Retirement has been both unsettling and wonderful. I stopped work at the end of 2013 and in the blink of an eye, it’s almost mid 2015! At first, I felt displaced. After 40 years of dashing to and from work, and being switched on even on public holidays, it felt discomfiting not having an office to head to. My days were no longer organized into blocks of time.
But hey, after the first few months, I couldn’t believe the joy and freedom of not having my life sucked dry by deadlines, meetings, appraisals and the politicking inherent in any organization with power-hungry individuals. Trying not to fall in step with the brown-nosers and sociopaths had been exhausting. As much as I enjoyed my editorial work, I realized what I missed most was a regular paycheck and bonuses.
Once I got into the rhythm of the perpetual weekend, I fell into a beading-and-reading frenzy, rediscovered radio and caught up with friends over lunch, tea and dinner. Bored? Never!
But too much jollity led to total neglect of my blog. My reasoning: Blogs are nothing more than personal diaries. Non jetsetting bloggers like myself who don’t post photos of their gorgeous selves, are probably floating in darkest cyberspace. Really, who cares what we’re up to?
While it’s a convenient argument, I realize that writing helps me organize my thoughts for functional sharing. Of course, I would rather be flotsam but I need the discipline. Even if some bloggers only occasionally encounter life forms in the blue void, and hardly anyone likes or follows us, we should still be guided by the blogger’s code of conduct – http://radar.oreilly.com/2007/04/draft-bloggers-code-of-conduct.html
This all sounds very altruistic but the truth is, I’m popping up for a gulp of air simply because of RSI. Yes, intensive beading has led to repetitive strain injury. It is not the needle hand that’s hurting, but the holding hand (my left). Whatever you do for hours – move the mouse, play the guitar, craftwork – remember to stop and flick/flex fingers, stretch arms and get the blood circulating. Keeping your hand in the same position for long periods will result in tendonitis, swelling, inflammation etc. Very unpleasant.
While I rest my hand, let me encourage you to indulge in creative activity. An obsession with (in my case) bead weaving has left me with no time to be lonely, depressed, or inclined to engage in risky pursuits. Other benefits:
From start to end
When I make one earring, I will push myself to finish the other side, usually on the same day. If it’s something more complicated like a necklace or dreamcatcher, I might take days or weeks, but with so much time already invested, the discipline to complete what I’ve begun is a sure thing.
A good workman
The crafty too must look after our tools and have materials at the ready. You’ll soon lose the mood to do anything if you’re running around searching for bits and bobs.
There’s always something new to learn, or technique to perfect. And with every step, patience is required. When I attended pottery classes, some students just wanted to throw pots and get them fired. The working of the clay bored them, but sloppy kneading and not slapping out air pockets might result in pots cracking in the kiln. The same persistence applies whether you’re trying tubular peyote stitching or breadmaking.
Stop and check
Even now I sometimes find myself speeding along to finish, and then discovering an unwelcome thread, or something awry when I’m all knotted and done. It means snipping off the offending section and fixing the mistake. Or living with it – and being forever irritated. If everyone did this at work, i.e. spot-check and backtrack, more errors would be caught before they snowball into something too difficult to fix.
When you get interested in something, you will suddenly notice everything connected with it. Or even indirectly connected. Beading has made me more observant and appreciative of colours of fabrics, the ocean, sunrise, sunset, nature, tableware, art… It’s opened my eyes to the beauty around me and to the far superior skills of other crafters.
After you make a whole lot of stuff, you’ll either want to sell, or make gifts of them. The trouble is not knowing whether the recipients are too polite to tell you to keep your handiwork. Hence, it would be best to set up a table at an event and sell my beadwork for money which can go to an animal shelter. But an introvert like me is not likely to face the public, so someone else will have to actualize my do-good idea.
It might sound odd, but having a hobby keeps me in touch with my mortality. It means prepping for the eventuality that I’ll leave behind a pile of beads from stones and quartzes to glass, acrylic and delica plus findings, tools, wire, threads and so on. What is my son to do with these? To cart them all to the Salvation Army would be a waste, so I shall have to find a worthy donee. It certainly bears thinking about.
The world stands still when you’re immersed in something. It’s like meditating. I’ve spent happy hours beading into the pre-dawn while catching up on cable TV shows. I concur with British writer, Jeanette Winterson who eloquently explains why having an interest outside yourself is good for the soul:
When you love something like reading – or drawing or music or nature – it surrounds you with a sense of connection to something great. If you are lucky enough to know this, then your search for meaning involves whatever that Something is. It’s an alchemical blend of affinity and focus that takes us to a place within that feels as close as we ever get to “home.” It’s like pulling into our own train station after a long trip – joy, relief, a pleasant exhaustion.