Dipping a toe into the new year

It seems to be something of a habit of mine, posting near the winter solstice, then disappearing until sometime in the first week of January.

Christmas - our tree in the corner

Of course, I have a million things to tell you, a thousand half-written blog posts, thoughts aplenty fizzing in my brain.

Success! Second scarf finished for Christmas

There has been a lot of looking back/looking forwards in the blogosphere – and the world in general – recently.  Unsurprising.

Last year, I made vague goals, but I don’t think they worked as well for me as concrete ones.  This year, my thoughts are still vague, but I want to pin them down in a more concrete form at some point.  Themes include:

  • making a life that fits me;
  • joining in;
  • making space;
  • following my inspiration;
  • feeling the joy.

Quiet joy; Woody snoozing

I’m aware that if I let the blog drift much longer, these thoughts will become stale, so this is me, dipping a toe into the new year, looking forwards, and looking back.

December 30th; Whitby at dusk

(One thing I’m not doing is numbering my posts any more.  I’ve done it for two years running, and it’s a hassle).

82) Tipping point

I'm at work, and I'm really struggling to be productive.  I'm tired, which never helps, but more significantly, I realise I'm coming to some sort of tipping point regarding my professional life.  For around ten years, I've been trying to do the responsible, corporate thing. Trying to find a job where I fit in, where I feel capable and competent and challenged and engaged, and I simply haven't found a niche that is me-shaped.  Whenever I hear about people keen to return to their work after having a child, it just boggles me.

It's not that I have a Bad Job – far from it.  It's just that, beyond my general wish to do good, professional work and not let anyone down, I'm totally indifferent to it.  I do not, in the vernacular, give a crap.  I am not interested in my 'career'; I do not want to advance my prospects.  I don't want to 'graduate' into management.

But the big problem here is that the world is full of things about which I really do care, about which I am truly passionate.

If I had no driving passions, no wish to do anything else in particular, I'd be happy enough to plug away at my desk for 37.5 hours per week, collect my pay cheque and relax for the rest of my waking hours.  Unfortunately, that's not me.  I cannot be that person; I am starting to realise that I cannot be happy pretending to be that person.

I'm hoping to agree part-time hours with my employer in the near future.  I'd ideally like to go down to three days per week, but I think they are likely to hold out for four.  I really don't know if that will make enough of a difference to me.

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One final note:  I do, honestly, realise just how lucky I am to be able to even contemplate voluntary part-time working in our current economy.

Please, no comments encouraging me to 'be happy with what I have' or 'look on the bright side'.  Believe me, if it were that easy, I would already be there.

74) That dratted website

It's probably not news that I've been meaning to set up a (proper) website for yarnscape for quite some time now.  Currently, the domain just points at my yarnscape blog (which is on blogger, and is in a state of serious neglect), and the blog links to my Etsy shop.  I like having an Etsy shop for various reasons, but I'd like to have my own shop, too.

But…  I've been resisting actually doing anything about it.  Sure, there are about a million things that are clamouring for my attention at any given moment, and sure, a lot of them are more fun than hacking code, but this website is an important stepping stone to the life I would like to be leading, so I should be prioritising it, don't you think?  More, I should be excited about it.  But I'm not.  I'm stressed, and anxious, and resisting it like crazy.

Enter Havi.  I know I've mentioned her a few times before, but seriously, she is a special kind of genius.  I read her blog avidly, though I've not yet infiltrated the community of commenters there.  She gives me many things to think about.  And this time, I'm going to try asking the help of  Metaphor Mouse! – a sneaky-superhero kind of technique for investigating the things that are not working for you in an idea, and, hopefully, finding the qualities that you want to associated with the idea (or project, or…) and helping you to build a metaphor that allows you to approach the whole thing with less resistance.  Clear as mud?  OK, in steps (the italicised bits are taken directly from Havi's blog, which I strongly recommend reading.  This is a great Metaphor Mouse post):

1) List the qualities, aspects and attributes of the thing that isn’t working (including what *is* working, if anything).

Right.  What does 'setting up a website' mean to me?

  • Intimidating
  • Don't know how
  • Stuffy
  • Grownup
  • Boring
  • Serious
  • Frustrating
  • Must be perfect first time
  • Permanence
  • Public exposure
  • Point of no return

ooh.  Now you put it like that, I can kind of see why I'm avoiding working on it.  There's pretty much nothing in there that sounds good, to be honest.  About the only thing I even slightly want to keep is the 'public' bit, because a private website wouldn't be all that much use.  The 'exposure' bit, though?  No, thanks.  It reminds me of those dreams I got when I was a kid, where I'd showed up to school in only my undies, and spent the entire day shivering with cold and trying to hide behind my briefcase.  (As an aside, I did once walk out of the school changing rooms wearing only my vest and slip.  I was about 8, and I realised before I was back in the classroom, but the memory is still vivid.  Different story.)  Bring on the next step!

