Monday, August 28, 2006


I have had a career, raised a family, and keep a household running for most of my life. And while doing all of this, I felt forced to set aside a lot of other things I wanted to do. Things that fall into the guilt-ridden category of ‘an ultimate waste of time’. During all those years I did not read books, or paint, or write, or tat, or knit, or crochet. Always too much guilt. Always too much shame about engaging in such an ultimate waste of time when there was weeding that needed doing, laundry, housecleaning, baking, etc.

Well I’m here to tell you today that these things are NOT an ultimate waste of time. If you enjoy these things, do them. Not at the expense of your children but at the expense of less demands on yourself to be on top of everything else. And this is why.

Since I retired I am a happier person because of all the delightful books I have read. Scads of them. Too many to count. Last winter I did other ‘ultimate waste of time’ projects. I knit Hub two pairs of socks and Hub was tickled. And I was pleased as well. I blog, and that too is an ultimate waste of time but writing is something I must do and have long waited to do.

Hub is also doing ‘ultimate waste of time’ stuff. He pounded posts and fenced the woods even though we have only imaginary beasts to put into that fencing. He built gates and trails in the woods that he grooms regularly. He created a beautiful campsite with fire pits, a biffy, and camping stalls where only imaginary campers are likely to camp. The grandchildren and the little twins next door painted signs for him to put up on posts to mark the trails. We have signposts for ‘Forest Glen’, ‘Caragana Corridor’, and ‘Haunted Tipi Trail’ (there is an old tipi structure on this trail). In his imaginary world, in his ‘ultimate waste of time’ projects, Hub even put up a sign that says, ‘Pick-U-Park (Lots 1 – 35) though in reality if any campers did want to camp here (which is not likely to happen), his campsite has only four stalls.

Looking into some distant future, the archeologists are going to be quite confused some years hence when all this stuff sinks into the clay. Already our closest neighbors are very confused. They regularly pop over and ask ‘what we’re doing’ and with obvious concern, ‘why are you doing it?’ Somehow Hub’s response that he might get an ostrich or some other large beast only causes them greater concern. I expect any day now they will be popping over to ask, ‘What day is it? When were you born? What country do you live in?’ You know, stuff like that.

But I digress. What I really want to do is encourage anyone out there wrapped in painful guilt about doing this kind of stuff to lighten up. I am filled with regret that I didn’t do more of the things I wanted to do sooner. I am annoyed that I bought into the idea that this time-wasting stuff should be shelved until retirement.

Lately I have been tatting. It is fine work, exotic work, so lovely. And seriously, I don’t mean to maliciously wound crocheter’s feelings, but in truth when tatting is compared with crocheting, the comparison is like comparing fine calligraphy with smudged newsprint.

Lately I am tatting large lacy doilies that I hope to have laminated. Either as Victorian placemats for elegant teas at YD’s hoped for Tea House or as heirlooms of a lost art for each of my daughters. But I should have done this sooner. For one thing, it is hard to get the fine thread I need. And tatting shuttles are also impossible to find. But luckily for me, originally my mother taught me to tat with a stick. So if I can’t find another shuttle when I need one, I guess I can still go back to using a smooth stick ditched in a way that allows me to wind thread around it. Hub can make me one when he is less busy with supplying fine firewood for his imaginary campers.

But more than that, what has really sealed my regrets about setting aside all the things that I considered an ultimate waste of time was the ominous news from the Eye Doctor last week. I cannot have new glasses, not until I get surgery to correct cataract. How sad I am to think that after spending a lifetime shelving the things I was longing to do, just waiting to do, I may now have to give it all up. That I might be forced to set it all aside in favor of less detailed work like helping Hub build more fence and clear more brush?

Yesterday, I was forced to set aside a large tatted doily that is almost complete. I am on the very last round and that round is almost done. But my eyes are tired, exhausted, watering, and blurring. So now I am cutting old T-shirts into strips and crocheting rugs. Not what I want to do, not what I prefer to do, but what I am forced to do. This kind of work is large enough I can do it without my glasses and without eyestrain. The rugs are nice, they give me that good feeling that comes with resourceful recycling, but making rugs not what I want to do. I want to tat.

