Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Circles


Did you ever feel like you were running around in circles?  I ask because, well, I'm hoping I'm not the only one.

At a recent dinner party, I was seated next to a late 40-something mother of three--  A newly divorced and happily dating woman overflowing with energy and a sense of wonder, who asked me a simple question--  What's your passion? 

*Blink*

My blank stare caused her to continue firing more probing questions faster than I could say "Margarita on the rocks, please!". (And, I don't even drink.)  Her high octane wonder was all about "reinventing" herself and she wanted a little "how to" advice from me.

"What excites you-- makes you jump out of bed every morning ready to meet the world?  What are you just itching to do?  Are you traveling, where's your next adventure, what's new and exciting that's coming up for you???"

Her questions instantly depressed me because I couldn't think of One. Single. Thing. that would even remotely sound "exciting or passionate" to this woman who was only 6 years younger than me.


Had I lost my fire?  Was I really as boring and underachieving as I felt at that moment?

It reminded me how little I've managed to accomplished lately despite feeling like I've been in overdrive for months-- chasing important paperwork, coordinating appointments, arranging get togethers, looking for all the stuff I can't seem to locate when I need it... You get the picture.... running in never ending circles with no sense of accomplishment and definitely not an ounce of passion.

A sense of accomplishment is one of the things I miss most since I stopped working nearly four years ago.  Even saying it's been FOUR years puts a lump in my throat...  What the heck have I been doing all this time and when was the last time I felt that joyous rush my dinner partner was gushing about?

Let me back up by saying I stopped working for what I thought at the time were very good reasons-- not the least of which was that I had accomplished enough to have earned the right to "retire".  And, at the time, I thought I had prepared myself for retirement with countless interesting and meaningful things that I looked forward to doing with my new found spare time.

Leisure time worked really well for me-- for about a week and a half.  Seriously, how much sleeping in and lunching with friends can a Type A personality girl do?


In short, I have not learned to fully embrace life in the slow lane-- A new life without fast-paced deadlines, business meetings that made my blood boil, globe trotting to film festivals, or creative sessions that made me sit straight up in my chair with joy.

Yes, I now do meaningful work with two important charities-- arts education and lupus-- and yes, I spend far more quality time with family and close friends, but it's that sense of accomplishment-- the excitement of a successful project you can see or touch, that's left me feeling like I'm a bit lost and running in circles.

So after that dinner party I took a long hard look at "retirement" (gawd I hate that word) and grabbed the bull by the horns, so to speak.  My first step was to embrace and enjoy running in circles... By way of my sewing machine.  I've spent hours going round and round and round and the sense of accomplishment with every turn has been refreshing and even exciting as I watched the project come together.


No, this might not sound glamorous or exciting to some, and definitely not to my dinner companion, but I'm coming to understand that "following your passion" can also be finely disguised as being content with your life.   

How's life treating you?
Welcome to www.TheFiftyFactor.com  -  Joanna Jenkins
Photo Credit: Joanna Jenkins

47 comments:

oceangirl said...

It is beautiful. Your organizational and paying attention detail come through beautifully!:)

I am looking for new dreams that I would like to turn into a new goal.

Brian Miller said...

oh but that quilt is glamourous and exciting...love the colors....and you can find that passion if you want to as well....

Deb Colarossi said...

That quilt is unreal.
This is an area you should look into perhaps?

Cindy La Ferle said...

Oh, JJ, you are singing my song again! First, let me add my praises for the gorgeous quilt! And I love how you got that "contentment" is the perfect reward for following your passion or your bliss.

I get exactly what you meant in the first part of your post, too. I've had to slow down my writing career to care for my mom and deal with her dementia ... just when I thought I would start to enjoy the freedom of the empty nest and have more time for my creative work. It's very hard to step back and feel like I'm not accomplishing something "important" with my work, even though caring for my mom is very important ... I think I need to redefine "achievement"!

I just read a quote that said something along these lines: "In our culture, we're good at getting what we want, but we don't know how to enjoy it once we do." Isn't that the truth?

Christine said...

beautiful sewing,I've never learned to do that more's the pity. I like your last sentence about contentment versus passion. Maybe it all depends on what stage in your life you're at.

Fireblossom said...

hey, sewing works!

my passion, of course, is my poetry.

