Saturday, 25 January 2014

Hoping for Change

This is the month when I look back and say Thank you! and I look forward and say Yes! (That's not original: UN Secretary General Dag Harmerskjold said it first.) I made this piece, part of my "Year of being 60" quilt, in January 2009.
Even when the weather is grim and grey, I believe more in the possibilities of the future in January than at any other time of the year. It’s like I’ve been given a gift of a new year, and it is my sacred task to open the gift, one little bit at a time, to see what’s inside.

I’m pretty sure that the gift of this new year will contain hope, love, and joy...they’ve been part of my past, and I am trusting for that in the future. Realistically, of course, I also know there will be tears, anger, frustration, and anxiety. But in January the year is still bright and shiny with potential. What the year will look like in November, when the shine has worn off, is anybody’s guess. For now, I live in hope.

January is also the month when I read "self-help" books and scour the internet for good stuff that might help me move on in my life journey. My annual January cold bug has finally arrived, so I’ve got lots of time to troll through the resources as I sniffle and cough in my Lazy-Boy. Crow Girl looks on, and makes sure I keep my (runny) nose to the grindstone. She’s an old pro at learning from mistakes and taking lessons to heart – that’s why she’s survived so long. Here are some thoughts she and I both think are worth pondering ... (and acting on, of course, although that’s the tough part.)

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. What are you hanging on to, and why are you hanging on to it? Katrina Keniston asks this as she blogs about writing a will (  She has a bottle of expensive perfume she loves but rarely uses, a drawerful of fancy lingerie that stays pristine and unworn while she pulls on her ratty bloomers for “everyday”, and a couple of bottles of old expensive wine that are waiting for the perfect occasion. Writing a will brings this to her attention. When we go, she suggests, as all we must, we won’t be able to take any of it with us. Why not start using it up and wearing it out and just savoring each thing as a gift? This advice hits me in the gut: I have closets and shelves full of fabric. Since I will have to live to be 841 years old to use it all up, I know what I need to be doing. Use it or lose it. Yes, crow, soon –  as soon as this cold is over.

Which brings me to more wisdom: Do not procrastinate. Procrastination adds unnecessary stress to our lives. The quilt square included here was created 5 years ago, and here I am, still looking through my overstuffed closets. If I’d gotten rid of the excess, I could have lived a stress-free life. Who knew? Actually,  I have cleaned out my shelves every January (sort of.) Last year, the resident sweetie even built me new shelves in the guest room closet, since the studio closet was stuffed to the max. Now those new shelves are full and overflowing. I apologize to the guests who have little space left to hang their clothes. I tell them fabric is like bunnies – it multiplies in the dark behind closed doors. I’m not sure what kind of canoodling goes on there while nobody is looking.

A friend who knows me well gave this to me years ago. It has hung in my studio ever since. She's acquired her own fabric habit now -- maybe I should give it back.

Stop right there! Stop avoiding the truth, the expert in another book tells me, shaking a finger in my face. Okay, okay, I admit it. The truth is, the fabric is not canoodling and multiplying. The bald fact is, I am buying more. Sometimes, the local quilt store has wonderful sales. Sometimes, I "rescue" gorgeous pieces, like a pure silk sari, from thrift stores, even if I don’t know how I’ll use it. That’s a good thing, isn’t it?  But even fabric collectors eventually have to discriminate and discard.

I find the solution to my dilemma in psychologist Richard Wiseman’s book 59 Seconds. His advice for happiness: Be a Giver. Studies have shown that fabric does not buy happiness, but giving it away does. Okay, he used the word money, but it’s the same thing. Participants in many studies have shown that people who give gifts or money to others are happier than those who indulge in retail therapy for themselves. Well then, giving my stuff away should solve the problem. Who wouldn’t be happy to have some of my beautiful stash? Anyone? Anyone?

I may be naive in thinking that anything will change dramatically because of all my reading, pondering and resolving.

Still, it’s January, and I live in hope.

PS: Here’s an open invitation to all of you who live nearby: come and raid my stash. What’s that you say? You’ll take some of mine, if I’ll take some of yours? Hmm...that should work, too. I’ll be happier, and you’ll be happier, if we each give some away.

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