Pause

Have you ever had way too much coffee on a day when you are very tired, and gotten that funny feeling? It’s like the start of panic – not fear, or dread or worry, but the smallest little seed of a feeling that’s trying to make you run and paradoxically trying to keep you from taking a deep breath at the same time?  It’s an insistent little thing that whispers “I think you should get ready to freak out because we are about to be in trouble here.” If it’s a coffee induced feeling,  I just chalk it up to having enough caffeine in my system that I can feel my hair growing, and resolve to be a better person who sleeps more and drinks less coffee.  Lately, I have that feeling a lot of the time – despite (mostly) actually managing to be a better person who is sleeping lots and drinking less coffee.

I know it’s not coffee this time. It’s an actual sense of impending doom brought about by the fact that doom is sort of impending all the time right now. I know I’ve confessed to you that I might have overshot a little with my commitments this year – so far I’ve found the way through this period is to just put my head down and work, and look forward to the day (it is actually only 46 days) that I pass this mantle on, but overall, I’ve started to realize that the sense of doom is being generated by evidence of my own inadequacy.

(Pictured, an unfinished cowl. Yarn is one strand of The Artful Ewe Kid Silk Lace, with one strand of Habu’s Mini Pom Shiro. I cast on a bunch and am going round and round, sometimes knitting with both, sometimes just the lace, and sometimes with the lace doubled.  If I ever finish it will be charming.)

Please note, this is not a low self-esteem moment.  I do not need to be reassured that I’m great and I get a lot done, it’s simply noticing that there is an insufficient quantity of me to meet my goals. I’m behind on work emails, the house is trashed, I have been trying to finish a simple cowl for two weeks, I didn’t finish my June socks, I’m fishing my summer clothes out of bins and my winter ones are piled in the hall because I haven’t had time to swap them out. I haven’t been writing the way I’m supposed to (or need to, to be less crazy all the time.)  I haven’t planted all the annuals I bought even though now it’s July, I have no idea what the hell is making the kitchen floor so sticky, though I feel like all I do is mop it.  I haven’t been on my bike as much as I should be, the fundraising for Team Knit is behind, I haven’t done any of the Karmic Balancing gifts, I really need a haircut and I think that the flowers in the hanging baskets need watering.

This general state of inadequacy is, as you can imagine, uncomfortable. Now, I generally believe that I’m pretty good at being uncomfortable, and I think that’s a pretty effective way to be a human most of the time, and when this started happening I just got uncomfortable and stayed there – coping with the load by sort of hopscotching around it all, doing a little bit of everything, trying to multitask the snot out of it all and not really getting a sense of accomplishment from any of it. The floor was cleaner but not clean, I’d answer the most important emails, but not all of them, I’d write one crappy paragraph but not an essay, I’d worry about the blog all day but not do it, and gradually this feeling of inadequacy has given way to something that early this week I figured out is actually stress.

(Pictured, June’s unfinished socks. Pattern is Paragon Socks, Yarn is West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4 ply in Cardamom.  It’s my favourite solid sock yarn right now. There’s some hope I’ll finish these today or tomorrow. Maybe.) 

That moment, I think – may be be what saves me.  The minute I realized it was stress, I remembered a quote my mum loved to say to me when I was younger and losing my scene. It’s from a writing teacher I like a lot, Natalie Goldberg. She said “Stress is an ignorant state. It believes everything is an emergency.” The minute I remembered that, I realized that I had to start handling this whole thing differently.  I stopped trying to hysterically do it all every day, and instead began to ask myself questions.

Does this need doing? (Is it truly important? What will happen if it is not done today?)

Does this need to be done by me? (Can I delegate this, or ask for help?)

If the answer to those questions was actually yes, that it was important and had to be done by me, then I just settled down, let go of everything else, and did it. I also wrote “time is a commodity I choose how to spend” on a post-it note and put it over my desk. (This probably won’t help as much as the other things, but at least it reminds me that I don’t “lose time” doing things.  I can only “spend time” and I decide on what.)  This approach has meant that a lot of things have shifted over the last week.  First of all, my Bike Rally inbox is just about empty, which is awesome- because that thing was breathing down the back of my neck with fetid hot breath. It also means that yesterday we took Elliot out on the boat, because I realized that missing that would mean I’d be bitter and nasty about missing so many nice things – it means that after I spend this time with you today, I’m off to a Canada Day outing to celebrate the great good fortune I have to live in this country,  and it means that Saturday I rode my bike 100km. I’m still fishing summer clothes out of the bin because there are no police about that, and it also means that the kitchen floor is still sticky, because you know what? That’s actually not important, and it can be done by someone else and… screw it. (I did water the plants.)

