All last week I'd been having conversations with my girlfriends, most of whom have regular jobs, about how stressed out everyone has been lately. Too much to do, too little time. I've been feeling it again, too. It reminded me of how I felt at the end of last summer, when I was having a really hard time balancing everything. I know I've talked about it before, but I wanted to remind myself of how I felt and what I did so that maybe it would help me not let it happen again.
Last summer, I felt like every aspect of my life was taking every ounce of energy I had. An article about my sister and me had come out in a magazine a couple of weeks earlier than we'd thought, and I was in the middle of redesigning the Posie web site -- and I do mean middle. It wasn't done. It wasn't even on-line at all, and it was all I had. When publicity like that happens, there is a small window of opportunity to take advantage of it (before the next issue comes out) and you really need to be ready. I knew this, because I'd been in the magazine before; the volume of orders/phone calls/emails/letters and other stuff that comes with it can be overwhelming even if you are ready. If you aren't ready, it can be a nightmare, not in the least because it should be such a good thing -- and when it turns into kind of a stressful, extremely challenging thing that you are just trying to get through, not enjoying at all, psychologically that's kind of a bummer. You feel like you've let yourself down, if not other people. I was sure, every day, that I would crash and burn. I felt, as well, that no one could really help me; what could they have done? Only I knew anything about everything that I was doing. The best that anyone else could offer was maybe a P.O. run, returning with a Big Gulp. I'd heard horror stories of this happening to other designers, and I remembered listening to their stories with a kind of skeptical naivete -- how hard could it be?
And it wasn't that I'd slacked. I'd been working every day for months. But it wasn't enough, and when the schedule got moved up, my carefully budgeted timeline hit me with full force at warp speed. I buzzed everywhere I went, and my voice took on this panicked, wavery, high-pitched quality that made even the dog whimper with pain. Eventually, after a week at the beach in September, and as the phone stopped ringing so much, I collected myself with an earthquake-force shudder, chagrined by the blatant and rather embarrassing evidence that I truly hadn't been balancing my life with my work very well .
As the weather cooled down and the rain started, I felt relief. I began taking Sundays off, completely -- and I mean, in every way. I wouldn't do anything related to Posie unless I felt like it. I wouldn't work on the computer or do anthing that had to do with white paper. Even if someone called me and wanted me to do something, I would say no unless I really, really felt like I wanted to do that. Somehow work, social obligations, family stuff, errands, chores, and sleep had filled up every single minute, as they do so often and for so many people, until the days were bursting -- it was like there wasn't a single empty drawer in my life.
So I started with Sundays. And I decided that no matter what, I would do exactly what I wanted, even if it meant doing absolutely nothing. Andy usually works on Sundays, and I actually came to cherish those long, quiet empty days. If I wanted to hand-sew an entire sock dog -- this literally takes about six hours (at least, it takes me that long) -- I would. The therapeutic benefits of handwork had gotten superceded by the "work" aspect of the handwork, and I didn't know what else would bring back that sense of peace and calm that I'd had when I first started doing it years ago.
I think I was truly regretful that I'd turned my "love" into my "work," and I couldn't admit that. I mean, I didn't really understand that that's what had happened. I started looking for something else to do, something that definitely couldn't be confused as "work" -- but it turns out that doing handwork is, at the end of the day, still my love. So I tried to separate Sunday, and things that got done on Sunday, from everything else. Doing handwork that was just for myself gave me my love back, somehow, and it didn't take all that many Sundays for me to start feeling better. Just knowing that I had given myself a pocket of space to play in again was a huge relief.
These are bobby pins. They happen on the sofa, on Sunday. They take a long time. I make them take a long time, rather. I'm choosy about which colors to pick. I put my feet up and stitch slowly. It makes me happy to look at them when they're done. Yesterday I made these and apple muffins (Ina's Cranberry Harvest, except with apples), remembering with cinnamon how it felt last fall to breathe deeply, and rediscover that feeling of getting things right, at least for a day. It was really nice. I want to start this summer with balance, instead of ending it, sobbing, with a renewed and adamant vow to install it (with a shoehorn if I have to dammit!), again. Is it possible for Balance to be a constant, low-simmering ever-present member of the family instead of something that needs its own melodramatic, chest-thumping commitment ceremony every six months, and only after the Nervous Breakdown whacks you in the shins, and you're begging for mercy, and a solution?