During high school and college, my Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays were always spent at the same place: Honeybaked Ham. If you're not familiar with HH, it is (or at least was back in the day) the go-to spot for holiday hams. Our local store always had lines wrapping around the block in November and December, so my friends and I had a reliable source for extra cash during breaks from school. I worked at HH for many years, and during that time I had every possible job available in the store. I eventually reached the coveted spot of bookkeeper, but only after climbing up the ranks from my first position as "ham pusher", which involved bundling up and working in the refrigerator pushing hams up to the front of the shelves that opened up to the retail counter. I worked the deli counter, arranged party trays, re-stocked sauces, wrapped hams, and took phone orders. If HH had merit badges, I'd have walked away with a sash full of them.
I am beginning to feel the same way about Squam Art Workshops (SAW). I have been at all three events and at each have played a variety of different roles. I have been a student and a guest speaker, sold my wares at vendor night and taught. I've volunteered, moderated a panel discussion, made signs, written up name tags, hauled boxes, and assisted with check-in. I am committed to SAW, I believe in SAW, and once I make up my mind to give my energy to something, I go all out, which explains why, after all three events, I've returned home wanting to do nothing more than sleep for a week.
Over the past week or so since I've been back home, I have been thinking a lot about my role at SAW, and feel fortunate to have so many different experiences to look to for guidance on what I really want to do there. On the one hand, it is part of my nature to try to take on as much as I can, and this September's event was no exception. And I don't regret going for it the way I did, even though at the end of it I was running on fumes. Because although I was physically and mentally drained, I was emotionally full, my only unfulfilled desire being a wish for more time - for stillness, for meeting new people, for walks in the woods.
I am now taking an inventory of everything I've done at SAW and challenging myself to take on less at next year's events. Not because I don't want to give SAW my all, but because I recognize that 99% of my energy is sent outward when I am there, and I would like to bring that down a notch. I went to this September's events with a number of different intentions and goals, and I am happy to say most of them were fulfilled. I am proud of this, but also see that it is time for me to start playing with the idea of fewer goals and an intention of greater balance. I don't yet know what that will look like, but when I think about my role at SAW next year, this is what is on my mind.
It is hard in a situation like SAW not to want to do it all, take in as much as possible and feel like there is a herculean standard that must be lived up to in order to make the experience worthwhile. The experience of SAW has been built up like nothing I've ever seen thanks to all the gushing blog posts - which SAW deserves, absolutely - and I think it can be hard to go into it without certain expectations. I think it is also easy to see what one wants to see when there, and entirely possible for pre-conceived notions to shape the way the weekend unfolds for each of us (more on this tomorrow).
All that said, my goal now is to let go of trying to do it all and make choices. I need to choose what to let go of, what to say no to, and what to invite into my SAW experiences. It is not possible to sculpt what I want into a perfectly finished idea that I can carry in my suitcase; whatever plans I make or intentions I set will be thrown off kilter by one thing or another. That is the nature of anything in life - I plan, things change, I adapt. And then, before I know it, whatever imaginings I've held in my heart for months will play themselves out (or not) and then it will be over, and I'll be back home again to dream a new dream, and start planning for the next gathering.
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