Research

Happiness Is… Research Note #5

Studying positive psychology doesn’t make me a happy person.

It doesn’t make me a grateful person. Like Thanksgiving Day, it can only remind me to practice gratitude.

It doesn’t make me immune to negative emotions. I’ve learned strategies for coping with adversity, but I still have to enact them.

Following 36 anxious hours, the relief of a repaired sewing machine.

Following 36 anxious hours, the relief of a repaired sewing machine.

When my sewing machine stopped working two nights ago, the uncertainty of how I’d remain productive during this residency got the better of me. I was under-slept and anxious, and when the machine came back from the repair shop with the presser foot unable to stay in the upright position, I’d had it, and lost my cool.

Thankfully, Montalvo just happens to have a sewing machine to lend me. It didn’t occur to me to even ask. (There it is, fellow artists: Have courage! It doesn’t hurt to ask!)

And when I went back to the shop, the repairman fixed the problem on the spot.

Now I’ve got two working sewing machines and am able to get back to work! For that—really, for art, which provides so many opportunities for flow and purpose—I’m grateful.

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Research

Happiness Is… Research Note #4

I habitually plan ahead, but there are lots of things I only learn by doing (and failing). Likewise, experiences drive home the principles I  intend to remember but somehow forget.

Such was the case today, as I got to work on a new project sewing twill tape and transparent vinyl. I had a slow start, as I learned to reconcile the surprisingly stretchy twill tape with the not stretchy-at-all vinyl. It took a few hours for me to find a rhythm and start to make real progress.

So at dinner, I sang my sewing machine’s praises. It felt trusty, reliable, like a lithium ion drill driver—I finally felt like my burgeoning skills are appropriately utilizing some of the machine’s capacities, while the promise of more advanced projects lay ahead for the two of us.

It was ironic, then, when my sewing machine’s feed dogs stopped advancing. Then, the reverse lever offered none of its usual resistance. Something snapped, inside the machine first, and then inside me second. I panicked. I have a lot of production ahead of me during this residency, and most of it requires sewing. I don’t have time for the machine to sit in a repair shop!

But this is the reality, and I must conform to it. As Martin Seligman explains in Flourish, there are realities you can shape, and those you can’t. I can’t change the fact that my sewing machine needs repair. But I can work so that this setback doesn’t derail my residency.

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