Saturday, April 14, 2018

A Satisfying Life

Choosing a life of textiles doesn't mean that there was no stress.  Oh my, no!  But it has been a different kind of stress.

And my days have been filled - not just with dealing with that stress - but with textiles.  Yarn.  Creativity.

As a child I assumed that being an adult meant I could do whatever I wanted to do, instead of what the adults around me told me I had to do.

What a shock!  What a surprise!  Adults have responsibilities to a level I could not - as a child - imagine or comprehend.

As an adult it now fell on my shoulders to pay the bills and keep the home fires burning.  So to speak.

By choosing to do that through the life of a creative person, I simply exchanged one set of stressers for another.  But the daily grind was now  of my choosing, not dictated by a boss who had their own level of responsibilities and stress to deal with.

I became my own boss.  Therefore I set my own agenda in order to meet my schedule, my long term goals.

There were still interactions with people but I had more control over how those interactions played out.  I set my obligations to others, and then - hopefully - I had more control over how those responsibilities were met.

Dealing with students, workshop and conference co-ordinators, editors, show organizers became my front line interactions with people.

I learned how to communicate, more or less effectively.  Since we are talking the 1980's, most communications were done by snail mail, not email, or telephone.  Things had to be sorted out months in advance in order to allow that slow communication to happen and events to be organized in a timely manner.

Customers also needed to be dealt with.  Sometimes those customers had their own agenda and deadlines.  I learned how to say 'no' when their expectations collided with my schedule.

Because the thing is, as an independent creative person, weaving, writing and teaching about weaving, meant my schedule was filled with deadlines.  It had to be in order to bring in enough income from my several income streams to keep a roof over my head and food on the table.  I never had just one deadline I was working toward, but many.

The stress never stopped.  The deadlines rolled on by, like waves in an ocean.

One year I was gone from home more days than I was at home.  And the trips, the deadlines, the stress never stopped.

At times I would step out of that reality and think, "Wow!  Is this really my life?  How did it get to this point?  Where did that month, that week, hell, that year go?"  At which point the only appropriate answer was "this is the life you chose".

It was never said in a mean way, just a realistic way.  That this constant running in order to stay on top of the deadlines was the life I had, in fact, chosen to do.

Of course the next statement always had to be - if I am not happy with this life, what do I change?  What choices do I make next?  Because this was the life I had chosen, all those decades ago.

But right now, in this moment, I am no longer in my 30s.  I am in the latter half of my 60s.  And for the past 10 years I have been dealing with overt health issues.  I feel my clock ticking and time running out.

And so I have been struggling with my choices.  I am trying to make different choices now.  I am looking at my calendar and trying to book deadlines with less stressful time frames.

After 4 plus decades of cramming every single opportunity into my calendar, into my life, I am trying to listen to my body and give myself recovery time.  I don't always listen to myself and so I do still wind up with rolling waves of deadlines.  But I am trying to be more mindful that peers have been retired for years instead of continuing to work like they were just beginning their careers instead of approaching the end, and the retirement from the stress of earning their daily bread and butter.

As a weaver, I have only the meager state pensions as retirement income.  So I feel the pressure to continue, at some level, to sell my textiles, write articles, teach.  But I also feel the need to step back from all of that.

I have a big personal investment in the Olds Master Weaving program because the goal of the curriculum is to produce weavers who understand the underlying principles of the craft in order to pass on the information to others.   It is fine to weave from published patterns, but someone has to design those patterns for others to follow.

Recently I told one of the Olds students that my goal is to teach myself out of a job.  I am getting tired.  My body is 'broken'.  It will soon be time to pass the torch onto the next generation.

Regrets?  I've had a few.  But I have lived the life I chose when I was 25.  And I have no regrets about making that choice.

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