2) What sort of qualities, aspects and feelings does the thing I want contain?

  • Fun
  • Excitement
  • Adventure
  • Inspiration
  • Performance!
  • Flexibility
  • Safety
  • Support
  • Hiding in plain sight

3) Reminds me of?

Being on stage.  My website is a stage??  No! – it's a whole theatre.  With costumes and rehearsals and greasepaint and people shifting scenery and sorting out the lighting, and being front of house.  And of course, it has a stage.  Where I can perform to my audience.  Where rehearsal is not only OK, it's necessary. 

4) So, do we have our metaphor?

Without a doubt.  I love this idea more than I can describe.  I love it so much I kindof want to cry.  I'm not making a website, I'm running a theatre (and I think I'm probably the director/producer, too).

5) What needs to happen next?

I need to ask for help.  A theatre doesn't run on a one-man team, and neither does any kind of performance, even if only one person is on stage.  Luckily, I know a few people I can call on for this.

And I need to keep this fun.  By:

  • Staying light and easeful;
  • Sharing (and celebrating!) my progress with you;
  • Remembering that websites can change.

Also, I need to listen to Havi more. 

[Final note: I had intended to publish this on Saturday, but I'm changing my mind.  It might sound crazy, but I'm so excited about this that I have to publish it today.  Happy Friday, everyone!]

76) All spun up

The lovely, blended rainbow I blogged about three weeks ago has become a lovely spun rainbow:

DSC04250

I'm really proud of myself for getting it all spun up so promptly, and also of Woody for being such an awesome yarn-model.  Marnie's pups (especially Panda) are so hilariously accommodating in this regard, I just had to try it for myself.

I've only just noticed I've got the two rightmost skeins of yarn the wrong way round.  *How* I managed to take a photo like that without noticing, I've no idea.

DSC04253

Next phase: wash and block the yarn, then warp up the loom and weave!  I'd love to have the loom warped by the end of the week, which pretty much means I need to wash the yarn tonight.  But I haven't managed that, because I've been cooking soup.  It's soup season again!!  Tonight's special: Spinach, lentil and yoghurt.  Yarn blocking tomorrow, then.

There has been a lot of spinning round here lately; far more spinning than knitting, truth be told.  Katarina has been finished and worn, and even got her final blocking yesterday, and I have swatched for and started a new project (a variation on Moor [that's a Rav link, folks], from Rowan's "Yorkshire Fable").  But the knit-lust is notably absent.  The long, pressing queue of Things I Must Knit seems to have evaporated.  The Things I Must Sew list is even shorter.

I'm cool with this.  I think I have sufficient sweaters – or at least, enough that it's not worth starting a new project without thinking how it's going to fit into my wardrobe.  I do need some new skirts/trousers/shirts, but again, I need a Plan first.

Recently, I have been thinking more and more about self-sufficiency. Sufficiency, as in 'sufficient'.  Enough.  I don't need a wardrobe stuffed to the gills with sweaters, however well made they are.  Stashing vast quantities of yarn that I don't have an immediate need for is not in line with my light-consumer ideals.  I am currently losing weight (there!  I said it!); with any luck, I'll be down to my pre-shingles weight by Christmas, and maybe my optimum weight by my birthday in March next year.  It doesn't seem like a good idea to invest loads of time into tailored garments that I'm going to grow too small for in a matter of months;it certainly isn't a good idea to make garments that are currently too small in the hopes that they'll fit correctly 'eventually'.

I'm certainly not going to stop knitting any time soon (or spinning, or weaving!), but I think this might be a good time to think about what I want to achieve, as well as how I want to be spending my time.

Meanwhile, isn't Woody a doll??

DSC04252

64) Re-entry

This week has flown by; it has been busy, and tumultuous, and exciting in ways I really didn't expect.  The hounds were very happy to see me return from my very-long weekend; Kita was able to finally relax properly, instead of waiting for me on the front door mat:

DSC04082

My weekend away included a phone call, last Friday lunchtime, to offer me a new job.  A new *office* job, in the same field that I'm currently working in, but with more freedom, more responsibility, more creativity.  Fewer contracted hours, but possibly more time actually working – we'll see.

What this means, is, hopefully a more fulfilling day job, but also more focus on my day job.  Did I mention creativity and responsibility?  Whilst working for other people??  Scary.  I don't know whether I'll be able to keep freelancing for pattern writers; I will certainly keep dyeing.  It's also had my brain in a whirl, and this morning, I had the weirdest, almost vision-like epiphany-moment as I was driving to work.  It was so compelling, so worth my continued thought,
that I even turned off my audio book so I could ponder it more directly.  (This is major.)

