Clearing the mechanism

I’ve been feeling a bit overloaded and distracted lately, with this nagging, but just out of reach feeling that I’m not quite doing what I should be or really want to be doing. Sometimes it’s easy to get completely sidetracked by minutiae that in the scheme of things means (or will mean) absolutely nothing, and just serves to take attention from the real goals.

I received two quilting magazines in Wednesday’s mail, the final 2007 issue of $100,000 Quilting Challenge, and the January issue of American Quilter. As a perfect example of how distracted and distanced from quilting I’ve let myself become, I put those two magazines aside to read “later.” Later could have been next week or next month, which is sad, considering how good most things quilting related are for my mental state.

After a rather bad day Thursday that started with waking up to a huge, borderline migraine headache and a critical, unconstructive, snotty email from someone who has absolutely no right to be so, I decided that what I really needed to do to destress for a bit was quilt. Just quilt, and ignore the rest, because it’ll either go away without intervention and/or thought on my part, or it’ll all still be there when I get back to it.

So I shoved everything else on the back burner and quilted The Misery Quilt for a good chunk of time on Thursday evening. Friday I grabbed those two quilting mags that I’d set aside and flipped through while I ate my lunch, and finally realized that I’ve been spending too much time on stupid things that I shouldn’t even need to care about, and not enough time quilting and working toward my goals: making that prizewinning quilt, growing in my art, and nurturing my creative side.

I went to the Guild meeting last night, but I cut it short and came home to quilt. Frankly, I’d rather be quilting than talking about it, and the meetings are just too noisy, too long and there are too many people. This morning, I’m quilting again, and while I’m machine quilting I’m letting my mind wander over to this “distraction” quandary. I read BlogLily’s post this morning about Shots on Goal, and it all made perfect sense, and though she was talking about writing, it’s applicable to anything you do and any goal you have. She says: “If you keep kicking in the general direction of the goal, and pay attention to where your kicks go, and try to make them straighter, truer and stronger, you will eventually get the ball in the net.” The other side of that is if you aren’t kicking at all, the ball’s never even going to get near the net. No shots == no goal.

It’s not that I don’t “know” all that, I do. I just tend to forget it when I get distracted like I have been of late. I don’t want to get tooooo stressed about when this quilt has to be done, but on the other hand, if there’s no goal, there’s no pressure to work, and it’s easier to let life’s distractions creep in and take over. If I’m not quilting, there are no shots on goal. There has to be a happy medium between just enough pressure, and too much. Thank you Lily, for that reminder about all the shots we need to take to get one in the goal.

Other related thoughts have been running though my head while I quilt this morning. When I free motion machine quilt, I try to really get “into the zone” so to speak, to clear out anything that might be distracting and concentrate on the quilting. However, I have to try at the same time not to “over-concentrate” and obsess over every stitch, because it’s actually better for me if I relax and let muscle memory and habit take over; my stitches are more even and smooth if I can do that.

For Love of the Game

For Love of the Game,
by Kevin Costner

It occurred to me that it’s a lot like Billy Castle in the movie For Love of the Game, with Kevin Costner. Like all the movies that I’ve seen with Kevin Costner, it’s a good thing that the supporting actors and actresses and a decent story line keep it from bombing because Kevin can’t act, but that’s beside the point. When Billy steps onto the mound to pitch, he “clears the mechanism” so that the noise of the ballpark, the distracting hecklers, and his own thoughts don’t get between him and what he needs to do: throw a perfect pitch. He needs to flush out all the minutiae so that it’s just him, the ball and the glove, and he can focus on what’s really important right at that moment.

All these semi related bits and feelings of distraction floating around have finally coalesced, helped along by BlogLily’s Shots on Goal and Billy Castle’s Clearing the Mechanism. Clearing the mechanism to machine quilt is good, but applying the theory on a wider scale is even better. Perhaps what’s needed is some time, maybe even an appointment on a weekly basis, to clear the mechanism and reassess what’s really important, and what needs to be done next to make that shot on goal.

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