Monday, September 10, 2012

What I did on my summer vacation

Truthfully? I did practically nothing, and it was glorious. I listened to James Patterson's Women's Murder Club series while I knit sweaters for my grandchildren. I finished a couple of knitting projects for Camp Loopy, my only deadlines all summer.

I puttered around the house, sorting out drawers and cupboards, which turned out to be kind of magical. Sorting things has always helped me puzzle out a problem, and I had a big one. I didn't want to quilt any more.

It's been a while since I've been excited about creating a quilt. It had truly become a job, nothing more than a series of deadlines. I made quilts because people asked me to. I felt that all of my creativity had been drained by the mechanical process of making designs to sell patterns, magazines and books. It was a carousel I wanted desperately to get off of.

Add in that I'm at a crossroads in my life. We've made all our contributions to our childrens' college education. Three of the four have graduated, and the youngest (who is taking the scenic route to adulthood) has to decide where he's going next. In short, it means that I've met my obligations to the family: my quilting career was launched, in part, as a means to help get our boys through college.

While I adore teaching (and feel that's really where my talent lies), travel has become an ordeal. It's been a long time since the skies were friendly.

Anyway, I don't want to get all whiny here. I understand that I have one of the coolest jobs ever. It combines all my strengths: working out problems, writing, teaching. It is like this job was tailor made for me. But I felt all empty inside.

So, I did something I have rarely done before. I went on vacation. I left the studio, just walked away from ongoing projects. It was hard, really hard at first. As my friends continually remind me, I think all the time, and it was difficult to stop thinking in terms of deadlines. The "shoulds" nearly drowned me. I vowed to stay out of the studio until I really wanted to be there. It took more time than I allotted, which was just as silly as insisting a bone heal on my schedule. I truly considered that it might be time to find a new path in life.

The fog finally lifted about three days ago. I realized that the new book I am working on has NO deadlines, it hasn't even been accepted by the publisher yet. My self-imposed break neck schedule was just stupid, and was definitely sucking all the joy out of the projects. It dawned on me that I only have three more teaching trips this year, and my schedule is lighter next year. At last I felt that I had full control of where I was going, even without knowing how I would get there.

We can be so hard on ourselves, I am a merciless judge. It takes quiet time to reevaluate our direction, to consider the well-worn path, or breaking a new trail. I'm happy to finally return to my studio, with the added bonus of tidied closets.


  1. Brilliant! People are always telling me I should make and sell quilts and take on commissions to make them. I keep telling them, I quilt to maintain my sanity! I think you did the right thing. Quilting, even as a job, should be joyful. Hope you can continue to keep your joy of quilting going forward.

  2. So well said, Beth! One of the best pieces of advise I ever received was from a minister's wife. My 4 darlings were little, I was trying to be supermom. She asked me if I was keeping all those plates of mine spinning, to which I replied a kind of grumpy "No!". Her response: "Good! Let them drop!"
    hugs from gail in cincinnati

  3. That is absolutely wonderful! I have no idea how so many designers do would bleed my creativity as well. Good for you for respecting yourself and taking care of you.


  4. Without boring you with details of my life....let my just say that this post was a spoke volumes to me----volumes of wisdom. Thank you and blessings...I've enjoyed your work over the years but none more than this.

  5. Beth, you have to do what is right for you at the right time. I understand completely. I've been feeling the same about longarm quilting-it's become just a job right now. I do have to say, we are all happy you're back in your studio. :)

  6. Beth - at first you may see this as a negative, but your obligations, I'm afraid, never end... just change - and really obligations isn't such a good word for the next phase, but as a 62 year old I had to laugh. We first grew up with our kids thinking it would be over at 18, then after college... now.. never over as we are joyfully exhausted by our eight lovely grandchildren age 10 weeks to 14 years! Our kids need us more than ever...You're just in a lull... likely short-lived. :) Good for you for taking care of yourself!