This past weekend I pulled my sewing machine out from my greatly diminished craft chest and wondered why I hadn’t gotten rid of it along with my other supplies. I haven’t sewn since high school – the summer before college, I discovered everything I sewed started to look like a manic episode with an etch-a-sketch.
The bottom half of the thread would bunch up into unmanageable bundles and soon the machine would stop moving forward. I gave up on my machine, and away it went. For years.
And when I got it back out this weekend, the machine and the thread still bunched, and it still jammed up. Only this time I actually stopped to think about why it was happening.
A five-minute YouTube video taught me that it was a matter of tension. I had never adjusted the bobbin (bottom thread) tension, and to adjust the top tension I often just turned the dial to a random, sounds-good-to-me number.
So, I adjusted the tension the right way. And it worked.
After that, I sailed through the pillowcase project that’s been on my mind for weeks. I found myself immersed in a hobby I had forgotten so long ago, and rode a creative high for the rest of the weekend. I felt energized and encouraged by nothing more than a simple, beautiful clean stitch.
Good tension and bad tension
I realized that to get those straight stitches I had to add just enough tension to make it right – note that there’s still some tension needed.
To keep balanced we all need to find the right level of tension, and I think many of us, young and old, stretch ourselves too far and wind ourselves up too tightly. We pack our schedules just so we can feel busy and important, without stopping to focus on what’s actually important (the link, by the way, is a must-read).
So, what’s bad tension?
- Credit card debt
- A cluttered home
- A hostile work environment
- Unhealthy relationships
- Overflowing schedule
And what’s good?
- Reasonable deadlines (and less procrastination)
- Structured, well thought-out goals
- A daily habit – such as journaling, reading, or even flossing
- Healthy competition (I love this one – just careful to not overdo it)
- Spending uninterrupted, focused time with loved ones
These seem obvious, but so many nuances lie between them that sometimes it’s easy to mistake bad tension as acceptable and healthy. It’s even easy to see the positive tension as overwhelming when we’re already stretched to our limits.
So next time you’re feeling tangled up and close to a complete shutdown, stop and examine the tensions you currently have in your life. Write them down – both home and work tensions – and carefully consider each one. Is it necessary? Can it be adjusted?
Ease up on some of the bad tensions, and put a little more stress on what’s healthy and important. You’ll come away with the beautiful feeling that everything is back in it’s proper place.