Yesterday, I was having a conversation with one of my daughter's teachers about perseverance. He had shown this year's crop of parents a TED Talk about grit, and how students need to be praised not for their outcome, but for their effort. It immediately struck a chord with me as we now have multiple generations of people who are afraid to try things because they might fail.
I was one of those people, once upon a time.
I was always fighting the inner demon telling me the outcome had to "be perfect," instead of appreciating the process. And then I took up figure skating. There are no short cuts in skating. You get on the ice, and there I had the advantage of lots of pond skating as a kid, and you have to build a foundation. That foundation must be strong on both sides of the body, you have to be able to do things as well in a clockwise direction as a counter-clockwise. You have to be willing to execute a particular turn or step a thousand times before you get it right, and then a thousand more before you don't have to think about it. Above all, you have to be willing to fall down. Every day.
Skating taught me to not only appreciate the process, but to embrace the process.
Often I hear someone say in one of our classes that they aren't very good at x,y,z, so they probably won't be good at this. Qualifying their skills before they've even tried. Heck, I still say stuff like that - it seems to be cultural, especially in a town with so many driven and highly accomplished people. And it's true that most of us won't be good at something the very first time, though it does occasionally happen. Lorrie, from our first acid dye class, is a great example of someone with really good instincts for color allowing herself to follow them, and in the process creating stunning skeins of yarn. I was across the table from her in that class, watching with wide eyes as she added yet another layer of color, my own yarn forgotten as I pondered whether she had added the layer that would turn the whole thing into brown muck. I learned as much from watching her play as I did from my own more timid process.
After our Indigo class on Wednesday night, Erika and I met with potential teachers on Thursday and then scheduled some play time with the indigo vat. I can't really picture what's going to happen when I fold and pleat and bind and clamp a piece of fabric. My brain doesn't work that way - picturing how the dye will permeate the fabric and where it will resist. Partly, that is because I am impatient. So I will have to do this a thousand times before I can anticipate a certain pattern of blue and white and then create the bundle to achieve it. Instead, I played. I made teeny tiny accordion folds and created a little package. I liked the outcome so much that I replicated it and it was even better. Meanwhile, Erika was experimenting too with long folds on the diagonal, and achieving unexpected outcomes as well - like the heart that appeared in the center of a scarf she was dyeing for a friend.
We were immersed in process and making mistakes. I haven't felt that degree of satisfaction since I left skating, knowing that I was involved in a process and not fretting over the outcome. Which, incidentally, was pretty awesome anyway because it was indigo.