I recently sent out my “quarterly” art newsletter about my work. I say quarterly in quotes because quarterly is the goal. The actuality is more like meh, I don’t feel like doing that today and maybe semi-annually is better! It could be said I do it because people ask me all the time about what I am working on, or where they can see my work? So that is why I do it.
Mostly readers comment that I do so much, or that I have so much energy! Apparently that is true. I have always been an over-doer, raised in a family of over-doers (also known as workaholics!) by two over-doers whose ancestors were also over-doers. Something about idle hands being the devil’s workshop! In reality my “abundance” of energy is actually self-preservation.
Overdoing kept me from losing my mind, when as a teenager I knit a sweater while in the hospital for 6 weeks. Knitting and needlepoint kept me from losing my mind as a newlywed in a frigid apartment, where the landlord was too stingy to give us heat, so we learned to bundle up in woolies; and still today thrive in a cooler home than most. And today handwork keeps my mind occupied and brings me peace of mind as I carry on the daily life of a caregiver.
I have been to this rodeo before. Over 20 years ago I was primary caregiver for 22 months for a friend with brain cancer. That journey started out innocently enough, in that it was my employer so it was in my vested interest, I thought, to do everything I could to hold his business & life together during his illness. Soon I was making & taking him to all his medical appointments, making his dinner, taking him fishing & on vacation, injecting his blood thinners, practicing seizure recovery, etc. I lost myself in ‘making’ for him.
It was life-changing for me in that I became more aware of what was truly important in life. It was not overdoing at a desk job making someone else wealthy, while I did even not make a livable wage. Only after that experience when I gained 30 lbs, stopped exercising, let my hair grow long and haggard, did I learn that I would never again do that for another person, no matter my relationship to him/her/they.
Fast forward 20 years and I am again in the trenches. I am fortunate that my husband’s debilitation from 10 years of Parkinson’s did not advance until just this last year. Only this past summer did he stop driving. My daily focus on maintaining my autonomy is equal to, not lesser than, maintaining his comfort and safety. I have not put someone’s needs before my own, this time. My needs are equally as important as his. And yet I am fully present with him during this very sad and heart-breaking part of his life; and of our lives together.
So people always say to me…you have so much energy! I suppose I do, for which I feel blessed. When I first came to ‘quiltin’ I heard the expression UFO’s which stood for unfinished objects. I didn’t have any UFO’s and never would, I thought. Oh but wait, do they mean all forms of hand-work?! Well that is a different story!
As an over-doer, I currently have four hand-work projects in progress. Four UFOs. I don’t consider them UFOs as I do plan to eventually finish them! I actually have a fifth (potential UFO) fermenting in my cranium. How can I possibly start another, I wonder? Well, very easily...squirrel!
I have two meditation scarves in process. One is a bias cut gray linen of flowers, inspired by my morning walks, which I started on a Road Scholar trip to NC in April.
The other I started in San Diego in September, mostly because I did not want to be crinkling a plastic sheet with flower patterns during a conference meeting. This one is a long rectangle of tobacco brown linen stitched with random triangles in neutral colors. This all started when I discovered a full box of neutral perle cottons in the studio! It appears I will run out of linen before I do the perle cotton, though.
Also underway is a half knit hand-dyed merino with Noro wool, bias scarf. Last year I went to my now quite small yarn stash to darn a much loved & worn pair of wool socks. Aha, there is this gorgeous hank of hand-dyed merino, I thought! I need to knit it up…and now; although it had been in the stash for a good 20 years!!!
I should have used bigger needles! I could rip it out and start over, but alas, that would be another UFO….or maybe not! And it may be beautiful when finished, and it will be finished, BUT will undoubtedly be itchy on the neck. It may well just find its way to Goodwill. Undoubtedly someone in need will not care if it itches.
And then there is a morning walk collage, digitally printed to cotton, which I have been hand-stitching. I had done two of these before and installed them in our bedroom, and they are fabulous! But this one? Oy…What was I thinking printing a creek-bed plant onto cotton? I stopped somewhere in the middle of stitching these countless leaves and now it rests leisurely in its own sack, on top of the overhead projector.
So while all this is waiting, the most recent Wisdom Gatherers quilt is blocking on the design wall. This is the one I last blogged about. It is of twin sisters for which I decided instead of doing two large quilts with the same identical images, that doing one with each filling half was the best option. The fun thing is I had already pieced the backgrounds when I made this decision, so I used the other half of each one, joined together on the back! So it is nearly a reversible work!
And because all this is not enough, I am pondering my next artwork! Of course I have files of ideas and more that keep me awake at night…
All this is to say I am an over-doer and proud of it! It is a title I wear proudly. For if I was not to overdo I probably would curl up in a ball and wither away….or maybe knit something of it!
Pat Bishop says
Love your writings. I so identify with your life, your husband. We need to stay strong and carry on. I think about keeping my strength when I go to the gym three times a week, I need to take care of myself so I can take care of us. I also tend to be an overachiever, is it a distraction or a need? My husband has multiple health issues. I think it is a creative need that keeps me excited, curious and energetic. We have to be caregivers to ourselves and this is how I do it.
You have hit the nail on the head, my friend! Probably what I hear more than anything else is I have to take care of myself. As you well know, it is a daily practice! cyber hug!
thank you Pat! i am sad to hear you also walk this path; and yet this is even more life experience for our courageous souls!
Carol, your work, photos, and ideas alway inspire! As well as numerous on-going and continuous projects, I have oodles of ideas floating around in my brain. Some I will get to–some not and they will be eclipsed with another idea/project. What a journey you are on–thanks for sharing.
Thank you Sharon! At least we will never be bored and hopefully not boring!
Judith D Block says
Bravo to you for taking care of you while providing care for your husband. We do ourselves an injustice by neglecting our own needs over others. It is not self centered rather self preserving.
I too am an overachiever but I like myself this way and usually when those words are directed towards me, it is not a compliment but a slur from someone who has chosen to step back from life.
Thank you for this! I definitely am in the rule bending generation! I also like being an overachiever. With a sister ten years into Ahlzeimers; it is another blessing to count, this ability to still do & make!