So this morning I got up and looked at the list, and tried to figure out how I should spend my time voila, I am here. Happy Canada Day all – I can’t think of anything more important than thanking you all for your help with this. The fundraising really is important, and I can’t do it without your help.  Let’s go.

(By the way, if you’ve only  just arrived and are wondering what we’re doing here, read this. If you’re wanting to sponsor part of Team Knit, or help us spread the word, our links are here: MeKen,   CameronPato. We’d love any help you can give, and every little bit counts. We’re all still inching towards our goals.) 

First, an absolutely gorgeous bag from Lisa at Red Staggerwing, which looks just about perfect for trucking around knitting.  I’m sure that  Melissa B is going to love it.

Next up, Rebecca,  a longtime friend of the show has 5 skeins from String Theory Colorworks that she is (somehow) going to part with.  (Inexplicably her email says she has more self-striping yarn than she needs, which doesn’t sound right, but I’m grateful anyway.) She’ll be sending them off to new homes with Carla K, Kristen G, Susan B, Michelle C and Marsha W. I’m going to let them fight out who gets what colour with Rebecca.

Susanne Visch, a designer and generous soul, has offered (again this year) three knitters the pattern of their choice, though I don’t know how they’ll possibly choose.
The shawl choices alone could take you forever to look at, and that task will fall to Marolee S, Amy N, and Susan G.

Judy (who seems quite lovely) wrote and said that this beautiful Masham from Indigodragonfly has been begging for a new home, and karma has decided that it should go off to Kim G.  (Who I bet is lovely too.)

Tess Young took a peek around and found that she has the perfect kit to send along – her beautiful Anglebury Cowl Pattern along with a 100g skein of John Arbon Viola Yarn, for which it was designed – in a colourway called “unpredictable.” (Colour designed by Canadian hand-dyer, Emily Foden.)  I hope Sarah P finds it delightfully unpredictable that it’s coming to live with her.

Whew! I’ve emailed everyone who received a gift so if you’re wondering if you’re the knitter mentioned, check your inbox.  I know that’s only 11 gifts given away, and there’s plenty more in the hopper, but if you’ll excuse me, I’m taking a sanity break from the computer. I’ve been at it all day, and my nephews, a lovely summer evening, a celebration of the wonderful country I live in, and a little bit of knitting await me, and suddenly,  that all seems very important.

80 thoughts on “Pause

  1. Time for a spreadsheet. You could even add a column for task-specific whinging. It’s more efficient, somehow.

  2. Happy Canada Day! I’m going to look up those old posts of yours… they were great. Enjoy the evening! You’ll get the necessary stuff done more or less on time.

  3. I’m glad that you’ve figured out how to focus on what is the most important thing in each moment. Lots of love to you Stephanie.

  4. Happy Canada Day@ Happy Fourth of July! I just bought two skeins of yarn because I liked the variegated colors, but only after I started knitting did I begin to question the content — wool, cotton, linen? The label gives no hint, just says it is yarn. Can’t believe I did such a dumb thing.

  5. Happy Canada Day! Enjoy your family, your knitting, and the opportunity to celebrate the wonderful country we are thankful to call home.

  6. Happy Canada day, to my favorite Canadian! I hope you keep taking good care of yourself and making sure you’re doing fun things to ease stress, as well as doing work. Hugs and have fun with that grandbaby! 🙂

  7. Happy Canada Day! Great thought on how to get it all done, which is to say you can’t. A reminder I needed today.

  8. Your epiphany reminds me of an office management course I took years ago. One of the keys to managing is to look at the time you will actually have available that day or the next day. Then, prioritize what needs to be done and allot a reasonable amount of time to do it. Its unreasonable to think you can do everything but you likely can do the most important. The most important things include making time to spend with people you love doing the things you love. You rock.

  9. This is an important thing. And it gives me the opportunity to thank you for a related thing from your essay about your friend Rachel who knitted the giant blanket. In it you write: “That the disease made her forget that if you get up in the morning and take care of your kid and are kind to yourself and your fellow humans, it’s not possible to be a failure.” It makes me tear up almost every time. For most of my life I did not have much mercy for myself. Reading this the first time was one of the first glimmers of it. I’m getting better at it each day. Thank you. I’m glad you let the stress go.

  10. Steph, you’ve got this. Take some deep breaths. If something doesn’t sort itself out, it wasn’t important. For example, if the kitchen floor isn’t growling, it can wait. Enjoy the Canada Day festivities!

