Post #3152: Work days

I just applied for a job very different from my current line of work, and for the first time ever I included both my work and my union history in the “Experience” part of my resume. Usually I parse those out for different types of job applications, but in this case – my relevant experience was divided between both roles. I’ve also realized that I’m at the point where:

  • 90% of my active and important skill set comes from my union role
  • I don’t want to work for an employer I have to hide my union politics from
  • the job I have now is fine, and anything I take has to be on my terms

These three points probably guarantee I won’t get a call back on the job! But it was good to see something that looked interesting and that I am qualified to do. I’ve been doing similar kinds of work for so long (digital communications advising and project management) that I tend to get a bit pigeon-holed in my organization and that makes me question my skills. Add that to the fact I don’t get outside of my work comfort zone very often and I find myself a bit stuck.

That stuckness though is also a kind of freedom in that I work from home, I’m trusted to do my job, and I get to devote a lot of my time to helping people as president of my union local. I know my organization and its people *really* well after all this time and there is a great deal of comfort in that fact as well. It’s really a situation where I feel the two sides (stuck/freedom) in equal measure.

But I do like to believe that I’m valid beyond one existence, that I might step out of my role for even a year to try something different. It’s almost springtime after all.

Post #3151: Do you *need* to sew?

Since my birthday in early February – I’ve been a bit all over the map. First Brian got sick, then I got sick (just with colds) – then my dad ended up in the hospital and had an unexpected major surgery. I’ve been trying to keep my own life on the rails, and attend to my family’s needs, while also maintaining daily writing and yoga practices. It’s been a bit much, really – though I will say that although the daily practices seem like a lot to maintain – they have been the two things saving my sanity!

Trouble is, up until last night I hadn’t had any textile studio time at all in over two weeks. Like, none. And boy, did I suddenly feel it yesterday afternoon. Suddenly, and for no particular reason, I found myself depressed and lethargic in such a way that I couldn’t move myself to go to the gym or do anything else. After my workday finished I went into the house and laid on the couch for awhile, asking myself “what do I really need right now? what would make me feel better?” After about an hour of that and randomly scrolling on my iPad, it was very clear to me that what I needed to do more than anything, was start a new sewing project.

As soon as that became clear I was all energy again. I got up, tidied the kitchen, and prepared an early dinner so I could go back out to my studio and do something. At first I told myself that I would just do a small thing to get re-started – but instead ended up pulling out a pattern and some inexpensive denim to start a (hopefully wearable) muslin of the Persephone pants (I’ve been meaning to make these forever). Those pants are now halfway done, and sitting by the sewing machine waiting for the weekend. I also finished a zippered pencil case for my niece and embroidered a little thing to make a cotton hankie just for the hell of it.

I went from completely drained, to four hours of intent work – all because I realized that what I needed was some focused time at the sewing machine with no other demands. That could have just as easily been four hours of weaving, or working on a new textile piece. Point being that I need time in the studio on a regular basis–without it, I feel a bit lost.

Post #3150: Getting prioritized

Every week I have a list of things I want to accomplish, and every week I fall short of those things. That might suggest I should limit my items, or realistically assess what’s possible, but given that I don’t miss my goals by much I figure that an aspirational approach is probably best. This week I’ve set up a Trello board with several categories in order to track progress along some goals:

The categories you can’t read are Home/Personal, Work, Union, Creative, Blog/Social, Spiritual, Physical

Each category has three or less tasks that I intend to complete this week. Some of these tasks are instances (meditate x 4, gym x 3), whereas others have a specific outcome (create small textile collage). The important thing is that they are specific and have a measurable end point so they can be checked off.

I’m not sure if this is the kind of thing I will sustain – but it sure felt good to set up! I have a lot on my plate and I’m aiming to better schedule my time. My problem is that I really want to do *all* the things, and still have time for myself and with Brian. It’s tricky.

On Friday I sent out the second monthly mailing under the banner of my Comfort for the Apocalypse project. I’ve decided to stop calling it a newsletter because people understand that to mean short and snappy. My “monthly mailing” however, leads with a personal essay of variable length, so I think it’s best to frame it differently. I’m figuring out that project as I go, and have so far been grateful to receive some incredible feedback from a few subscribers. If you are interested in checking it out without subscribing just yet – please see the archives page for commitment-free reading.

