Poet extraordinaire Maya Angelou wrote, “I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.”
I don’t do Christmas lights, we actually bought a pre-lit fake tree a couple of years ago, works perfectly, and I love rainy days, that means I don’t have to water, and can’t do yard work so I get to work more in the studio, and so far, I haven’t had to deal with lost luggage (she says as she is furiously pounding on the wood desktop, though I’m not sure I would handle that with grace and ease if I were on my way to a teaching assignment).
I’d really like to think of myself as flexible and easy going, but the truth is, I get stonewalled by the stupidest things. I eventually adjust; after all, I’m from NJ*, but not without a fight. And when I do get railroaded by stupid things, there is usually something else lurking in the back of my head, some insecurity that causes me to momentarily panic.
I’m teaching at Convergence this summer, and for better or for worse, the jury is still out, I’m teaching seven seminars/workshops. That is a huge amount for a four day conference. I’m in essence teaching in every time slot, and there is little relationship between the six seminars and one full day workshop. (i.e. Website Design vs. Inkle Loom Weaving) This situation alone is just a little scary. OK, more than a little scary.
I got the numbers update for my seminars and workshop and I sort of panicked. They are huge. Part of me is really thrilled that so many want to take my seminars and part of me slides into that old insecurity, OMG, what if I screw up, what if things go wrong, what if I’m not prepared… (Yep, seriously, I go through this every time I’m about to teach…, my version of stage fright…). Two of my seminars alone have more than 50 students. Those numbers are a bit unwieldy and as prepared as I usually am, I’m struggling with how I’m going to pull this off.
So when there was a caveat at the bottom of the email about not being able to provide me with an industrial extension cord to power my projector/laptop, I sort of overreacted. I realize that extension cords in a conference center can cost upwards of $50, with all the union costs of installing and taping, etc. and that if every instructor needed one, it could break the conference budget. But airline weight and luggage restrictions make it impossible to add anything additional like a bulky industrial extension cord to luggage that will already be unwieldy packing for seven seminars and a workshop. I’ll be shipping a ridiculous amount ahead, and that just seemed one thing too much.
And then there was the discovery that there is a typo in the conference brochure. Who is at fault in the proofing of said brochure isn’t the issue (I may not have caught it on the final copy, though my proposal was correct) and now I can’t offer a handout to 58 people in one of my seminars. This has put me into a tailspin, my handouts are critical to my teaching experiences and I’m walking around like someone died. I’ve tried sharing my frustration with a couple of trusted friends and my husband and all I get are quotes and reassurances that in the broad picture, this is a nothing issue. They are right of course, and I will eventually get to that place, but not without a fight. The fight is all internal, as much as I preach plan B and C, etc. to students in my workshops, I have my actual workshop formats down to a well oiled machine, and I’m so much less flexible when wrenches are thrown into the works. Remember, I suffer from the insecurity of “What if something goes wrong…” At least I know ahead of time, and of course students can obtain the handout from my web store after the fact. Still, I’m not accepting this whole situation with grace. And I apologize for that. I do know how to let go and get on with it, but first I need to sit on the proverbial pity pot and stew awhile. And sometimes I want a friend to just say, yep, this sucks, and don’t you just hate when that happens? I’ll figure it out, I always do, but having really solid perspective thrown at me (which is incidentally what I would be doing in the reverse situation) is only making me more cranky.
So, I spent the weekend weaving off the companion piece of a diptych to replace the piece I was suppose to send to the faculty exhibit for Convergence. The original piece was unexpectedly accepted to an exhibit at a gallery in New Bedford MA, and won’t be available. To their credit, the committee graciously allowed me to substitute the same work in a different scale, since it will work with the image I had already submitted.
I leave tomorrow to teach a private workshop with two lovely women, both felters, we are spending four days in western Virginia in the Appalachian Mountains. I’m looking forward to this trip, one of my favorite states is Virginia, my mom’s father’s family is all from Virginia, and I have wonderful memories of what a beautiful state it is. And I look forward to applying some of my garment construction techniques to felt.
So today I pack, and try hard not to focus on a conference which is another six weeks away, there isn’t much I can do at this point but adjust, (and I arranged for a friend driving to the conference to bring me an extension cord). My primary focus right now is my two students paying me for this workshop, and leaving my house in the care of my son and his National Guard buddies who seem to have taken up residence in my basement. They are good kids, and with my very competent daughter, they should be able to hold things together until my husband’s return from Saudi Arabia at the end of the week. The list of what they need to take care of and what to watch out for is going on two pages on a yellow legal pad… They are already experiencing eye spasms from rolling their eyes too much…
*Excerpt from the song, I’m From New Jersey by John Gorka
I’m from New Jersey
I don’t expect too much
If the world ended today
I would adjust