the kinds of foods we are all coming to realise are not in our own best interests. You can’t read the whole article, but take a look at this precis and think. Do a Google image search for the word “convenience” like I did, and see what images are associated.

Think about whether “convenience” has a higher value to you than compassion, perspective, independence, humility, dignity.

Here endeth etc. etc.

A day of no appointments

Today was blissfully unscheduled.

After eight weeks where every single day had several appointments, if not entirely booked from dawn to dusk, it was quite strange to just do things ‘whenever’.

I slept until I was done with sleeping.
I lay in bed until I’d read as much as I wanted.
I made myself very good poached eggs for breakfast, maybe the best ever!

Like the tablecloth? It’s one of my quilts!

Then I calmly did whatever I felt like from my Sunday list, most of them very nice things. I’ve spoiled the effect slightly by doing a little preparation for work tomorrow, but even that has been a choice. Pretty good Sunday, and I’m making the most of it cos there won’t be another day like it for a while. The next few weeks have a lot scheduled.

Working too much

I needn’t have worried about not working enough

Turns out I go to the office via Commute Number 2 and some days it’s past midday when I realise I’m still in my PJs and haven’t had breakfast yet.

That’s not so clever, and I’m getting better at looking after the worker. 

I’m taking it as a good sign – I’m really focused on my work, interested in what I’m doing, and the housework doesn’t have a chance of distracting me. Not that there was any great danger from that quarter.  I’m definitely working more hours than I did in a conventional workplace. This is mostly due to the following:

  • there’s a lot to do, and I don’t want to create a backlog, since I didn’t inherit one (bless you, Mr Predecessor!)
  • everything’s needed by someone else, and I don’t want to Let Them Down

…both compounded by the worst thing of all… I’m so SLOW

This is the first time in years that I’ve had a job that I don’t already know how to do. No doubt it’s very good for me, but it is hard operating at something like 40% competence. Everything seems to take such a long time, and I’m not as confident of my work as I like to be.

Fortunately I’m in an amazing team and my colleagues are very helpful in teaching as I go. It’s important to remember that this is a temporary state – I can already see the day, not far off, where I know *how* to do what I’m doing at least 90% of the time. Then we’ll see some proper “productivity” as well as a bit more flair and creativity

Not working enough

When I took on a job that has me working from home, I was a bit worried.
Worried about whether I would actually work.

After all, I have a Masters in Procrastination, with a Major in Self-Distraction and these are some of my specialties:

  • like to sleep
  • like to read
  • like to make art
  • like to tweet
  • like to go shoe-shopping
  • like to walk on the beach.
  • With enough time I even like to cook 

There are also the great truths that:

  • the garden needs serious work
  • the freezer needs defrosting
  • the bathroom needs painting
  • so does the pantry
  • what’s that interesting jar back there? – ooh! brandied apricots…

No matter how attractive working from home appears, I cannot expect my customers or employer to step aside for me to do this stuff. Even though all these things are in my face in my work space.

The thing is… there’s NOBODY looking. Nobody to note how much time or effort I put into my day, when I’m in the office or out of it. Nobody to bolster my willpower and reinforce my self-discipline.  I truly had no idea how much of my work ethic is actually located inside other people, and based in their expectations. Also, not so great at resisting temptation. Worrying.

My art work is completely different – it’s all self-driven in terms of content and timing. It’s great if *you* like it, but I really don’t care. I’m learning to do it when the work and I are ready, so rate of progress isn’t a significant measure either. No concerns about Letting Anyone Else Down

I had a lot of worried thoughts about all this.

Tune in tomorrow  – same Bat-time, same Bat-channel – to discover what actually happens

Procrastination or Preparation?

So, here’s a work in progress … for a very long time. Scroll down if you’re impatient for a peek.

The muddy pink fabrics are mostly someone else’s discarded stash, an unwise acquisition in my very early quilting days.
Some lovely woman taught me the 3D flying geese technique when I admired it at a quilt show at least seven years ago – it took me ages to find the paper napkins with the method notes
…and I’ve been collecting “sky” fabrics forever.

At last the ideas came together and I began making pink geese (aka flamingos) and putting them together into flying flocks

They rested, with some yellow that I later edited out, in a box for several more years, until Suddenly! came the inspiration to finish. There were more pink birds than blue sky bits. There was the great Sorting of the Stash, and a little shopping, cut enough blue bits, sewed them together. I have about 40 placemat-sized bits, how to make a quilt out of that?

Put a big sheet on a pal’s floor, lay the bits down & rearrange. And rearrange, and again. Start to see a decent design. Pin the bits to the sheet, roll it up…and stuff it in a bag for a few months. Hang the sheet up over a big window cos there’s not enough floor at home. Find that too difficult, roll it all again and back in the bag for three months.

Fall over it in the studio. Fit of impatience. Will it fit on the bed? Well enough. Roll it out, rearrange again, start cutting & sewing in plain sky pieces as needed between the flocks. Need the bed for sleeping in tonight, better get this finished today! And it was.

And then I thought – ooh, Christmas holidays, IF I were well-organised I might be able to quilt it before I go back to work. Made the backing in a day. Went to my excellent local quilt store All Things Patchwork, where the lovely Cheryl didn’t just sell me superb batting, she let me use her big tables & even helped me pin baste – all in a day.

Took it home, looked at it for five long days and couldn’t do a stitch. Fold it, stuff it bulkily in a bag and leave for three more months … when I suddenly get an idea for quilting, draw designs, make stencils, layout, make a technique sample – over 2 days – and then put it back in the bag.

Monday June 3rd I started quilting and it went like a dream. In two hours at least an eighth is stitched and I’m very happy with it. I’ve left it in the machine, bunched so the cat can’t sleep on it. Who knows when I’ll work on it again.

The thing is, all those long guilty procrastinating intervals might be some kind of preparation for the high-achieving bursts of activity when the project moves ahead effortlessly. Maybe everything just takes the time it needs to take.