I’ve got lots more coming over the next little while – more blog posts, projects, and a new personal website that I’m working on. I’d also like to choose a simpler theme for this blog. Part of finding the time is really in organizing each thing into small tasks, and then letting the work take as long as it does. There is no secret to getting things done, except being patient with the time one actually has (and let’s be honest – I’m privileged to only have to work one job which gives me time to pursue projects outside of survival). I’m prioritizing now so that 2019 continues to be a year of delivering on all my interests. Planning is fun! Doing… well, that takes a bit more wrangling.

Post #3149: Radiant light

I spent the weekend at a meditation/study retreat in the city on the topic of Dogen’s Radiant Light – though I didn’t feel radiant or light, bogged down with a cold as I was. In fact, I was *that* person in the zendo. The sniffling, sneezing one. The one that everyone is secretly hating because what if she’s still contagious? But there you go. It was bound to happen at some point in my spiritual life that I would be the thorn in the side of my sangha. I’m sure it will happen more than once in this life of mine.

For the record, I was on the other side of my symptoms, as bad as they sounded – so I had pretty good reason to believe I wasn’t contagious. It’s just hard to convince others of that when you still sound congested.

I had wanted to go to this retreat specifically because my word of the year is “Radiant” and it seemed somehow essential that I engage in some study of the related zen text. A big takeaway from the reading for me had to do with the intimacy we must bring to our practice in order to realize the “light” of all things including ourselves.

“Make sure to endeavor in the practice of the buddha way. Those who practice should not be alienated or distant. Even so, there have been few practitioners of the way who have mastered this radiant light.”

This clearly holds true for more than Zen practice – only by practicing intimacy in relation to the world can we fully know it, and ourselves fully in return.

Though this wasn’t my intention when I chose the word Radiant, I see how anchoring my actions in such an intention has propelled me into greater intimacy. With the goal of putting myself out there (extending in all directions) I have: started a newsletter featuring personal essays, accepted the help of a friend in editing my writing, signed up for monthly “follow through” workshops supporting my creative practice, gotten to know a textile artist I admire, asked my zen teacher for a specific program of study, and offered myself more freely to my family in a time of need than I might have otherwise. Even the act of daily yoga (since January 1st) is a form of engagement with the body that demands intimacy with the self. Each of these things has required that I acknowledge my feelings and fear of rejection – and expose them to others.

It’s been unexpected, a bit freaky – and a lot energizing. So I’m going to stick with it. Coming out of this weekend though, I’m going to meditate a bit more on this intimacy and the light that comes forth from it – and hope it further informs the work I’m putting out in the world in 2019.

Calligraphy of the characters Ko Myo (Light Brightness) by Shinmon Michael Newton who delivered last weekend’s teaching.

Post #3148: The small and the scrappy

I think sewing with scraps week has already come and gone for 2019, but for some reason I’ve been quite captivated with scrap and fat quarter sewing recently. It started with sewing zip pouches out of vintage Japanese fabrics a few weeks ago:

Two sewing kits – boro’ed linen and silk fabrics. The hand-woven fabrics feel very special to the touch – and I look forward to gifting the one on the left to a friend who is ordaining this weekend.

Since then I’ve been rooting through my scrap drawers to make more useful things:

A new knitting-project bag made out of Yoko Saito fabrics.
A wonky fabric bucket and shiny new pencil case.

All of these treasures are now at work in my studio and home, and I’ve started on a couple more gift projects for my three-year-old niece in New York. I am greatly enjoying the process of turning various scrap pieces into useful things – though my studio had become a bit messy with all the rooting around.

Since I have guests coming tomorrow I had to tidy the studio today, and part of that process involved turning my very messy scrap stash from this:

Into this:

Yes, that’s all scraps, even the two bins underneath the cutting table – garment making results in a lot of excess fabric.

Cleaning out the scrap drawers and bins gave me a chance to look at everything – iron, fold, and sort it into piles based on size. My goal was to sort, not to get rid of – and so even the smallest shreds found their way into a plastic bag to be used for stuffing pillows or other small objects. The bins under the table are full of garment scraps – denim and linen in the top basket, stretch fabric (for making underwear) in the rubbermaid tote. I’ve still got work to do on finishing this job as I stuffed two smaller bins with odd shaped scraps that I would like to cut into squares and strips. That’s not really a priority now though as I have things organized in a way that makes it easy to root through (and make a mess), while also being an easy clean up.

I think the scraps are calling me because garment-making feels too big at the moment – zip bags and totes are so much more accessible – though if I’m not careful the scrap obsession could turn into another quilt!

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