  11. Happy Canada Day. Those socks are beautiful. I haven’t even been knitting. I know the feeling about being behind in planting. I still have strawberries that should have been put in the ground months ago. Ugh. Bit by bit…

  12. Have a wonderful Canada Day!

    Re mopping: take an old towel, pour some soap of your choice on it, do a quick dash under the kitchen faucet and then walk around the floor with the towel under your foot, then throw it in the laundry. Along with another one used to wipe the floor dry afterwards, if you want. (I have a small kitchen.)

    There are various degrees of doing this, but basically I started this as a way of letting my toddlers help clean the floor with me and found it so much easier and faster and better that I never went back to mops.

      • You mean I’m not the only person in the world who does this? That there are at least three of us??? My usual MO is to put vinegar first, then Clearwater, and then I dry. I suppose that’s being rather profligate with the towels. It may be improving my skating ability as well.

        • Of you use the bath towels that need changing out ( not the ones from the kids rooms that stand up on their own )you aren’t even using extra towels.

          • But of course, bath towels—it’s faster when you use both feet—and then there’s the skating thing…

    • I spray some floor cleaner, wet a towel and walk it around. Delighted to know there is a “club” of kitchen floor towel walking friends.

      • When I clean up after my indoor rabbits I spray vinegar water mixture on the floor and then skate on rags.
        I work at Starbucks. After we mop the floor the regulation way we grab a couple dry cloths and skate around to dry the floor. Otherwise it’s covered in dirty footprints in seconds.! It’s also great inner thigh exercise if you really push out as you skate.

    • my sticky floor solution is not so environmentally friendly but works for me. I have a galley kitchen open at either end and L-shaped with a tile floor. I use those Clorox or similar wipes, one at a time. I usually need a total of four. I unfold it, put on my soft clogs (we are a barefoot household) and wipe the floor, focusing on spots and such. When it’s drying up or is really dirty, I use a new one.

  13. Happy Canada Day to you and yours! Thanks for sharing – I have picked up a pearl for my coping box. Bless you.

  14. I haven’t even read through this whole post. I will. But I am just relieved to see you’re “still alive”! I said to a friend yesterday (who is Canadian), “Tomorrow is Cananda Day, and YH ALWAYS posts on Canada Day. If she doesn’t post tomorrow, then we’re going to have to send a search party out for her….”
    I’ll go back to reading your post now, I’m just glad we can call off the Mounties!!

  15. Happy Canada Day! Here’s to good neighbors. We’ll enjoy the 4th of July celebration Thursday. I’ve been humming your national anthem today and now it makes sense. As always it’s good to hear from you.
    Judy

  16. Ever since you shared the Hadfield brothers’ great song about Canada, I make a point of listening to it again and also posting it again on FB. Happy Canada Day!

  17. Here’s what I tell my daughters when they start freaking out about exams and other stuff:
    The trick to life’s juggling act is knowing which balls are made of rubber, and which of glass.
    i.e. if I drop this ball now, will I be able to pick it up tomorrow? Can someone else pick it up? Or is it in a million pieces and irretrievable?
    Time on a boat with family is definitely a glass ball 🙂

  18. There’s a wonderful book titled “Do Less”. The best part is that you don’t acutally need to read it. Just looking at the blue cover and reading those two words usually does the trick.

  19. Thank you, thank you. I had to write the quote about stress down because this is my state and has been for the last 3 years since my husband lost his sight.
    I do not need to do everything myself and there is nothing that has to be done immediately.
    Thank you

  20. I feel like someone could write an app to match gift with recipient and generate emails to them and the donor…

  21. It sounds to me that as much as you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’ve got your priorities in order. No one will judge you if the house isn’t pristine and you haven’t switched over your wardrobe. You’re doing what’s most important; the rest will wait. Just remember to breathe!

  22. As usual, right words right time. And so, I’m putting every little thing on pause this morning and going on a horseback ride with a friend. I seriously doubt the world will end in the two hours I’m gone.

  23. Happy Canada Day! There’s a commercial for Red Baron Pizza in the US that is called war stories where two women are talking about the life hacks they’ve done in the thick of things. One of them says “wiped up spilled milk of the floor with my socks-and I’m still wearing them”. Impressive. You remind me of that today. No worries. Make a list, cross off stuff, take time out. Thanks for blogging.

