We’ve all heard it said that speed kills, so when we drive we try to remember the message of that advisory. But what about when we’re not driving?
What happens when we go about our daily lives rushing to fit in all we have — and want — to do? Why do so many of us feel that life speeds up as we grow older? I remember my mother making that observation when I was 50 and she was 80. I didn’t understand back then. I do now.
We all imagine that retirement will enable us to slow down, to take the time to enjoy all of the things we saved to do during this time of our lives. But there is so much available to us, so much we see and want to do, that somehow retirement often becomes a race to get it all in while we still can.
The things we love to do beckon us, and it’s hard to say “not now.” We don’t see the yellow, blinking traffic light advising us to slow down. When we drive too fast it’s difficult to truly see and appreciate where we are.
That’s where the comfort of crafting has come into my life. It slows me down and forces me to relax. It gives me a concrete goal to work toward, and each time I commit my time and myself it gives me a sense of accomplishment.
Whether one is working to mold a piece of clay, saw a piece of wood or weave yarn into something useful, the plans, preparation and production offer us a “time out” that feels good.
According to an article about American crafting in a recent Parade Magazine, “Crafting isn’t just good for the soul; it’s also good for the body and mind,” said researchers at the University of Florida’s Center for the Arts in Medicine. “Through nurse observations, they found that patients who participated in hospital arts and crafts programs — drawing, painting, woodworking — required significantly less pain medication, were visibly more relaxed and reported less discomfort.”
For me, the craft of choice has become crocheting afghans made of hundreds of granny squares. I make blankets for friends and strangers, to give away and provide comfort to those who need something warm and soft as winter approaches.
For my husband Oscar, it’s woodworking, watching the pieces he has cut and shaped come together into a final product that expresses his caring. Whether it’s making a crib for a grandbaby or wood-burning a farm scene, the focus relaxes him and the goal energizes him in a soothing way.
And as the magazine article pointed out, “If your job is sitting at a computer all day, you want to produce something ... People are longing to produce things that are more an expression of their humanity.”
For me, sharing the peace and the pieces of my craft accomplishes this goal.
Craft work is time out from the gotta-get-done duties of daily life. It’s an escape from multitasking, worldwide worries and news of the day, from the concerns that often plague us. It’s a way to clear the slate and focus on doing something that always makes us feel good.
It’s also dependable relaxation in the here and now that results in a pride of accomplishment. It’s a slow-down kind of tranquilizer.
I’m addicted to granny squares — and am not interested in a cure.
Freelance writer Judy Kramer can be reached by email at [email protected] She is author of “Changing Places: A Journey with My Parents into Their Old Age.”