Are You Getting In Your Own Way?

by EMILY ORTON on NOVEMBER 1, 2016

Sometimes we get in our own way.  I know I do.

With my eyes closed, my weary head on the pillow, and a fluffy duvet beginning to warm me, Erik asked, “What are you interested in these days?”   What a thoughtful sweet man trying to connect with me at the end of the day.  I rallied.   My brain flipped through the mental files of my day.  I told him about a podcast on philsophy in the secular age, a Google search on fascial tissue (our bodies are held together with snot!), a news article on teens growing up in New York City (we have some of those), a new geography resource book, and how bacon isn’t actually that bad for you.  My enthusiasm grew.  Eyes open.  I was sitting up now.  I told him about DIY word books for Lily, and this terrific ebook series on copywriting...  ZZZZzzzzzzzzz.  Erik? Before I got halfway through my list, he was asleep.

Halfway through our morning hike, I said, “I was a little embarrassed when you asked what I’m interested in because there were 15 different things from one day.  I realize I'm spinning my wheels.  I have a lot of enthusiasm and very little follow through.”  Erik listened and thought about it.

 Halfway through our morning hike

Halfway through our morning hike

Later that day Erik knew what he wanted to say, “I love that you’re interested in so many different things and that you enjoy learning.  It’s hard for me to dig in and support you because your interests keep changing.  I can't keep up when you're zipping by.”  Good feedback.

I was getting in my own way.  I was more fickle than fascinating.  A life in which I developed skills and Erik could participate in my interests was compelling.  Maybe it would be worth nurturing one interest beyond the trivia level and into a skill.  I decided to focus on learning to use a serger.

A serger is a sewing machine on steroids.  It has four giant spools of thread and a built in blade to slice the fabric as it binds the edges.  Many people find sergers intimidating.  I was one of those people for years. I wanted a serger because our Lily has narrow shoulders, short limbs, and a round belly.  Every clothing purchase for her required alteration.  A serger could help me both alter and make clothing for her.  Sergers were perfect for the stretchy materials that most comfortably fit her. 

 Many people find sergers intimidating

Many people find sergers intimidating

We have a saying:  If you want your wishes to come true, tell as many people as possible.  I had done that.  A serger had been sitting on my desk for 10 months and I hadn't learned to use it.  Neither had the two owners before me.  I had talked to pattern makers and friends who sew.  I wanted someone to hold my hand.  All were encouraging, but we never set a date for me to learn how to use this beast.  The months passed.  Sometimes when you get your wish, you have to give up your excuses.  That can be hard.  I decided to hold my own hand and turn this interest into a skill. 

When you get your wish, you have to give up your excuses.

That night the kids were watching season two of The Flash.  I resisted.  Sitting at my desk, I resisted.  Instead of reading articles about marketing, fashion, healthy food, philosophy, and history…I searched videos on serging.  Woah!  You can dip your toe into any interest and begin to get a sense of how deep that pool is.  Tutorials, patterns, pins, and so much advice.  I learned the people who use sergers like puns just as much as sailors.  There was SergerPepper (Beetles fan) and sergeanddestroy (Really?)  This was all a little too advanced for me.  So…I turned off my wifi and I opened the manual.  

That first night I labeled every part of my machine.  That’s all I did.  Naming all of the functional parts made me more comfortable with this hunk of metal.  Seeing my casual handwriting taped all over it made it friendlier.  Within three days I had threaded the demon and by the fourth day, I figured out how to make the stitches.  Now, I was ready for Youtube. 

 I labeled every part of my machine

I labeled every part of my machine

I stitched two pieces of cloth together.  I hemmed a large rectangular piece of fabric to make a table runner.  On the outside it looked like a casual picnic.  On the inside it felt like I AM ON FIRE!!!  I texted friends.  I instagrammed my hem.  My next goal was to hem store-bought clothes for Lily.   I did it.  Despite some tedious unpicking, she finally had pants and shirts that didn’t puddle at her ankles and wrists.  Small victory!  

 I AM ON FIRE!!!

I AM ON FIRE!!!

 Small triumph - pants that don't puddle

Small triumph - pants that don't puddle

When we chose to sail the Caribbean as a family, we couldn’t simultaneously climb Yosemite Valley.  It’s the same with smaller ambitions.  I can’t check instagram and look in my child’s eyes at the same time.  I can’t be fickle with my interests and expect to develop skill.  I got out of my own way and learned to use a serger.  I'm excited for the mini-milestones en route to my serging summit:  creating three basic patterns.  For every small step there is also a small triumph.  

What are you interested in these days?  Are you getting in your own way?

For every small step there is also a small triumph.

 "Mommy, I like my reflection!"

"Mommy, I like my reflection!"