It is weird, definitely.  And rambly.  And definitely qualifies this post for the 'navel lint' category.  Anyone who comes here for the wool, the garden or the dog photos is perfectly free to click away now.  Anyone who wants a glimpse inside my brain is welcome to keep reading.

So.  I suddenly saw myself as a being who is waking up, such as after a long
hibernation, or perhaps as one emerging from a chrysalis, which also
includes a sense of transformation.  An especially lovely bit of this
was a sense that the extra weight I'm still carrying (not loads, but
some) can be seen as fuel for the rest of the transformation, just like
a seed carries energy with it, or an egg.

The CFS that I've suffered for almost four years now has, in truth,
felt like a hibernation at times; it has slowed me; changed my habits,
my way of being, my thoughts, my metabolism.  I used to be such a
morning person; now, I'm more like an early bee than an early bird. 
You can get me out of bed early, but it takes me ages to get warmed up
and off the ground!

But over time, too, I've cocooned myself in a whole bunch of beliefs
and thoughts, some of which were and probably still are true, others
are self-lies, or self-deception, others pure fantasy.  Somewhere in
there, there's a childish belief that I'm going to somehow be whisked
away to a glamorous existence where work is unnecessary, and that
whatever I do to bring in a paycheck now is temporary.  There are all
kinds of beliefs there; about my 'right' to have as many hobbies as I
like, and an infinite amount of time to pursue them; about my 'duty' to
be the best at (or at least very good at) everything, always (or no-one will love me); and there's
a long, twisting thread of self-doubt, all knotted together with a
rather strange perception of how others see me, and a belittling
approach to my standing in the adult world.  As I write this, I'm
seeing that thread particularly clearly; it is dark brownish-red, and
shiny, and branched, with knotted lumps in it.  It's rather beautiful,
actually; forming a strong, supportive net around and right through my
chrysalis, but also restricting my growth, and threatening to cut into
me like a too-small tie around a tree. It is holding in that collection
of stale, papery beliefs.  And oddly, there is a marked contrast
between the thread and the papers.  The papers seem to represent a high
level of self-belief and arrogance, but in a child's world.  The thread
holds them in, keeping me warm, safe and asleep, and stops me breaking
into confidence in an adult world.  It's almost as if I'm waiting for
someone to hand me a
certificate stating that yes, I am now a grown-up, entitled to my
opinions.

So this thread forms a structure for my chrysalis, my safe place, and now I'm
seeing how restricting my safe place is. Some of those beliefs actually
stop me from achieving happiness: one of them seems to be telling me
that I've 'sold out' if I'm happy in a 9-to-5 job.  Although, you know,
if I look deeper, I think that's really a well-disguised fear.  I'm
scared that I'm not actually any good at that sort of job, and if I try
hard, I'll just get my heart broken.  Wow, that's a strong phrase, eh?

Now that I've found my chrysalis, and I'm pretty sure I don't want to stay here, what do I do next?  No-one is going to hand me that certificate; I need to
go and write it for myself.  No-one opens a chrysalis to let the butterfly out, either, or provides an alarm clock for hibernating bears.  I need to struggle a bit: stick my neck out, take risks,
in order to break free and disassemble this chrysalis.  Some of those papers
are precious, though.  What do I do with them?  Well, maybe I can make
a scrapbook out of those precious pieces.  The rest of them… well, in
real life, I recycle paper I no longer need, and I shred any pieces
with dangerous information on them.  So maybe I need to find an
equivalent way of dealing with these old 'psychological' papers.  As
for that net, well, I did say that it looks strong and supportive.  I
wonder if I can refashion it into something strong and comforting
without being restricting?  A hammock, perhaps?

23) Why you shouldn’t be too smart at school

When you are at school, you are given the information, then lead through the examples, then sent to do the exercise.

  • You get the lecture, then make the notes.
  • Volumes of rotation are explained to you before you get the math exercise1
  • You read the essay before answering the comprehension questions

If you're a "good" student, you don't have to ask again to complete the exercise.  Asking is Bad.  No- not true.  Asking is not bad; if you need to ask, then asking is definitely good!  But there's a hazy subtext floating around there somewhere that suggests that *needing* to ask is Bad.

I am slolwly learning – after how many years? – that this is not how working life goes.  In working life, you are asked to Do Stuff.  If this is stuff you've done before, all well and good.  But no-one gives you the little lecture before they hand you the exercise; you are expected to either work it out or ask for help, as appropriate.  Not only is asking now Good, it is often Necessary, and what's more, it's suddenly up to you to figure out when this is.

This is a major struggle for me.
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1 Actually, not always.  My teacher messed up with this one; I figured it out and then answered the questions anyway.  At the time, I was very proud of this.

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