Post 3271: Tolerations


One thing my friend Jill Margo, talks about in her workshops for creatives is tolerations. That is, the small (or large) things we tolerate in our lives rather than fixing them. She asks us to examine the things we are tolerating and ask, is this something I can easily fix right now? What do I need to do to make that happen? And so on. Her point being that we go through life tolerating small, annoying things that could be righted without much effort and yet we put them off for months, or years, at a time. These tolerations are impediments, though we might not recognize it as first. They are what we are always working around, adding time or frustration to our days without being wholly aware of how those small things add up to big distractions.

I recently read an essay in which the author wrote about a broken basement window he “meant to get around to” fixing for twelve years, but only did it when he was preparing to sell his house. Upon repairing the window, he realized that he had been putting off a 20 minute job for all that time and that it had incrementally decreased the efficiency and enjoyment of his home as a result. I have heard similar stories from friends selling homes in the past few years – the rush to paint, install baseboards, fix small dents and holes in the wall in order to market it in a “presentable” fashion. As if it’s not worth making those fixes for ourselves, we only get on it when a potential financial reward appears, righting the small annoyances.

We all have some version of this story in our lives – the cupboards that need decluttering, the lightbulb that went out in the garage, the garbage can that doesn’t fit properly in the space identified for it.

Since we moved into our house on Gabriola just over five years ago, the lighting in my studio has been somewhat of a toleration, though I only recently identified why that was so (and what effect it was having). I am lucky to have a studio with 14-foot ceilings and lots of windows. When I first moved into this space, the layout and the track lighting gave me the impression that the studio was “well-lit”, even though I did notice that the track heads were grouped oddly and pointed to light certain areas of the studio and not others. Besides the track lights, there is one other pendant fixture that gives off almost no light at all and is positioned in a strange and un-aesthetic place. I gave this zero thought when I moved into though, setting up a few task-lights to make up some of the light-deficiency in the dark corners.

As the years have gone on I’ve noticed a tendency to get very involved in my weaving practice in the spring and summer, only to have it drop off come fall and dwindle to non-existent in the winter months. This seemed counter to the natural order of things. Why would I get intently focused on indoor activities come summer? In the fall and winter of 2020/21 this question became more insistent when I bought a new- to-me loom in September and then was completely disinterested in using it until April (so much so that I asked Brian in March if he thought I should sell all my weaving equipment).

It wasn’t until this summer that I started to figure out what was contributing to this dip in textile activity come the winter months. I had noticed that threading my looms went a lot better for me when I had more natural light to work in (threading is the process by which each thread in a warp is passed through a heddle in the correct sequence to form a pattern–painstaking work in which it is very easy to make a mistake). To some degree I thought this was a limitation I would have to learn to live with. After all, my studio was “well-lit” so I reasoned that there wasn’t much I could do to improve it without spending a lot of money on a proper daylight lamp.

But then a couple of the track heads stopped working in late summer, which necessitated getting a ladder and switching out the bulbs. That’s when I took a hard look at what was going on in the track lighting department and realized that with a bit of re-positioning the track heads could be better distributed to provide more even overhead light. With just an hour of work, I changed the light profile of my studio 100% for the better. Inspired by this, I set aside my reservations about the cost and took a look at OttLite, which makes daylight lamps specific to craft work. For about $240 (tax included) I could purchase a floor lamp with a flexible head that would fit inside my loom at the right height and angle to support both the warping and weaving process. As much as I didn’t want to spend so much money on a task lamp, I had to answer yes when I asked myself if it worth that amount to be able to warp my loom in the winter, and so I ordered the damned lamp.

Suddenly my studio is evenly lit! I have task-lighting in my weaving and sewing area appropriate to the activities. And yes, it has made a significant difference to my enjoyment of the space. My most recent project on the Berga loom was threaded with no errors at all.

The last thing I need to “un-tolerate” is the pendant light situation. Fortunately the fixture is attached to a long wire stemming from the center of the studio, so repositioning it is as simple as getting a more appropriate fixture and a handy person with a tall ladder to come and install it. It’s a small job, one easily overlooked in the busyness of other projects, but that’s the point after all. Bringing attention to the small things can pay off in big ways.

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