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I am a mother, a grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge was published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon



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Monday, April 27, 2009

On housework and unconditional happiness

My vacation away was amazing. We loved DC, we were so pleased to see a son flourishing there, we had a blast everywhere we visited, and are looking forward to our next trip back. Thank you Americans for being just so nice to us everywhere we went.

There is so much to say now that I don't know where to begin. So I think the best thing is to shoot up some random thoughts and you can just take them for what they are, or aren't worth.

If you are like me you think and resolve pretty much the same things on every trip home from every vacation. Mostly it's about how, after a couple of weeks or so of not having too much more serious to think about than what's for lunch, life is going to get simpler, less cluttered, less harassed - how you are just not going to let things get too much again.

Am I right?

Has anyone else ever cruised back into the driveway at the end of a trip and decided "From here on in I am going to take on more, get rid of all that spare time, worry more, want more, rest less?" Has anyone ever decided that what really needs to happen was that life stopped being so simple and got more complicated?

Of course not.

I have also noticed, in the various places I read, lots of talk about happiness. 7 ways to find it, 10 ways to be it, the One thing that Prevents it.

Well you know what I think?

Nothing can make you happy.

You just are, when you are.

I don't think there are preconditions to happiness. No obstacles in your way, no thing that you can do that will give it to you.

Happiness I think is unconditional and the minute you try to place conditions on it, you've lost it. It seems to me that we are all a lot better at focusing on the things that we figure need to get fixed before we can be happy than at considering the possibility that we can be happy anyway, and that happiness doesn't hang around waiting for better times.

Most of us understand unconditional love. If you have been the beneficiary of it, as I have many times, you really appreciate the value of it. If you have a dog you know what I am talking about, or a child, or a have a good mother. Now no one is going to come along and say that unconditional love is foolish, that really we should place conditions on it for it to be real - we understand that what makes this kind of love so real is exactly the fact that it is unconditional and really that conditions just ruin it.

So why don't we look at happiness the same way? I think this is worth some thought.

We all have long lists of happiness conditions. Make your list. I know women who won't be happy until they find a man or someone was nicer to them. I have had times when I felt I couldn't be happy until I had a different job, or a child moved back close to home,  I know a man who can't be happy until he has a small fortune put away so he can leave his work as a doctor, a job he hates and someone else who always wanted to see his great business ideas implemented a probably never will. 

Closer, there have been times when I couldn't be happy with my sewing until I had pants that fit, or when I couldn't start a new project because I was still so behind with what I started last season. I am sure you know how that feels like.

There also come moments when you realize that the thing you were holding out for probably isn't even going to happen.

In the back of my mind I have always sort of wanted, and never discussed with anyone, the desire to have what they call a beautiful home. I have a nice, small, comfortable house and it is probably a lot more like the house you grew up in than the houses people live in now. I keep trying to get it fixed up and times seem to conspire against me. The truth is that I have put more of my wishes than my efforts into it too. Many times I could have been landscaping, painting or cleaning, well you know what I was off cutting out something new to sew on the dining room table, or reading sewing magazines in the bath when I could have been dusting. I admit it. In fact I even decided last night that I am just going to throw out my living room rug. My youngest son brought his new and darling puppy over for the Family Dinner on Sunday night and being the third new young dog to come visiting this year he had his own turn at demonstrating he is not yet house trained. I looked at that rug and realized the stains were pretty much defeating me (did I mention that my daughter's golden retriever chewed a corner off the same rug too when she was a puppy - I just moved over a chair to cover it so no one would feel bad) and that the only solution was to just pitch it and go 100% hardwood for the duration.

This is actually leading somewhere.

You see tonight I was out visiting one of my sister's relatives who are getting ready to sell their big and yes beautiful home. You can't imagine how nice this place is, and so neat, and spotless - absolutely perfect - kitchen counters clear, nothing on bedroom tables but flowers and cross-stitched pictures and some beautiful quilted wall hangings on the wall. It would be like living in a first class bed and breakfast. Even the grandchildren pictures on the fridge were in order and all the same size. No scratches on the baseboards anywhere.

Listen I was so impressed again, I am every time I go there. I wished I lived there, I wish that was my  house and that I had lived the kind of ordered life that produces houses like that. I would be very happy in such a beautiful, tidy, flawless home. I bet after your dinner at night you can sit with your tea in such a nice place and just smile, not sit at the table like I do so many nights and wonder if I have the energy to clean up, think about the meeting tomorrow and wonder why all my family even all these kids who have moved out, still leave so much of their stuff and projects behind with me, wonder why I have twice as many pots as cupboard space.

Back to my sister's in-laws house. I understood tonight that I will never live in a place like that. If I was ever going to get there I would be a lot closer by now than I am and that my chance for that particular dream has come and gone. I also acknowledge that they too are leaving this perfect place behind. All the kids are gone and live in other parts of the country, no one comes home often and its just too big to maintain for just the two of them. They are selling and moving into a condo like so many people do. I joked to my DH as we were leaving that we don't ever have to worry about down sizing because I think we are already there.

But I thought about my sister's mother-in-laws quilts. They were very nice and she said this to me "I always wanted to quilt all the years I worked but I didn't have the time until I retired at 65." She waited until she was 65 to sew. This made a big impression on me.

I don't really know how to say this but you know even bigger than the happiness I am not going to get now by ever having the beautiful immaculate home I secretly always wanted was the happiness that I actually achieved by the sewing and creative schemes and delusions and satisfaction of my innumerable projects over the years, done in the middle of considerable lack of order, both in my life and in my house, when I was in middle of a whole lot of other conditions that weren't being met.

And it seems to me that the happiness you have and can make for yourself today however you can make it, is more real and worthwhile than any happiness you are waiting to happen.

We all make our choices and the choice to just be as happy as you can despite all the evidence is one of them.