Cloudia said...

"Dance!" What, you don't dance on command? Join the club! Your last lines said it for me too. at last! I've had plenty of drama, now I'm floating submerged in life's honey.


Aloha from Honolulu
Comfort Spiral

>< } } ( ° >

Shug said...

I am very impressed with your words!! Contentment is the key word!
I too have experienced these same feelings, but they were very short lived, because I realize that what I do matters to others and that I really am content.
And, may I say that I am very impressed with your quilt! Gorgeous!
hang in there...Enjoy life to the fullest, by loving what you do.
hugs,
shug

Tammy said...

Your quilt is beautiful. I totally understand how you are feeling. When I quit working I wondered how or what I would define myself by, since my job had been it for so long. Then I realized my passion was just enjoying every day, every sunrise if I was up, every sunset, time with my husband that wasn't rushed, living life on my terms and doing what I wanted or needed to do. And right now my passion isn't very exciting, it seems getting the house and laundry and grocery shopping done so that when I get chemo on Friday I can rest for the whole weekend and recover from feeling like crap with no guilt or dirty bathrooms. Wow, that sounds just sad, huh. Hugs!!

Liz @ A Nut in a Nutshell said...

You've just settled into a comfortable rhythm, and I think that's terrific. Or maybe I'm just trying to convince myself the same thing about my life. ;)

Ina in Alaska said...

LOVE everything about that quilt! Not so much your dinner companion.

tattytiara said...

I do love that quilt, and absolutely - your passion is what you define it as. I do like meeting people like your dinner companion and, you know, YOU, who remind us to ask ourselves that question occasionally. Always good to take stock on these things and make sure we're where we want to be!

Anne@A Little Fur in the Paint said...

Great post...Lovely blog! I'm a new follower!
Best,
Anne

fiftyodd said...

Ah, wait until you have the Sixty FActor. It's no different. I've never really had a strong passion for anything (except my husband of 34 years), although I do rememember blogging madly 3 times a day when I started six years ago. There was so much to say. Now I'm just 'content', busy with a new career "Granny".

Izzy said...

Funny, my husband asked me the other night if I was happy since I quit my job a year ago. I answered "yes", but I do so miss that sense of accomplishment. I miss that "job well done" or the "we couldn't have done that without you". I somewhat find that through my shop when arrived the customer receives their package they email to say "love it". But it's not the same. But, I'm learning to live without it... And after I've put out 15 cubic yards of mulch and 75 bales of pine straw I step back, pat myself on the back and say "job well done, I couldn't have done that without you". =)

Izzy said...

Grammatically that comment above was the worst in history. =( Doesn't matter. I'm wondering when are you going to start selling those amazing quilts because I really want this one!

SueAnn said...

Love that quilt...well done!
As for passion...for me it is creating a new piece of art...I love it. Causes me to jump up every morning with new ideas to try on the piece I am working on. I love it!!
Good on you discovering your passion.
Hugs
SueAnn

ladyfi said...

It's all about following our dreams - no matter how small or big they are.

Love that quilt!

Joyce said...

I love your passion! Not only to create with love, but a talent that could warm a person in need of a hug or creating a little empire. Dating can get old, but not the love of creating. :D

noexcuses said...

Wonderful post! I'm sort of coming to that part of my life, too! Moving and empty-nesting at the same time. Life will be different, but I look at it as a new adventure with lots of time to explore!

The quilt is beautiful! I'm so torn between selling my old sewing machine or hanging on to it so I can create works of art like you have!

jane said...

geez woman! that quilt is gorgeous!
p.s. i´m still waiting for your bestseller. :)
x

Hilary said...

Passion takes on many parts. If you're content and and doing things you feel good about.. no matter the proportion, that's passion. The quilt is lovely. The colours show passion. ;)

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Passion, like fire, can look different. Cozy hearth. Bonfire. Conflagration. Embers. I think everyone' can look different, too.

Ms Sparrow said...

Do I detect a bit of an apologetic tone in your post? Well, knock it off! That newly-divorced woman is going through a temporary phase, not a new life-style. She will come down from the "high" and begin to evaluate her position in life and question her choices just like the rest of us. Don't try to validate your life by her current state of passion!

Betty WSch. said...

