Three years to unwind

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I’ve had two big “aha” moments in the last couple of weeks — three years in the making, apparently. (Slow learner, I guess.)

Turns out, up until three years ago, I was pretty tightly wound.

Like a lot of people, I worked my butt off for a lot of years before hitting the proverbial wall. And like many people, I burned out. And then I got laid off, taking it hard and going through the requisite grieving process, making sure to excel at the anger part.

It wasn’t long before I was again in the same position … without a full-time job.

Tough times? Well, yes. Freelance work was coming in, so that was good. But it wasn’t the point. The point was, I was angry and hurt all over again. I thought I’d “done my time” first time around, only to be subjected to it a second time, in rapid succession no less.

That was then, this is now

Fast forward to two days ago.

Well. The first round wasn’t “all there was,” apparently. It wasn’t the only lesson I needed to learn – that work or career wasn’t everything there is to life. The second “break” was for deflating, for finding ways to “come down” and appreciate the life I’d been blessed with.

I wasn’t thrilled about the solitude again, even though it’s exactly what I needed. I’d been accustomed not only to being around people, but being there for people. This time, the only people around were me, myself and I.

Now, I have had time to discover new things I enjoy spending time on. In fact, I can’t imagine my life without them. And I can’t imagine not spending the quality time I’ve found with old friends, my family and especially my husband.

Three was the magic number

I couldn’t be more thankful now for a season I thought was a lost one, a wasted one. In retrospect, one year less would have made the process incomplete. And if there’s another year to go, I guess that’s what it will take.

But by God’s grace, I feel like I’m nearly back in one piece. My head is clear, my heart is pure[r] and I’m ready for service again.

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I could’ve sworn there was no haystack there this morning

Field under a cloudy sky

Photo by OeilDeNuit

When it rains, it pours.

Such is the life of the freelancer. When not thinking about revenue streams several months out, they’re slamming project on top of project, usually to make up for possible gaps and often at the expense of personal margin and quality of life.

It comes with the territory.

After spending the last two-to-three years in that mode, I sense something’s about to happen that will force a significant choice – one that favors quality of life and doesn’t look anything like what I would have expected at this point.

Today, a whole lot of work-like “needles” piled up, almost in real time. Tonight, I’m sorting through the resulting haystack, in search of one or two “keepers” and some peace of mind.

I love how scary things often end up being good things. But for the moment, I’m still on the scary part.

Why just start stuff (great!) when you can finish it? (AWESOME)

TheQuiltI come from a family of entrepreneurs, so I’m wired to start stuff. Ironically, when I have something big on my plate — especially if I’m passionate about it — I’m also driven to finish it.

Starters aren’t usually lumped in with finishers. There’s a reason for that. We love variety and hate routine. We look for the zig when everyone else is looking for zag.

We absolutely need the dynamic of seeing things develop, watching them evolve.

An old boss used to tease me about being a terrible finisher. That was years before I’d led a project to stand up a big, enterprise-wide system that’s now part of business as usual for a large global nonprofit.

Did I love all the details and meetings? Not so much. But the end product motivated me so much, it was worth slogging through it all (with a lot of help from my friends and coworkers, of course).

My quilt wasn’t anywhere near a big project vocationally, but personally it was huge. By the way, it’s officially finished now. (Full reveal soon.)

But not 15 minutes had passed before I wanted to start another one.

It reminds me how completing something significant spawns the need to do it all over again — warts and all.

My quilt is far from perfect, but learning to make it ranks high on my Things That Make Me Really Happy list. More importantly, my friend’s son, the recipient, can know it was made with so much love.

And the next two quilt projects — they’re already lined up!

Is this where I get a mulligan?

Golf ball on green

Photo by Andy Steele at sxc.hu

I’m not a golfer, but I do love to borrow one of its best words, “mulligan.” It’s golfian for “do over.”

Today was one of those days when nothing on my to-do list got done – and it wasn’t even a hard to-do list.

  • My nearly finished quilt project went a wee bit sideways (although it’s fixable);
  • My family research resources exploded (a good thing, actually; a different post about a whole new list of to-dos);
  • My next project is about to come in; and
  • It was 80°F today.

Needless to say:

  • The to-do list has a very small dent in it.
  • I figured out a fix to my quilt problem but it didn’t make sense to move the sewing machine outside, so it didn’t get done.

It’ll be 30 degrees colder tomorrow. Do over!

Slow going

Up there with slow food lately is my interest in slow learning. As in, learning new things at my own, leisurely pace.

I’ve had a lot more time and flexibility in recent months for things like writing, meditating and – wait for it – learning to quilt.

The quilt that started it all. I've been obsessed ever since with modern quilting.

Hot Spot by Alissa Haight Carlton. The quilt that started it all. I’ve been obsessed ever since with modern quilting.

If you know me at all, you may need to pick up that jaw from the floor. Except for classes in Home Economics in, what, 7th grade? – now called Family and Consumer Science – I’ve really never made anything by hand in my life. Two semesters of pottery don’t count.

I have more gifted artist and craftsman friends than I can count, yet I’ve always assumed I couldn’t make much besides food, music or a little trouble on the dance floor.

Then again, until recently I’d never found a craft I wanted to learn. Enter modern quilting, my new inspiration.

Today, I was mostly offline, and it was great. I am nearly finished making my very first quilt (to be revealed later, probably on Instagram, after I’ve gifted it to my friend).

The idea of taking things slowly today gave me the time, permission and freedom I needed to get this project near the finish line. One more step and I’m done.

From what I hear, unfinished bindings mean Purgatory for most quilts. So getting over that hump the first time around feels like a pretty big deal.

Not only am I happy to finish it — I’m thrilled to pick up a new skill I can enjoy and share with others the rest of my life. It can be my new gift of choice — along with fruit cake.

The multiple meanings of ‘Feast or Famine’

Orange tree whose fruite is ready to harvest - looks like feast

Photo by Brian Jimenez, Unsplash

Most freelancers are well aware that, when it comes to getting work, it’s a feast-or-famine game.

When I lost my job a few years ago, it took me a long time to realize that rest is no different. If it were, we wouldn’t put so much work into planning vacations. I mean, we have to plan to rest.

Thank God for my mom who knows me better than anyone, because I’m not sure I could have taken this wise counsel from anyone else the way I did from her.

Basically, she told me this: Enjoy this time as rest. You may never have this opportunity again.

That resonated in a way I wasn’t expecting. She was telling me to go out more, rekindle old friendships, enjoy a few coffee shops, play more tennis – all things I could never do that readily before.

As it turns out, I did in fact have that “rest” opportunity again.

Once again, it took awhile to figure out that, while it didn’t feel like rest at first, this season might be short-lived. So I’d better make the most of it.

And it’s when “feast or famine” took on a whole new meaning.