By: Lizbeth Selvig
This was going to be a sweet little cautionary tale about remembering, as readers, authors, and all-around busy people, to de-stress during the holidays. As an author, I’m always on some sort of a deadline, and it’s no different this season. I’m only chapters away from finishing a book draft due in January. With most of my Christmas decorations still in boxes downstairs, this is a stressful place to be.
But, I have a few secret ways to spend the moments I’m not writing, and one of them, supposedly, is getting those boxes upstairs and prepping for the holidays. I thought, in my naiveté, I’d write about how to make that fun in the midst of writing. I started by living a couple of my own pre-holiday rituals so I could give you examples, one of which is washing all the linens, doilies and things that have sat around collecting dust for the year. I’m here to report, my wonderful how-to de-stress blog idea literally blew up in my washing machine. I was suddenly looking at typing out a shrill warning about the very stressful dangers of washing a 45-year-old pillow that read “Litter Laws Strictly Enforced” with black socks and your mother’s hand-sewn Hardanger doilies.
After thinking it through, however, I realized there wasn’t much to say. “Don’t do it, it totally stresses you out,” pretty much covers the subject. And if you don’t believe me, a picture is worth a novel’s-worth of words:
So, after a few deep breaths, I rethought the whole de-stress subject and came up with a little change. My new topic: “Things less stressful than deadlines, cleaning out washing machines, OR prepping for the holidays.” In truth, my real secret thing to do when I want to relax and not think of another single, solitary word that has be typed, or gift that needs to be purchased, is to sew.
Quilting—the precision of cutting fabric, the satisfaction of sewing a perfectly straight quarter-inch seam, and the excitement of putting together coordinating fabrics to create a thing of beauty—is usually the perfect antithesis to holiday stress and the messiness of writing a book.
But here’s the real story. Because of this belief that quilting makes everything better, my sister-in-law and I signed up earlier this year for a quilting class in a new-to-us technique. Advance my skills, I thought. A lovely little change of pace. Something fun for Christmas.
Enter THE QUILT CLASS FROM THE INSANE ASYLUM.
I’m talking about an innocuous-sounding, three-Mondays-for-three-hours course called Paper Piecing Technique. Cool. Make a pretty wall hanging or pillow. Write a nice little blog about it, right? Not so fast.
When we went to pick up patterns and supplies, “surprised” doesn’t begin to cover our reactions. Can you say biggest quilt I’ve ever made? Can you say pointy pieces of fabric, reams of paper with indecipherable markings on them, and intricate designs?
We should have backed out then and there. But—no.
Our first task was to assemble fabrics. Now, SIL and I live by the credo that she who dies with the most fabric wins. SIL is currently winning – has been for years – but I’m doing my best. I needed 19 different fabrics, and I had 13 of them in my stash. (I think that says something about my mental state.) This might have been the first moment when I wondered if this particular sewing project might be a tad on the not-relaxing side.
Then came the first class. Three hours of total confusion. (Okay, so the last half hour we did figure out how to cut apart the forty-five sheets of indecipherable pattern pieces.) I started to realize this might not be done for Christmas—and if I worked on it too much, neither would my book. All I’d wanted was a nice little distraction to rest my typing fingers for an hour or so. Instead I got six or seven hours of homework.
Don’t get me wrong. After all the classes, we decided paper piecing is a gas of a technique to learn, but, make no mistake, it is NOT a restful respite from my deadline pressures or a way to relax from the bustle of Christmas. Restful sewing about now would be making a patchwork quilt for a Cabbage Patch Kid.
And, so, I ended up with a cautionary tale after all: It’s important to relax during the holidays. Imperative, in fact. But when you think about how, remember even things you love can be overdone. Set your priorities carefully. Spend time with your family. Get your writing done. Get your reading done. But everything else is only important if it truly makes you happy. (Shopping? Sorry, I got nothin’ for that—it’s a built in stress-creator.) De-stress by being happy.
As for my brilliant, relaxing Christmas quilting class/project—let’s just say creating a story is no harder and cleaning up after an exploded pillow was less stressful. I think I’ll save that quilt for after the holidays.
What about you? Do you have a sure-fire de-stressor for the holiday season? What do you do to relax from your job—be it writing or working at a day job—or both!
As a present to one lucky commenter, I have a pair of e-books—my first two Avon releases: “The Rancher and the Rock Star,” and “Rescued by a Stranger.” May they bring you a few moments in which to relax! I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and the happiest of New Years!