I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the kind of Sliding Doors moments of my life. This means a lot of “What if” scenarios playing out in my mind. What if I never got rheumatoid arthritis, would I have started Gray Day Crochet? What if I hadn’t left my last workplace for a job with a train commute, would I have been one of the former employers rounds of redundancies? What if we hadn’t moved back to Australia, would my joints be able to cope with Minnesota winters? What if we had more kids? What if I never met Nic? What if… I’m guessing this is one phase of a mid-life crisis of sorts. Being able to look back at all the incredible influences that have shaped your life. Is there anything you’d go back and change, or do you appreciate the good and the bad because it brought you to where you are today?
I finally got around to seeing Avengers: End Game. I’ve also been watching The Man in the High Castle, so I probably shouldn’t be surprised that my creative juices are leaning toward time travel and multiverses. You find yourself wondering which scenario, branch, multiverse is the best and start thinking about the wider purpose and meaning behind existing in one place at a certain time. But this pondering can be somewhat crippling. With so many possibilities, how can you ever choose? This is often how I feel with a new skein of yarn. It is positively bursting with possibilities, but sometimes I paralyze myself with not being able to choose one. I have some skeins of yarn that I have had for more than 10 years without working into something because I just couldn’t choose. It’s like a form of writers block. It’s either like I’m waiting for a lighting strike epiphany and if that doesn’t come, I set it aside until that thread in the multiverse is obvious.
The opposite is to just lean in to (or lay back in) the laissez faire of it all and disconnect. If whatever will be, will be, then you’d think you just make whatever and it was what it was always going to be. Like each project is an inevitability. Yet, I’ve found that ends up in me thinking, “I’ll get around to it someday.” Those ‘someday’ projects end up collapsing under the weight of their own inertia. The longer you go before starting, the harder it is to try and pick it up.
Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes, I really do feel like a project was a lightning strike of creativity and it all just flowed out of me. Or some are carefully planned and are executed as if they were inevitable. But certainly not all, or most of my projects. Do you know what happens when I assume they will happen by spontaneous burst of creativity or a foregone conclusion? Nothing happens. They don’t happen. I categorize them in my brain as, “that will happen when…” and then they never do. I’m finding this more and more in my life as well, not just my crocheting. I spend much of my time either expecting something to whisk me away on the next great adventure or to form as a new mountain in front of me that I have no choice, but to climb. And while some moments of my life have been like a zephyr (meeting my hubby) or like an expedition (dealing with chronic illness), the majority of my life is spent in small, every day choices. These daily choices get set on a default course where once I've made the choice one day, it will be preset for the next unless I choose to flip a different switch or open a different door. So instead of choices, they become habits, which is just another word for assumptions. The benefit of habits is they relieve the mental load. But how often do we take a step back and assess where the habits are taking us. My mom likes to say that “practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes consistent.” We get pretty good at repetition, but how do we identify when there’s a note that needs fixing or a choice that should be adjusted?
I think there are some ways to get perspective, take stock and even build in new habits to evaluate, but I find a couple of things make the biggest difference for me. Fostering my creative bursts, reflecting on the purpose in my big challenges and having unstructured mental time to allow my sub-conscious to do it’s thing. Actually, the unstructured mental time is essential to the other two. I can’t start playing with new design concepts in my head or finding perspective without having some time that is not filled up by a job to be done. I feel this a lot when I’m in a zone where every moment of down time becomes phone time. Everything I do on my phone is a job to be done, whether it’s checking emails, posting on Instagram or playing a game. They are all wired to give my brain a task to focus on. This is great for managing my chronic pain or just being efficient and on top of things, but it’s not great for growing me creatively or emotionally. Jobs to be done become more like a numbing agent. Sometimes, it’s absolutely necessary. Sometimes it’s helpful. But it can’t be always and all the time.
This doesn’t mean I’ve nailed this and am the shining example you’re looking for. On the contrary, I’m really bad at using my phone as a void-filler. In writing this, I’m hoping to let you know and remind myself that swapping the phone in my hand for a hook and some yarn is one of the best things I can do for my brain and also to double down on my resolve. I want to do this better and I want to be more present with the people I’m with. I’m not going to be perfect and I’m not going to quit using my phone cold turkey, but I do hope I will be more mindful in my use and - more importantly - my non use of it going forward. Hopefully this will help me to create space for those creative epiphanies for perspective seeking and for just free mental space to make room for some of the more important, non-automatic parts of life.
If you have any tips or tricks that have helped you to use your phone less or amp up your creative or reflective time, please let me know in the comments below.