A good friend of mine just started taking art lessons for the same reason. She found her passion in drawing/painting, but I am still in the process of finding mine.
I hope we get to see some of your new creations on the sewing machine!

Nezzy said...

Seems I had grand illusions of 'retirement'. Ya know, readin' a book on the deck while watchin' the birds frollic and the flowers grow. Boy was that a pipe dream!!!

It's a runnin' joke 'round the Ponderosa 'bout my 'free' time. I'm an all or nothin' kinda gal and seems I shoulda known I'm too dang spastic to sit anywere! Heeehehehe!

Girl, we see your passion all the time though your words,your zest for life, the love of family, your wonderful sense of humor and in that beautiful quilt baby!!!

(Just let me talk to Miss Excitement who's gotta clean slate for ya!)

I can't sit still long enough to sew a square but oh my goodness glory, circles. Wow, ya have to have passion to complete that project!

You have yourself one passionately blessed day my dear!!! :o)

CiCi said...

There is a quilting group in town that meets every Thursday and I am in awe of them. They don't meet at the senior center, most of them are not seniors. It makes me wonder if I will have time some day to learn to quilt. Your work is beautiful. Absolutely lovely. You have a great talent. Actually you have many. Hugs.

beth said...

lately more and more people are asking that question...what's your passion. what excites you ?
and at first, it scared the crap out of me, but now that i truly have a passion, i find myself asking others the same thing.

with that said, thank god you're content. i have a retired girlfriend who has yet to find her passion {other then TV shows} and is far from being content. i think i need to have a talk with her :)

xo

Michelle said...

It's funny that your last line was about the important of being content with your life. That was what I was screaming in my head the whole time I was reading your post. Things don't have to be GRAND for us to be happy. And who could ask for more than that?

Formerly known as Frau said...

I couldn't answer one of those questions either!......!
Love the quilt the colors are gorgeous! I enjoy each day it's just different now than before and that's my struggle! I wish I was that zest for life kind of gal....

Taradharma said...

I hear you on the retirement issues -- I have the same ones after retiring two years ago. And that woman? She's on a temporary high of freedom and it too shall pass. Her life will once again become as sedate as everyone else.

What gets me up out of bed in the morning is the thought of a leisurely morning walk followed by a cup of really good coffee.

My sense of accomplishment comes from being an excellent domestic goddess and helpmate to my parents. I'm the 'go to' gal in my family when all the worker bees are running around like chickens with their heads cut off (mixed metaphor). It's a whole different existence, and just as valuable (if not more so) than working for someone else.

Now, if I could only quilt like you do, THAT would be a great sense of accomplishment. It's a lovely piece of art, my friend.

Friko said...

If you find that you a lot of time in your retirement then you aren't really retired. I now wonder how I managed to work, when my days are full of stuff that needs doing urgently. Gardening, walking, doing charity work, reading, writing, cuddling the dog, thinking, entertaining and being entertained.

Everybody's dreams are different, I do what I want to do when I want to do it. It's bliss.

(Blogging is a part of it too, I would never have had the time for it before I left work)

PⒿ @ $ € € ₦$ ₣®0₥... said...

JJ! The first thing that struck me about that post as I began reading it was that you said there wasn'ta single thing you could think of that would sound interesting or passionate to THIS WOMAN!

My brain started screaming, 'who cares how what you do, or what you're passionate about sounds to someone else?'

'What about your work for lupus and arts education?'. Yes my brain screamed it before you wrote it.

'What about your love of family?'. Yes, that, too, came to mind before you wrote it.

To your readers, your passions are clearly defined and obvious.

And now you've created this beautiful quilt!

You inspire countless folks by example, JJ!

Holly said...

I am sitting here crying. Yep, you made me cry. Are you happy now?! First, I had no idea you are that talented in the sewing regard. The writing, well, yes we all know that, but who knew about the sewing thing?!

Next, just last night I was running negative tapes in my head...having just come back from Michael's business trip where I am simply, "Michael's wife," while he's a million dollar producer for this fortunate company. And, I realize that although those people think I'm fun, charming, and witty, they don't have a clue who I USED to be when I was a professional person.

Hell, I don't even much remember who I used to be. So I can so relate to this post. So, friggin' relate.

