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Seeking balance

So the past few weeks have been pretty hectic, in my personal/family life. First we spent a week in Davos, then 10 days in England, with just two days at home in between – about enough time to do laundry and repack? Technically of course that was all holiday, but those of you with children know exactly how “relaxing” holidays with small kids are. To put it in perspective: back in the day, I used to always get sick on the first day of a holiday – because I could finally take a rest, and my body insisted that I do so. Now, both Armin and I got sick the first day back from our holiday. Because we could finally take a rest…

And of course these two sick parents needed to settle our kids into the first week of school. Two big firsts: start of “big school” for Elf, and start of spielgruppe (playgroup) for Dude. Plus assorted extramurals, squeezing into a suddenly crowded weekly schedule alongside (gasp!) homework. So a fair bit of stress all round. 

And it occurred to me, during this crazy week, that I am managing my life All Wrong. Pretty much since university, I’ve never had much “spare time”; I always seem to load myself up with extra projects. Which are rewarding in various ways, or I wouldn’t take them on, but it’s become so normal for me that I no longer question how I’m running my life. I just always have “too much work” to ever relax. I can’t just chill out with a book unless I’m actually sick. Which is fair enough when, say, you’re running a business or studying for another degree alongside a regular job. But suddenly I asked myself how it is that I do not have either earnings, or the luxury of free time. Something’s wrong with this picture.

No earnings? No, none. I did surprisingly well on the pattern sales front last year, as Elbaby was quite a hit. This year, with no big releases and no price promotions on my new patterns, I’ve barely covered my costs. This is actually about what I expected, for a brand new designer. As I’ve said before, I consider myself to be in training; I’m trying to build my skills and my portfolio, not to turn a real profit, at this stage. I am also aware that very few designers, even the best-known, make a living from design; and that it’s getting harder and harder to break in as more and more people try their hands at designing. And I am not Ysolda.

So the fact that I’m not earning doesn’t necessarily mean I’m not achieving my goals, at this point. But knowing my place in the ecosystem surely shouldn’t mean working as if under enormous pressure – all the time. My only deadlines are self-imposed. My projects are all self-chosen, self-devised. They’re fun! They’re what I want to be doing! I may have questioned my choices, laid low by flu and childwrangling as I was, but the idea of not actually doing, or trying to do, anything but childcare… not so appealing. Working on my stuff makes me happy.

Maybe I don’t have to work on it every spare minute, though.

So I’m experimenting with something new: taking weekends off. 

Radical, no? But I just don’t do this. Weekends, typically, are when I finally have time to work on my stuff. They always have been. The idea of taking weekends off… it’s frankly a bit shocking. But intriguing. What would my life be like if I didn’t fill every corner of it with work? Would I be happier? I’m not sure. I’m really not. But I’d like to find out.

I’m setting myself a few rules. Saturdays are computer-free days – I won’t even switch it on. Sundays are “personal” days and I’m allowed to write personal blog posts or emails. If I want to. I’m also allowed to work, if I want to, but personal stuff takes priority. Friday and Saturday nights are for TV and knitting. 

And there’s one other thing. I’ve started to realise that much of the social media I consume isn’t making me happy. I love social media, oh, so much! Especially as an introvert, and doubly especially as an introvert immigrant, Twitter keeps me feeling connected. But I think there are a lot of feeds I’ve been following because I “should”. Because I have a habit, deeply entrenched in Purlescence days, of wanting to “keep up” with the knitting market. But not only do they not add anything of value to my days, they actually make me feel worse about myself. All these talented professionals doing awesome things… I feel left out, and left behind. And yes, I should be feeling inspired, not threatened, but I’m sorry, I’m just not that big a person.

So I’m having a bit of a prune, of Twitter and Instagram and blogs and I guess of my life. Making more space for the connections that do feed me, and for me to simply enjoy myself. I am, maybe, indulging a bit of a fantasy that better social media and work habits might clear my mind and mitigate the loss of productivity from my schedule change. (Productivity is important! My projects may be self-imposed but they’re awesome, and worth doing, and in a couple of cases involve other people, so I do need to deliver.) But even if not… leisure time is an allowable goal in itself. Right?

What a weird idea…

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2 thoughts on “Seeking balance

  1. I am so happy to read this! Good for you; it can be hard to let go of that cloudy but persistent sensation that you Ought To Be… somethinging. If not Working then at least Being Productive Somehow. But you do need time to stand and stare, and all that. Leisure time is absolutely a worthy end in itself.

    1. I so very totally agree… when it applies to anyone else. Or, y’know, in principle. And yet for ME, I can’t seem to let go of the urge to be Busy. It’s not like anyone would call me driven. I’m lazy and unambitious. But somehow I always need to be Doing.

      Time to practise just sitting, clearly. A Good Thing to learn.

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