Playing Catch Up

The past fortnight has been a delightful time-out-of-time. With an elderly house guest I was fully occupied doing activities which involved him. This left minimal computer access time for me, and only my phone to keep me connected and reading the blogs of my friends.

As it’s autumn here we went into the garden harvesting plums, lemons, kumquats and apples. So many that there was very little room to move left in the kitchen, so cooking and preserving began just to reduce the stash.

We made marmalade, plum jam, chutney, sauce. We preserved pie apples for winter, pickled onions, made spiced plums in brandy and stewed fruit for the freezer. We’re even brewing cider, just to see what happens!

Česky: Jablka jsou všeamericky úspěšná potravi...

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The evenings held more stash busting activities as I was began preparing a lot of fleece for spinning. Combing and flicking greasy wool isn’t something I regularly do, but in this time-out-of-time period it felt right to do it again. I made little rolls of the fibre (rolags) so that I can use a technique called long draw – an old one-handed way of spinning to make a very light fluffy woollen yarn for knitting winter sweaters.

A rolag- the starting point of a woolen yarn, ...

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For the first few days I fretted that I wouldn’t keep up with everything online – that the pile of work was mounting. Which it was of course but only because I felt that work was something to be done and deleted – ticked off – from one my endless lists of things to do.

That was the problem.

I was clinging to those pretty meaningless lists as if my life depended on them. The realisation hit me that there is only so much that can be achieved and that for a short while my “duty” was to our visitor. And that was the turning point – then it became more than a “duty” – it became a real pleasure. By truly experiencing and accepting that we really only have “now” and what we do now is what counts – not the bits of paper designed to map out a career. Only then was I able to let go of the fretting and anguish caused by the tyranny of my todo list. I don’t think I’ll be trying to catch up – just pick up where I was and move on.

I realise that these lists are necessary for progress and development – even sometimes just getting through the day – but I know now that letting them go for a short while is also beneficial. It’s all part of getting on with life, really.

How about you? Do you have a marmalade recipe to share? Do you ever feel the tyranny of lists? Have you been able to take “time out” and not feel guilty? I’d love hear you experiences or thoughts on how you manage.

19 thoughts on “Playing Catch Up

  1. I was raised in a family where my grandmother and great aunts and other women never just sat down. When they did their hands were busy tatting, crocheting, mending, knitting, quilting, shelling peas, etc. as they visited after everything was done for the day. As a result, I cannot sit down and watch tv or just time out without something in my hands. Since I’m all thumbs with anything involving thread, I’ve turned to beading – French flower beading and flat peyote stich small tapestries mostly.

    • But beads are so small and you say you’re all thumbs! I’d love to see some of your beading some day. I remember my grandmother shelling peas in the doorway of the kitchen so she could watch the news, too – lovely memories aren’t they?

  2. Hello Tasmania! Congratulations for being able to turn off the “tyranny of the lists” and what a wonderful way to do it. I especially like the spiced plums in brandy.

    It’s almost Spring in Canada, still mostly barren. I’m looking forward to some tulips coming up soon. Muddling in my garden will be my “time out”, though I’m not particularly good at it. Sometimes I just sit on my bench with a cup of tea and think.

    • Hello Canada – you have such extremely cold weather compared to us, so I can only imagine how wonderful it is when spring finally peeps through that barrenness. A cup of tea in the warm spring sunshine can be a metaphorical as well as literal thawing out. Enjoy.

  3. I know what you mean about feeling as though you’re falling behind. The reality is, though, that it doesn’t matter. Sure, you might have missed some awesome posts from people, but there’ll be plenty more where they came from! (This is what I tell myself, because I simply cannot get around to everything all the time.)

    We all need time out, and it sounds as though you had some lovely time with your friend! (No marmalade recipes to share – sorry!)

    • Thanks for the thoughts Ellen – we did have a good time and you’re right about the awesome posts there will be plenty more. Actually having typed that I’ve realised that that is what I like about “friendly” posts, you can drop in and keep in touch and not feel like you’re missing a lecture!

  4. This is such a beautiful, gently drifting, and deliciously poetic post. And I have at once fallen wildly in love with this moment in your life. So many of us haven’t a clue how to allow ourselves to drift into those essential “time out” moments.” I know my mind has a terrible time stepping away from the lists and regimented duties that define so much of my life. And when I do have a break here or there, always on the return trip into ordinary life, is the self-orchestrated stress of getting back to business.

    I love what you’ve said here, Margaret: “I don’t think I’ll be trying to catch up – just pick up where I was and move on.” So much so, that I hope to make even a portion of it my own 🙂

    • Thank you so much for your comments Barbara. I hope you have an opportunity to drift a little in your life soon – just a touch – then pick up the pace again, it is refreshing.

  5. Sounds like a brilliant turning point, one which I can’t seem to reach. For me, it’s more the anxiety of not getting the list done than the doing without taking a break that makes me feel like life is such a chore sometimes. I am able to let go at times, but as soon as I realize I’ve let go, I get anxious about all that I’ve missed. I’m off on a two week vacation today and while I plan to blog and read and keep up with my online friends, I also plan to let go of all of the responsibilities of home: cooking, cleaning, bills, calls, and work (well, whatever I can let go of). Love hearing about the canning and wool spinning since they are so foreign to me. I would love a future post describing the processes and how you got started doing them. Just a thought.

    • It’s wonderful that you can take a holiday and I hope you can enjoy the break from all the routine things that have to be done. And yes – a I sort out this blogging thing I probably will get back a bit more of the “domestic” – so thanks for you thought out that.

    • Thanks for your comment Julie – I can relate to what you’re saying very well – in the past I’ve never had real satisfaction out of getting something finished because as soon as it is, it’s time for the next thing – ironing, story, assignment whatever. Now, I’m trying to luxuriate in the idea of simply doing the best I can at any one time, and so far it’s OK 🙂

  6. I think it’s awesome that you can writing about preserving fruit and spinning wool and keeping up on blog posts, all at the same time. Would love to try some of your cider…

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  8. I love your phrase, ‘the tyranny of the to-do list.’ It so often takes us out of the present moment into some future perfection when it will all be done-not!

    I just so happen to have a favorite marmalade recipe easy for the microwave: orange pineapple marmalade (not tart like regular marmalade) at all

  9. This is a lovely, wise, charming post, Margaret. I like the phrase “time-out-of-time.” It’s such a challenge to balance progress with rest–charting a course with enjoying the moment, especially the people around us. And since you’re a spinner, you might enjoy the yarn/knitting blog of a friend of mine: Your preserves sound delicious!

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