  24. Happy Canada Day! Breathe, and enjoy your family.

    One thing I LOVE about your posts is that they are so RELATABLE. I’m so tired of “Priscilla Perfect” blogs in which the writer manages everything, recycles 100% of everything, cleans a 25 room house in 2 hours, bakes 437 cupcakes overnight and puts each kids name on them and never stresses about real things or admits that they feel overwhelmed. In this day an age, I think LOTS of us are overwhelmed with projects, kids sports, domestic chores, familhy’s expectations– it is always refreshing to come to YOUR blog and find gems of wisdom about how a real, down to earth mom finds hope amidst the chaos. Thank you for being so real.

  25. I’m so glad you remembered that quote… and even better, shared it with Natalie Goldberg’s name. How I loved her work! I’ve got to find my copies… Happy Canada Day!

  26. Thank you for spending some of your precious Canada Day time with us. Sounds like you’ve got this, thanks to that little feeling and your mother’s wisdom residing in you. And it’ll all be over (at least the bike part) much sooner than you’d believe.

  27. A life saver for me was the old A, B, C priority system but with an additional category – DAND (appropriately enough, pronounced Dandy) standing for Die a Natural Death. It amazed me how many things could be categorized that way and would actually solve themselves or simply go away if ignored. The ones that didn’t would naturally move up into one of the other categories.

  28. Belatedly, Happy Canada Day. On the plus side, the mantle moves on in 45 days.

    (And I clicked on the TRUCK…because you are truckin’ on!)

  29. A belated Happy Canada Day! Thank you for the blog post. Although it is a bummer that there is a lot of stress in your life right now, it’s great to hear that you paused long enough to realize it and start to do something about it. I hope you’ll finish that sock soon!

  30. Thanks for spending time on a blog post for us! Your post brought back memories of a similar period in my life that is now over. For today anyway. You will survive! And when the Bike Rally is finished, hire a company that can steam clean your kitchen floor. It will be worth it.

  31. That first paragraph was sent in its entirety to my project team. Because this is how we feel during our implementation that is going on right now. Thanks for putting that ‘you should freak out’ thing into words.

    Also, I had Tim Hortons on Monday, as you do on Canada Day!

  32. I am FOR STEPHANIE 🙂 and FOR Team Knit and FOR doing what needs to be done and FOR summer evenings with friends and families…those dont always come around (certainly not with the same regularity as a sticky kitchen floor).
    Cheers to you !!

  33. If you can do all that you do for PWA, we can do our part too by waiting patiently for another gem of a blog post whenever you have the brain and time to get to it. Remember Milton: “They also serve who only stand and wait” (Paradise Lost). So as much as you love us, I hope you don’t stress about us out here in blogland: we love you, we will be here when you get back to us, and Karmic Balancing Gifts are just that, gifts, bonuses, extras we enjoy but don’t actually have to anticipate or receive in order to step up and try to help by giving to the Bike Rally. It’s super fun to see what goes where, but not a necessity. Love the Natalie Goldberg quotation, which is a damn sight more effective than “stress kills,” a “helpful” remark I once received from an acquaintance that practically paralyzed me with stress all by itself.

  34. Hope you had a wonderful Canada Day! You live in a
    wonderful country with great people. Many of us are slightly envious these days. Stay well!

  35. You know you can count on me not to give advice on how to live perfecter. And “…an actual sense of impending doom brought about by the fact that doom is sort of impending all the time right now.” Of course I know what you’re talking about. I’m an American under this administration.

    • Oh I hear you. This is just an awful time in our country. The worst of it is that getting rid of him still leaves us with his followers, who have revealed themselves in all their spiteful glory. Ugh. So ashamed and disgusted. Thank God for knitting.

  36. Steph, I get you…tho I’m not spending my time so alturistically… I yelled at the kids the other night that I was tired of being an overqualified maid/chef/taxi driver… Not that they did anything about it other than look at me oddly… But I’m choosing how to spend my time and trying not to get overwhelmed by shoulds and instead trying to find time to enjoy the very limited beautiful weather. Trying being the key word there.

    So good luck… Remember fun is a key part of summer and winter is long and cold.

  37. Beautiful post. I’ve been feeling exactly the same straight down to needing a haircut and moment of self-realization that the stress might just be indicating something. Thank you.

    PS – It’s probably your floor cleaner. Swap ‘er out. It’s likely adding to or causing the stickiness with its post-mopping residue.

  38. Society frowns on women who place taking care of themselves as a top priority. However, unless we take good care of ourselves, we cannot take care of others.

    I appreciate your reminder that time is a commodity to be spent wisely and as each of us chooses. Time with grandkids or on things we love, is time well spent!

