Saturday, January 18, 2014

Slow and steady

It takes time to build a slower, simpler, more deliberate life. It doesn't happen overnight. But it's easy to get impatient, to be super enthusiastic, and to try everything at once, make a total shift. It's very tempting to try making cheese, baking bread, planting a garden, making soap, sewing a tablecloth and knitting a jumper all at once.

The problem with this is that it's overwhelming. Each new skill, each step, takes time. There are new skills to learn, which may take years to fully develop, and possibly new materials to get to know. Then you will need to experiment to see how the new 'thing' fits into the rest of your life, and how you can best use it towards your goals. In all this there will be much trial and error, with a good helping of frustration. 

There may well be tantrums, and I have had plenty - over bread that just wouldn't form a nice, bready dough but insisted on remaining very wet. Over beeswax resolutely adhering to a measuring jug. Over curtains that became all twisted as they were sewn. Over struggling to stitch a buttonhole on a shirt.

Focusing your efforts on one 'thing' at a time - a new skill, a new habit, a new recipe - means that you give yourself the time and space to get to grips with that one thing more fully. Once you have achieved a degree of comfort, even if not proficiency (ie your bread isn't perfect but it is edible) you can think about adding something else in to the mix.

Throwing yourself headlong into a multitude of crafts and activities just makes it more likely that the frustrations will win out, and you'll give up. Focus instead on conquering just one thing, and treat it as an exercise in focus, in patience, resilience, self-will. Multitasking just means doing several things poorly instead of one thing well, I have found. Focusing on one thing allows you to progress further quicker in that area. You notice your progress, you can feel proud and that motivates you to keep going.

Each activity also very naturally opens up 'extensions.' You might start experimenting with recipes to try your own thing. Baking bread might lead you to try other forms of grain, get a small mill to grind flour fresh, or make your own butter to accompany it. That might in turn lead to trying out scones and biscuits using the buttermilk, or a foray into homemade costmetics as buttermilk is so good for your skin. Perhaps buttermaking draws you into cheeses, or handling grains prompts you to try brewing beer or making barley water. Let your journey evolve naturally. Start from where you are and see where it leads you.

I have really been trying to keep this in mind recently, as I am definitely experiencing a renewed focus on the simple, deliberate life. I am continually tempted to get some cushion inserts so I can make cushions for the living room or do a workshop in woodwork, pottery or jewellery-making, or have a go at making cheese, soap, yogurt or beer. These are all things I want to get to but I am continually reminding myself to slow down, to consolidate the gains I've already made this month, and to take the time to enjoy where I am now, enjoy the journey, rather than focusing on a 'destination'. In fact I think I will probably never feel I am doing 'enough' simply because there will always be more things I want to do, to make, to explore - but I'm beginning to see that as a good thing!

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