I will not go into a lot of detail because the incident that I am about to describe is very graphic. However, I do feel that the most general parts of it & the things that I learned are important to share…
On a beautiful autumn day, I saw one of the most horrible things a person can see. I lived close to a major college campus & had gone to Church that morning. I wanted to go to a park & take pictures of the waterfalls that afternoon. The sun was shining, the sky was the most beautiful blue you can imagine, & the fall glory was blazing. It was Homecoming weekend on campus; so everyone at the college had partied HARD the entire weekend & the town was pretty ghostlike on a Sunday afternoon- just quite as a mouse.
GPS told me to go one direction, but I knew where it was directing me & decided to get on the highway up by the stadium instead because I hadn’t taken that route in awhile. I passed the stadium, the hospital, & one of the underpasses for an intersecting highway. My dog, M, was buckled into the seat next to me & was happily watching the scenery go by. Seconds later my life changed.
A car blew past me in the lane I had just moved out of. I watched the horrible crash that followed & was the first one on the scene to call 911. I think God led me there that day because I used to work across the street & I knew the area well. I was able to give clear & concise instructions to the first responders & they arrived quickly.
I got some minor injuries at the scene, but what I saw & went through with the person who had crashed hurt a lot more. I went home & went into shock. I took a week off work & talked & talked & talked trying to get what I had seen out of my head. What ended up helping was repetitive tasks that did not require a lot of thinking but kept me busy like doing the dishes, going for a walk, & cutting out fabric yo-yos. I tried a number of things- like working on a painting. I just couldn’t. It required me to think & I didn’t have the brain energy to decide which color to put where. But I could trace & cut circles all day long & that became my life-line.
DIFFERENT WAYS ART/QUILTING CAN HEAL
I thought that was interesting. Art can be healing in so many different ways. When I’m stressed from everyday life, getting lost in a project & making decisions about it is a welcome escape. Matching colors, choosing fabrics, creating a design- it usually rejuvenates me. But after taking a mental shock like that, I needed something more basic, more rhythmic, like just cutting out yo-yos.
That seems to be the case with other major stressors- like moving or when my schedule is too over-packed for far, far too long. In situations like that, I get so exhausted for so long, that I feel like I’ve lost brain energy & I need to do something, but I also need to not think & out come the scissors & yo-yo templates! So- I’ve realized that I need different types of art & craft for different times in my life & that I need to listen to my mind’s rhythms as well as my body’s.
GO WITH THE FLOW…YOUR BRAIN KNOWS WHAT IT NEEDS!
It’s important to make time for the things that give you sanity. It’s also important to recognize when something works for you & when it doesn’t. I’ve talked to other people that have been through trauma & encouraged them to have more than one person that they depend on when they’re having really hard days & I have to say, the same applies to your creative life. You can’t always depend on just one thing to meet all of your stress release or creative needs.
I think a lot of people beat themselves up for this- the tendency to hop around from one project to the next. Best case scenario, we make fun of ourselves. Don’t believe me? Google: “T-shirts dedicated to Quilting UFO’s (Unfinished Fabric Objects)” or go to a quilt show… You’ll see!
THE “TIME OUT” BIN
But— what if we actually need to do all of that hopping around? What if you’re just following what your body/mind is telling you that it needs at the time? On days when you need to block out the world, getting lost in designing a quilt or working on a complicated design will probably be a dream. Other times, you’ll sit down & try & try & try. You’ll rip out more than you sew & your poor project will go into the “Time Out Bin” because you just end up mad at it. Poor quilt! It’s not it’s fault. On nights when you can’t focus or concentrate on a complicated project, you probably need something that’s rhythmic- like embroidery work, hand quilting, sewing a bunch of mindless seams, etc. That’s not a bad thing…so give yourself a break! I made myself finish ALL of my UFO’s once & I’ve never been more depressed & uninspired in my life. It completely stunted my creative growth.
So- if quilting is your job, you probably need to find a way to stay on task & get projects done, but if it’s your hobby (as it is for almost everyone), give yourself a break & work on what you need to work on in order to be happy & find your daily sanity. Remember that what you need from your art life is going to change from time to time. It can be different types of quilting- or completely different art forms like quilting and knitting. Sometimes you might even need to throw in a different activity- like mixing your quilting time with swimming (for neck pain relief)! 😉 Find what works for you & don’t beat yourself up about it.
Happy Creative Journey!