So this blog is to prompt those who are younger than I, to go ahead and do those ‘ultimate waste of time’ things that bring such calm, peace, and enjoyment. Keep that artisan part of yourself honed and in good order at the expense of living room clutter, a bit of dust, or a few weeds in the garden.

After all, there are other things that are eating up the days of the dogged workers that just haven’t been sorted and properly labeled yet. Things like superfluous e-mail, gizmo orientations, computer stuff like virus cleansing, the unending cycle and volume of voice messaging, mundane conversation, painful socializing obligations, shopping for non-essentials, etc. etc.

All of them an ‘ultimate waste of time’!


Blogger the old bag said...

Roberta, what a wonderful yet sad piece. I wish you all the best with your eyes. Thank you for your words and advice.

6:40 AM  
Blogger Roberta said...

OB, I appreciate your visit and your kind concern. I remain optimistic but a little anxious as this was all so unexpected. So mentally I am trying to consider other options for enjoyment while I am recovering from surgery. Slow cycling, maybe?

12:59 PM  
Blogger Eleanor said...

As usual, you've distributed some major pearls of wisdom here. I'm younger than you, but I also regret being so "driven" over the years, denying myself simple pleasures that I enjoy so much. Not anymore. Nobody wants a chronic illness, but coming down with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome a year and a half or so ago has been a huge blessing in some ways. I fought it for the first while and tried to keep going, as per usual, but eventually it won. And thank goodness it did. Has the world come to an end because I give myself the needed down time to recover, and use this time to indulge in pleasurable, quiet activities? Of course not!

Sorry to hear about your eyes, though. It's totally normal to feel anxious and consider the worst option, but do try to stay optimistic. In my nursing days I saw wonderful results from cataract surgery ... on people much, much older than you. So, consider this just a temporary setback until the surgery gives you nice clear "tatting" vision back again. :)

Speaking of tatting, that's something I've always wanted to learn how to do. Now you have me thinking!

8:03 AM  
Blogger Eleanor said...

Oh, and I enjoyed your Pandora's Box series. Trust you to be philosphical about such an encounter. When I had mine with angry wasps about ten days ago, I was too offended and ticked off to be philosophical. I just wanted revenge! And I got it. ;)

8:05 AM  
Blogger Roberta said...

Eleanor, your comments are always so interesting. You are funny, you make me laugh, you comfort me -- what more could I want.

Ah, tatting. You might not find a shuttle in the shops and if that happens you might have to e-mail your address so I can send you a smooth stick.

10:49 AM  
Blogger Julie Oakley said...

Thank you for encouraging us all to rid ourselves of guilt for doing those things we need to do for our souls

11:17 AM  
Blogger Roberta said...

julie oakley, that is such a nice way of describing what we do..."things we need to do for our souls. So I'll continue to nourish my soul with my tatting for as long as I am able, and you go ahead and continue to nourish yours with your delightful sketching. :)

11:22 PM  
Blogger Jane said...

Roberta ~ Two years ago, at age 88, my mom had both eyes done within a few weeks of each other. Her vision improved almost immediately. Last winter she read more than twenty books and is still doing fine. The night after the first operation she and I went to dinner and a production at the local music theatre. Best wishes with your surgery.

8:36 PM  
Blogger Roberta said...

Very encouraging, Jane. Thanks so much for leaving that feedback. Now if I can just be brave enough to keep my mind in that positive vein....

2:49 PM  
Blogger She Dances in Dragon said...

Roberta, how fine a thread do you need? I have way too much cobweb weight wool. I'd be happy to ship you some. It takes dye beautifully. If you tat in cotton, have you considered getting a big spool of sewing thread?

Tatting is one of the skills my great grandmother and grandmother knew and used; but my own mother never picked it up. It's on my "to learn" list. :)

10:02 AM  
Blogger Roberta said...

SD in D, thank you for the generous offer. The thread I use for tatting is size 30. I find sewing thread unsatisfactory because it does not have the gloss or bit of stiffness that prevents tangling. I have done some tatting with fine wool but was not impressed with the results. I have also used hemp thread for tatting chokers and beaded necklaces. The hemp seems to have enought stiffness to work for that kind of project.

So as much as I appreciate your offer, I would rather not gather up something that would not be put to good use.

2:03 PM  

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