I was out with some lovely crafty women on Friday night for dinner, and one of the topics we covered was whether or not crafting makes you less able to sit with stillness. As I get older I become more and more convinced that ideas around stillness, have real relevance and usefulness in my pursuit of the most happy and content life I can have. Another of those ideas is of course mindfulness. And then there is the usefulness of meditation. For the purposes of this post I am kind of rolling them all into one.
A few years ago I was on a train into the city and I clearly remember seeing that it was going to be a 22minute train ride. Once on the train I realised that I didn't have a single thing to do. No knitting. Of any kind. No paper, no book. I wasn't yet on instagram, and there wasn't even any advertisements to read in the carriage. I felt a small amount of panic. Actually the amount of panic I felt wasn't really small. It was kind of big and kind of shocking. And I felt a little bit horrified to realise just how unsettled I had let myself get. So unsettled that the idea of 22minutes of sitting on a train looking out the window made me feel stressed. I decided in that moment it wasn't that healthy, and booked myself into my first basic meditation course. After that I began to think about some of these concepts regularly. And after my meditation course, I've have found a way to incorporate simple small moments of mindfulness into my days as a way of making me a better parent and better human. Super useful.
Lately however, I have noticed that small moments are not enough, and the hypothesis suggested to me on Friday is that my making is making it worse. While I am incredibly grateful for the role a creative outlet has played on my general mental health and well-being during the intensity of early parenting, life has started to feel a little chaotic. I've been thinking about it since Friday's conversation and I think I might agree with my friend. I'm laying much of the blame squarely on my craft.
These days when I sit down for a cup of tea I don't want to "waste" the time so I sit down like this. Materials or a project and a book and a tea and a notebook and a …. You get the picture. I sit down with a cacophony of ideas, possibilities, futures, fun. I sit down with the buzz of creativity.
There is no stillness.
The increase in my making over the last ten years has created a time pressure that I didn't have in my pre-craft life. As well conducting normal daily life with three kids, I'm trying to fit making in. As making is one of my great joys in life then I find I desire to do more and more of it. Which means multitasking wherever possible. I don't sit in the car or at the school gate or in the park, without a project. If I am knitting on a couch then I may also be blog surfing or listening to a podcast. I sometimes sew a dress with the background of a movie on my computer. Multitasking while crafting has become a bit of an art form.
So yes - making in my household isn't always the calm picture one might expect. Not all the time but a fair bit….
Of course, the thing that goes missing in this situation is clarity. Without stillness through meditation or yoga or something, there isn't the space to sort your thoughts and prioritise what is meaningful. The ideas come one on top of each other without the clarity created through the not-thinking of stillness. I recognise that maybe I need to look for stillness in other places and at other times, but I am finding that I almost don't want to. The time poverty of early parenting* means that I resist the idea of finding stillness knowing that the opportunity cost of stillness is less making.
Part of this thought process for me includes the acceptance of the type of brain I have. I have an "ideas" brain, a "get it done" kinda brain that means that the stillness achieved by others may not necessarily be as achievable or even desirable for me. I am not a calm fella. I am an excitable fella and I'm totally OK with that as it has other benefits, like that I make a lot of stuff. Other personality types might not find it so hard to accept there isn't time to make every little thing they dream up. They might not engage in so much dreaming? …..
There is a way forward. I know that finding space for stillness somewhere in my life means life is better, for me and the rest of my family. Getting back to some kind of semi regular yoga practice and running regularly works well even if it isn't technically stillness. Any kind of activity where I'm not multitasking for me is a good halfway house to stillness. And maybe that is where it is at for now.
My other friend last Friday suggested a good initial challenge for me, to pull things back, might be just to sit and knit. No podcast. No tele. No book. Just knitting and sitting. A controversial suggestion if ever I've heard one.
I guess I'm wondering if you guys had any thoughts about this topic and/or had achieved any kind of balance with your own making. Do you find that making and "going with the flow of creativity" is sometimes a negative in your life? Is stillness part of the process for you or do you find you don't need it? Does crafting make you crazy ;)?
This one is a total work in progress for me….
*Maybe the fact I am actually writing this post means that I am heading out of the early parenting stage. The baby just turned 4.