  39. Late Happy Canada Day to you. I think you can totally remove swapping summer & winter clothes from your list of things to worry about. Don’t worry about it until after you hand over the torch, in 43(?) days now. There are things to take care of that are far more important. By then it will probably be only a few weeks until you want winter clothes. I suggest that you stop thinking you’re way behind on this particular task, rather that you are way ahead of schedule for the fall swap.

  40. A notion on just one of your list items: the clothes swap isn’t actually all that easy. It may be, eg., that something comes out of storage needing cleaning-though it was put away clean. Anyway to swap all at once, so nice right?, can’t happen. It was winter, clothes-wise, literally weeks ago. If you’ve got something to wear today and tomorrow, you’ve done well enough.

  41. I understand the coffee thing completely; only for me it’s sugar. However, it’s the only thing that gets me to do housework.

  42. Your busy-ness reminds me of the end of my senior year in college. Insurmountable projects, end of semester papers, kids events, paid work, managing a household, maintaining a relationship with my husband, etc all at once. I did exactly what you’re doing…priorities, priorities and managed to slip in fun with the family. Man, what a time! It was wonderful to read for pleasure once it was over. The things we do for love!

  43. I am always happy to read your posts and see what you are up to and of course what you are knitting. Love the yarns and patterns and news of the bike ride planning progress. Keeping your head on straight while doing important work is important, You got it!

    Peace and Hugs,
    Maureen

  44. Ah that stress thing, the one that we try to ignore but ultimately unless we face it it will continue to bite us on the bum. Enjoy your time, whatever you decide to spend it on. Very wise words to read today. Jo x

  45. Loved the quote about stress and questions you ask yourself…I’ve copied it to use with my students, with appropriate reference to your and writing teacher, as we require this in their writing.
    Belated Happy Canada Day. I know you enjoyed your family.

  46. I know that life is, well, A Lot for you at the moment. I know you know you can do it, and you don’t need a pep talk. I know you know your hard stuff is worth it and I know you know it won’t be like this always, and one day soon there will be days with spaces in between things (and knitting). You don’t need me to tell you this. I’m telling you anyway, because your work has been one of things that helped me through those times, when my life was A Lot, and sometimes felt like more than one person could step up to. Your blog (and other writing, and other truly amazing women) is one of the reasons I somehow stepped up and got through and did more than one person could (for a while. No one can work at beyond full capacity for very long). We’re here. We hear you. We cheer you on. (We’d bring dinner and wash the damn floor if we could.)

    Everything will be OK in the end. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end.

  47. “Knit on with hope and confidence and you will get through any crises.” EZ.
    You have been such an inspiration and help to me through the years. I have watched you experience, absorb and deal with a lot especially in the last year. I have watched you handle major life events with courage and strength. When you can, I look forward to hearing from you again. Thank you for what you have done in bringing me much happiness through your blog and knitting inspiration.

  48. I’m surprised that by now, you haven’t delegated the housecleaning to a service once a month. Spending money to delegate this problem is worth it! And the peace of mind that you’ll get from knowing that the sticky kitchen floor will be taken care of is priceless. You don’t have to be rich to have a cleaning service – you just need to have more money than time. Which, at this point, you really do, because the amount of time you have is zero. Go for it!

  49. Why do you not comment on the violence happening in the knitting and fibre arts community against BIPOC people? Outside of one very defensive and condescending instagram post, and one basic message of support for the action Ravelry took against White Supremacy, I have seen nothing.

    Why is there nothing on this site, your blog? Why is this issue not important or urgent enough to engage your ‘karmic balancing’ acts? Why is this not important enough to record in this space?

    It has become upsettingly clear how un-invested many white fibre artists (and leaders I would have said 7months ago) are in equality and anti-racism.

    I’m out of support for you.

    • I feel compelled to point out that Stephanie has used her self-funded blog to champion people in a way that she certainly isn’t obliged to.

      She has raised $1,112,556 for Doctors Without Borders.

      She has raised more than $100,000 for the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation over several years by riding in and, this year, chairing their Bike Rally.

      I certainly hope that you’ve done this much yourself for the cause you’re obviously so passionate about.

      Whether you have or not, stridently demanding (here or anywhere) that someone give their support to a particular group in this manner is counterproductive.

  50. Not sure if this is the right way to report something that I think should be removed. the entry of July 19, 2019 at 8:18 am links to an inappropriate place. It is after Presbytera’s comment and before one from Marea.

    Thank you.

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