It seems things always take longer than I think they will....
You would think that by the time I reached my late 50s I would know this, that I chronically underestimate how long something will take me and plan accordingly. Wait, I do plan, and I mostly finish on time, often in advance, yet I still manage to fool myself. Mostly though I tend to forget that just because something is straightforward and not complex, it does not mean that it will go quickly..
The weekend before last I spent the weekend sewing rainbows. Actually I spent most of Monday on the project as well. The sewing was straightforward: 18 yards of fabric in 6 3-yard segments, straight seams, simple hems, and a top casing that was open between the panels so that rods or supports could be placed. I did more than the minimum necessary, in fact I wanted to be sure that the piece was sturdy and would last, and I enjoyed every inch and foot, despite that there were many long seams and huge bunches of material being pulled through my machine. I loved the process of making the thing, despite the exhaustion it entailed and even though I apparently ran the colors backward. I thought I was going from red to orange and so forth to purple but realize now that I was looking at the project from the wrong side, where I was stitching down hems and seams, and I got the order reversed. Hopefully 'tis no matter.
It was, in fact, a fun project despite the fact that it was so simple, the kind of thing I once would have hated doing. It made me think about sewing, and needlework, and the balance I still seek between sewing for myself and for others, making things that are practical and letting my imagination find its own path. In fact, it wasn't until very recently that I was willing to even admit that my imagination may have paths to wander that I had not previously considered, and it is ok to explore and play with artistic things even if I don't consider myself particularly artistic. It is perfectly permissible to be an advocate and impassioned dabbler.
Since the rainbow project, I've been practicing my embroidery stitches again, not really making anything in particular, just practicing techniques, and playing with different types of thread and the effect of fiber and thread on the appearance of different kinds of stitches. The act of making traditional stitches over and over, of improving skills, has also allowed imagination to soar, as if my mind and heart and fingers are finally finding a direction, finding their own voice. I am reminded of the many times my father used to tell me that you have to know and understand the rules before you can break them. You have to know and understand the craft before imagination can take flight.
But it hasn't all been fun and games: I've also tackled those boxes in the attic, and letting go of excess. Boxes of fabric and yarn that came with me from New York, embroidery threads my mom sent me, all of these things have been waiting, apparently weighing me down even though I was doing my darndest to avoid thinking about them. They were constant reminders of that rather ugly "Its all about me not being able to do what I want" miserable stage of life. I'm not really there anymore, but I wasn't ready to face that attic full of stuff. I preferred to pretend that the evidence of my misery and my excesses didn't really exist, rather than face the part of myself that allowed it to happen, and set her free. It is easier after all to build walls and suppress the sides of ourselves that make us uncomfortable, that we don't really want anyone to see, just as easy to avoid the truth as it is to shove things into an attic, or a closet, or a storage unit, and pretend they aren't there. Until suddenly we realize that all that stuff is seeping out through the cracks and we have to be done with it or be dragged backwards.
Needless to say, sorting and cleaning has been a rather cathartic experience, and also far more time consuming than I anticipated, but it is done now, and it has also empowered me to play with threads and stitches without worrying about whether whatever I was making was good enough, without even worrying if I was making anything other than a mess. Life needs a few messes after all.
You don't get pictures of the sorting though, or of tangled threads and experimental stitches. But I've been playing with more than thread. As I've started letting myself play, I've been dreaming and imagining projects and I want to record my ideas, even if they never go anywhere.
A while back I went to the art store to replace a large box of Prismacolor colored pencils. Mom had taken my box home with her, and I needed a new one. But when I got to the store, I started looking at all the other kinds of pencils and artists crayons that were available. I wondered if I would prefer something different, but I couldn't make up my mind. And so I purchased several small sets of different kinds of pencils, just to explore and see what I liked working with. Seems kind of ambitious, and pretentious doesn't it? Especially for someone who can't draw. As usual I lean toward excess. These several sets cost me considerably less than the big set I had intended to purchase though, and may actually have been a good idea as I am actually learning new things and finding that I have distinct preferences, even though most of what I have created so far are just large blurry blobs of color on paper. They are my blobs of color, however, and I'm happy with them.
I don't know where I am going with any of this. But that had been my goal all along, although I had almost forgotten. I wanted to take time to play and explore this side of myself that I mostly left dormant during the career phase of my adulthood. I wanted to take time to see what I wanted to do next, if anything, and I wanted to allow myself time to accept that I don't have to do anything at all except perhaps be myself. No obligations, after all.
In the meantime, I rediscovered the UFO box (unfinished objects) and there are many sweaters that I want to finish, sweaters that will once again fit. And there are partially made garments, and partially fitted slopers, a huge stack of things to be altered or refashioned, as well as some beads and shiny things as well as threads and yarns and fabrics. I feel like a kid in a candy shop, and I can't wait to play. Who knows where I am going or what will result. It could be nothing, but then again it could be something, anything. At least the journey will be fun.