In addition to enduring this shingles outbreak, I’ve been trying to complete two projects that I just love: weaving a set of dishtowels for our new city convent, and sewing nine pairs of draperies for the Longhouse. I love both sewing and weaving, and winter is the only time I can find good long hunks of time to focus and create.
A creative winter nearly passed me by this year. Or more accurately, I nearly passed the creative winter by. October. November. December … illness nearly canceled my vacation plans, Thanksgiving was less than enjoyable, our main Christmas celebration happened without me, and now we are cozying up to sugaring season and I’m still scratching and feeling numb and can’t seem to get enough sleep to actually feel rested.
But those drapes and towels need to get finished, I love doing both, and in spite of my cootie-ridden state, I’m making myself do something on each of them whenever I can. Helps me feel a little more normal, and a little more like I’m still contributing to the work of the house.
Here’s what I’ve noticed: Projects have exciting beginnings, tedious middles and thrilling ends. Warping the loom, balancing those 490 threads, throwing those first picks to even out the warp, and weaving that first towel ... it’s like opening Christmas presents when you’re twelve. Every shuttle throw is fun, every half-inch pattern exciting. And most of the way through the first two towels feels like this.
Then comes … the middle. Neither project is thrilling now. I’ve slogged through the middle of towel three, and completed the sixth set of nine draperies. Twelve panels, each exactly like the other, are done, but I have six more to go.
I hit the middle and I know I’m going to have talk myself into finishing. The juice has gone; I don’t feel challenged or creative or even very happy. I find other projects (even washing the dog blankets) to be more attractive. I miss the feeling of a job well done on something I’m not sure of. I could do drapes and towels in my sleep now.
Well, I could if I were actually sleeping these days, which brings me to another “middle”. I’m in my sixth week of shingles recovery. The first week or so was spectacular—in the sense that the pain was worse than anything I’d ever experienced and I was treading a medical path entirely new for me. It might have been extraordinarily miserable, but it certainly had my attention.
Now, however, I’ve entered Doldrum Central: the middle. A good day is followed by an awful one; one night I get a full uninterrupted four hours sleep, and the next I can’t seem to sleep more than 45 minutes. One day I spend hours trying to sooth the wild itching, the next all I feel is pain and numbness (yes, you can feel both at the same time and its very strange); one day I feel like extending my 30 minute walk and the next I can’t even think about walking.
The middle, for me, anyway, is the time when it feels like it will never be finished. Like I’ll never have the energy to tackle one more drapery panel, one more towel, one more day when all my exercise consists of scratching and taking pills.
There is good news, though. Since this has been my MO all my life, I know that the middle is just … the middle. I can expect the blahs to appear and that I will want to abandon ship, one way or another. But if I can just put one foot, one hand out toward whatever I’m resisting, the end will begin to appear soon and sure enough.
And then a strange thing happens: I suddenly realize I don’t want the project to end! I want to weave at least one more towel, or set up a whole new warp, or make more curtains, or something. I know that marvelous “mission completed” feeling will well up inside me and I’ll pay rapt attention to every last finishing detail before it disappears with the last shuttle throw, the last ironed panel.
Now about this illness; when it becomes obvious that the last symptom is definitely waning, my sense of joy won’t include trying to stretch it out. I certainly won’t want to take on more symptoms or a new illness. But I will once again feel my old, energizer-bunny energy begin to return. I’ll again be able to crawl into bed with a fairly safe assumption that I’ll be sleeping for most of the night ahead, and I won’t sleep with the lotion bottle in one hand, and wake every few minutes to use it.
Ah, the excitement of beginnings, the challenge of middles, the wonder and joy of endings—all creating space for something else to rise up and begin the cycle of beginnings, middles, ends.