I'm running in cirlces chasing my own fat tail. It's in my mind mostly, but some days it's in the reality. I'm feeling lost and I'm feeling less-than and fretful.

I can't shake the feeling that I'm supposed to be doing something important but I don't know what it is and IT hasn't presented itself to me. I'll be 57 in a few months and I look at myself and wonder How the HELL did you get so old and what do you have to show for it.

And, then I sigh...but this post of yours? This one, it made me cry because you are not alone...I'm there with you except that I can't sew! BITCH...

Joanna Jenkins said...

Oh Holly-- You are the greatest. That last line of yours above-- THAT is why I love you so much. We are Soul Snarky Sisters. xoxoxo jj

Attila the Mom said...

Really great post! It seems my life has been running in circles for everybody ELSE for the last few years. Working really hard to find things that make me want to get out of bed in the morning! LOL

diane said...

Joanna, Of all of the blogs on my "roll", yours is the only one I took the time to comment on today. That is because I believe we have a lot in common.
When I feel "dumbfounded" as to how to answer a question, flustered, it's usually because my audience wouldn't really understand my answer. Not due to anything lacking in me. So, I am sure this woman would never understand or appreciate what your passions are.
There, feel better?

Unknown Mami said...

I think your efforts are pretty darned rewarding. Keep going around in those kinds of circles.

Mike Smith said...

JJ - I think the hundreds of people who read your wonderful blog have provided you with the answer!

Chrisy said...

oh darlin...we can all identify...i wonder if it'd be a good thing to write down in a diary what you do each day...just jottings...think you'd find that you accomplish much more than you realise...yes you were caught unawares by the question at dinner...but you're obviously doing good things...being there for friends and family...volunteering...but yes creating is exhilariting...you'll know what to say next time! ps my daughter once told me that i had a circus in my head...pleased to say it'd toned down these days...

Cathy Clementz said...

I think we all have different concepts of what "grabbing the bull" is all about. I think, from the years I've been reading you, that you have successfully entered into the world of retirement. Possibly you just don't feel as fullfilled as you had hoped you would and I guess to some the other persons' grass always looks greener, but I admire what you do/have done/continue to do...even the sewing! I don't sew, I staple and tape!!

Suldog said...

Your last paragraph says it correctly. Sometimes, being content is what makes us... well, content! And what we find fun and worthwhile may not seem very exciting to us, but it may actually be just the thing for the other person who is asking you about it. And if it isn't? So what? The person is asking what makes YOU get out of bed, not what you think might get them out of bed. I get excited about fast-pitch softball and playing the bass, among other things. Do those things float YOUR boat? I don't know for sure, but I expect not.

I know it's a fairly useless thing to say to a Type A, but relax. Enjoy where you are instead of worrying about where you're going to be. And really, truly, understand that what you see as possibly unexciting and unfulfilling is probably envied by quite a few!

Relyn said...

This quilt is so incredibly gorgeous! I LOVE it - especially that first image.

Barbara Shallue said...

I love this post and I love that quilt! You are so right - we have to figure out what it is we're passionate about and pursue it, whether or not anyone else understands it or not. (And yes, I run in circles half the time myself!)

Connie said...

The quilt is awesome! I'm not sure I could answer any of those questions myself! Your writing touches a lot of people.

Sarah said...

Well first hon I will say..WOWZA that quilt is stunning...make more please..and anything else your heart desires..Let Fly girl!!

And then I will say...that exact thing happened to me. But the question was.."When was the last time you felt Joy?" Stopped me dead in my tracks and there I sat for a good deal of time..like months. I knew what my passion was...you do too:) But I was avoiding being brave and letting go of things that were keeping me in a rut with my artwork. I felt stale and uninspired! So..I let go of what I was holding on to..and stepped off that cliff. Whoot I am happy to say..it worked. I feel joy and wonder and bliss and well yup..I feel passion again! Let Fly hon..cause what else is there!? Retirement...forgetaboutit!! Just another chance to reinvent yourself hon!! Huge hugs and love, Sarah

Lilly said...

Oh as I was reading I was thinking there is no way in hell I could have answered that woman either. I am very much the same. I am busy but not necessarily making great strides. Life is peaceful though and I like it. I agree contentment is where it's at. And your quilting is magnificent. Very clever.