It’s not often that we have the luxury of choosing exactly what we want to work on right at the moment we want to do something. More times than not, we have to deal with the situations that pop up at the time that they do. The Urgent often takes precedence over the Important. Some times the Urgent is Important, but very often, it’s not. The danger is that the things that we want to be doing or think we should be doing take a back seat to the things that someone else has told us we need to be doing.
Case in point… this past weekend, my daughters and I went down to participate in a Pow Wow event in Newhall, California. This is the annual Spring Witayapi, put on by the California Indian Hobbyist Association (CIHA). Me and my girls are avid participants, and each time we go down, we get inspired by outfits or accessories, make commitments to come home and do something about them… and then they go on the pile of “someday maybe”, while the hustle and bustle of real life takes over once again and we deal with the urgent things, while hoping to someday get time to do the fun or interesting things.
This time, I tried something different. I decided i wanted to do something relatively small for my youngest girl, and that was to make some new hair feathers for her. She found a pair of really cool pheasant feathers that our friend Paul Birmingham brought with him from his ranch up in Oakdale, California (Paul is very active in the Pow Wow scene and runs the Wakeda Trading Post). My daughter had an idea what she wanted to have made. She wanted two feathers that she could attach to her braids at the crown of her head. She wanted the two feathers grouped into a cylinder. She wanted a loop to attach the feathers to her hair. Finally, she wanted to have the cylinder wrapped with different colored seed beads. To do this, we would use a “peyote cylinder stitch” technique.
The feather grouping? Easy. The leather cylinder? Also easy. That part we could do in five minutes and then let the glue dry. The beading? Ah, now there’s the rub. That takes time. It also takes patience and an eye towards a clever design. Typically, here is where the story would end. I’d make a comment that I will work on it when I have some time… and that time would never come. On Monday, though, I made a different commitment. I unpacked the car, put away our camping gear and our dance clothes, said hello to my wife and son after so many days away, got caught up on the details of the weekend while we were away, and then I broke out the bead box, my needles, my thread and the feathers, and I started beading. I gave myself a simple goal. One hour. No more. Just to see how far I would get. truth is, I got five rows of beads done in an hour. Not very fast, but it was a start. At the end of the hour, I put the box away, and made a commitment that as soon as I got home the next day, I’d put in another hour. this time, I got further along, about fifteen rows. I also got into a rhythm where what seemed impossible to start or get traction previously started flowing smoothly and took shape fairly quickly.
Historically, Native Americans used the winter months to do many of these artwork pieces, because there were long periods where, because of inclement weather, they couldn’t do other things. It’s been said that this process of making beaded items, among other crafts, was “medicine”, not in the way we use the term for pills and pharmaceuticals, but in that it was a meditative period, one where we could focus on a specific goal or task, and the repetitive process of it allowed our mind to go where it would go. I experienced that quite a bit in these couple of hours, and I must admit, it felt quite good. A friend of mine told me that he used this one hour a day approach to make an entire set of beaded gear for a grass dance outfit one year. When he looked at the requirements, and how much time it would take, he quickly grew disheartened, but then he decided that he’d spend one hour every day, rain or shine, commitment or not. If he absolutely could not do it on a day because he was away or otherwise it would be impossible, he would “bank hours”, but always in advance. If he knew he would be gone for several days, he would double up the hours in the front so that he could take the time away as needed. He never let himself count on his “future self” to make up the difference.
At the end of the year, he had completed a beautiful set of precision beaded pieces (choker, neck drop, harness, arm bands, gauntlets, side tabs and head band. He said there was roughly 380 hours all told in the work he had done, nine and a half weeks worth of working “9 to 5”. In reality, though, he said he hardly felt it, since he was able to spend an hour each day working on it. When I asked him what he felt made for it being a successful project, his answer was that he made a commitment, right then and there, to get started, and that set the stage for the rest of the project.
How often do we say “I’ll work on that when I have time” or “I’ll read that article later” or “I’ll install that tool when I get a few moments”. If you’re anything like me, you say it a lot. I’m also willing to be that, often, that later moment never comes. While we do not always have the opportunity to act on something immediately, I challenge everyone to pick something (anything, really) that they have been putting off and making a commitment, right then and there, to start it, partition an hour a day to do it, and then do everything in your power to get it done. It may have to wait for lunch, or it may have to happen on the train ride home, or in the car, or at the dinner table, but somewhere, and some way, pick something you’ve been meaning to start, but just haven’t had the time. Make the time, and get started. You may surprise yourself on how much you can do when you dive right into it.