I must remember to talk to my therapist this week about how crazy it makes me to see all the art retreat workshops scheduled for the following year that I cannot attend! Seriously, this is what I opened our first session with. I think I know what she will say but I need to hear it, repeatedly.

There are three that are definitely on my schedule: the Leslie Marsh/Kim Beller book workshop “Ancient Wisdom” that Susanne and I switched to March after Hurricane Florence caused so much damage and ongoing pollution from the flooding coming downstream on Topsail Island, and Focus on Book Arts in Forest Grove, Oregon, which happens every two years and I will manage to attend it one way or another even if I have to have a car wash and a bake sale on the street every weekend. (That won’t happen, HA! I barely cook for us, and any sweets coming out of my kitchen will get gobbled up before ever making it out the door. And, have you seen my car? Not good advertising.) We also plan to have a retreat for Tapestry Weavers South in Elkin, North Carolina, next September but that is well within driving distance and shouldn’t cost too much.

I suppose that there will not be time or money for any other art retreats. Sandy doesn’t care to come to these (although I think he would enjoy taking a class) and we need to do a trip together or it is not fair to him. Plus, I really enjoy our trips together. We travel together well and it is great for our marriage and will give us memories to talk about when we are in the nursing home.

Here’s another development. I get approached occasionally to teach a workshop or class and I nearly always turn it down. I am not confident enough to teach and my people skills are raggedly for sure. My past experience in teaching made me miserable. I couldn’t figure out how to balance the needs of those who wanted to move faster and those who needed almost constant confirmation of what they were doing and re-explanations. I did these for free to lower my anxiety and make sure these folks were getting their money’s worth in the sense that I was using them for guinea pigs in trying to decide what the timing should be and what worked and didn’t work.

Each time I never offered the class again, and I swore to myself I would not teach again. Then, because I craved the same kind of group experience at home that I travel to art retreats for, I tried hosting a tapestry “play group” in which I emphasized that I would not be teaching but I could offer guidance. What happened was that some people showed up with incredible ideas and work and self-initiative and others showed up with unfeasible ideas that would not work for a beginning weaver, or looms that they wanted to use that I was not familiar with and were not good choices for the kind of tapestry they wanted to do. It was not their fault – they were trying to do it on their own as I asked but it made me very anxious. One guy showed up with an advanced design that I would be challenged by myself, no loom, and followed me around with his cell phone talking about it while I tried to help others. I didn’t get to play with tapestry myself, which was the WHOLE PURPOSE of the group. So I ditched that idea.

My friend Amanda, who owns our local downtown yarn and fiber supply shop, Gate City Yarns, is putting together more classes for the coming months/year with a group of fiber teachers and asked me to participate. Because I really like this group of folks, who tend to be on the funky/edgy spectrum, I went to the meeting last Sunday afternoon, even in the throes of intense anxiety, and was part of the discussion. What I may do, if I can get my shit together and test this idea out BEFORE I do it, is do a two-part workshop where we weave a small tapestry to use as/on a book cover and make a planner for the coming year. If I do it, it will probably be the weekend after Christmas, since I have the whole week off beforehand to make myself crazy worrying about it. But the difference is that Amanda would support me – I would not be on my own – and she is very sympathetic to my situation. I’d be more inclined at this point to do something with books or fabric, but it needs to tie in with what Amanda has to sell, understandably.

Gosh, I think that I might adore Amanda.

I’m thinking that I will provide signatures printed with a light dot-grid pattern and have them punched and ready to stitch, and then the students do a simple long-stitch binding with old book covers or bookboard in class. Then we could attach the tapestry to the book covers and embellish or weave on the spine binding. People could get started on the tapestry in the first class and we could bind the book. Then they could finish weaving the tapestry at home, and we could cut it off at the next class, finish the edgings, and attach it to the book cover(s), then play with a closure and weaving on the spine, if there was time.

It’s crucial that I figure out the timing of this and leave it open enough that if someone can’t finish in class they know enough to finish it at home. Also, I’d probably need to provide some of the supplies such as frame or foamcore board looms and awls and needles and waxed linen for the book part.

You might ask, “Laurie, why do you continually return to an idea that you obviously do not enjoy?”

And I would say, “Retirement, my friend. I am staring at the possibility of retirement in the next ten years and it would be good to have developed some kind of way that I could make a little cash for groceries and supplies and travel and enjoy it. If I practice and learn instead of giving up, maybe I WILL enjoy it. Who can say until I try? I have a studio art degree. I’ve taken more workshops and classes than I can count at this point. If I push through this, my choices might open up into a world of delight. If not, then I haven’t really lost anything.”

Plus, I have a very good job that exhausts me mentally. This is not the fault of my department. It is the fault of being employed by a large organization that is ultimately controlled by politicians who think that education should be run like a business, with people in the higher levels making decisions without understanding or caring about the consequences at the lower levels. At one time, I swore that I would not work for a large org again. However, there is a security issue that can’t be denied, especially for someone with my anxiety problems. I daydream about early retirement constantly but it is unlikely that I’ll be able to do it. Our hope continues to depend on the lottery!

Amanda has a stitch and bitch style gathering that meets on Friday nights but I am usually so wrung out by Friday evening (or half-drunk from beers with faculty after a late afternoon department meeting) that I come home and crash for the night. I think that I will make an effort to put these nights as a definite recurring requirement for my schedule from now on and try not to make excuses not to attend. Often the anxiety build-up at the end of the weekday gives me a headache and I use it as an excuse to crash and burn at night. This is why I only get stuff done on the weekends, for the most part.

Tomorrow afternoon I am going to a Triangle Book Arts gathering in Raleigh. I am going. I am going to this group event. I know that it will be fun. It is an open studio, and I am going to work on a prototype for the book part of this class for Gate City Yarns. Also, I’ve been reading about dot journaling and I want one for myself.

I get this way EVERY YEAR when art retreat announcements begin coming out. CRAZEEEEEEEE. Oh well. Time for another cup of coffee and I’m going to work on printing out these dot grid papers.