It's going on all over, this making jam business. It seems every second blog I read has jam musings on it. And while I was jamming our apricots I was thinking about jamming.
Because jamming is all abut using the things you've got now to get you through later when you don't have any. When the apricots are passed and it is cold outside I'll still be able to pop open a jar lid and smell and taste this summer. It is a far superior option to the all year round mentality that sees fruit shipped around the globe, ripened in aircraft holds and tasting like it. Not to mention all those food miles.
But since I was trying to do too much, I was up stirring jam when I should have been sleeping and that got me thinking about a couple of other things about jamming. Jamming in all the things I want to do. And jammin', as in getting going and making stuff happen.
There's lots of reasons why I'm a jammer. There's a certain energy level I have that I see in Amy too, a lust to do. An excitement about new projects and possibilities. An inability to switch off or focus on just one or two things. A desire to try things, learn things, to experience new things. A capacity to get lost in the task to such an extent that I continue long past when those who have more sense have stopped. Because I feel the need to produce to have worth.
I'm noticing as I get older that I am also accomplishing more in that frenzy and I've been trying to understand what has changed. Multitasking is what's usually touted as the time management revolution - and often seen as a highly gendered skill, heightened by childbearing and rearing.
But I don't think that's really what it is all about and I'll go against the flow in saying it is a rare thing for me to do two things at once. Not at exactly the same time anyway and that's what most people think multitasking is.
As I juggle the balls in my professional and personal portfolio (love that term), I see it less like multitasking and more like one bitchin' big game of tetrus. All these tasks and projects and obligations and inspirations rain down on you, and the faster you can see them, manipulate them, prioritise them and slot them in to the schedule, the more gaps you can fill and the more you get done. Recognising possibilities for overlap helps (knitting and watching TV for example), but only where you can afford the consequent diminished engagement (forget knitting complex stitch counting patterns whilst watching TV you actually care about for example).
So I like this metaphor, it is really working for me. But I realise that the key to this, and what has changed over time in my life, is shrinking my basic unit of time.
I used to think in terms of days. Today I will go to school. Period. All other activities are incidental. Or today I will cook a dinner party, or sew a dress. Some activities required more than one basic unit (sew a suit, go away on holidays) and perhaps, on occasion, I squeezed a couple of things in together. You know, lived dangerously.
Then life got busier and the units began shrinking. I went to work all day and went out at night, I started doing lunch in between. I had to juggle to get sessions at the gym or in the pool, find ways to keep up friendships, relationships, family and work when there were no longer any logical connections between them. Units became hours and the jamming, and scheduling, started for real.
Now, well now things have been reduced to units of a mere few minutes.
Number of units I have while Wil plays happily on the floor by himself - 2-3
Number of units I have while the tea brews - 1
Number of units I have while Amy is at Kinder and Wil is asleep - 8-14
Number of units I have when the kids have gone to bed before I should be in bed too - 18
Number of units I have for thinking before I fall asleep - 1-12
The little cubes in the tetrus game are much smaller and there's a lot more of them raining down. They come in odd shapes and I need to work hard to get them all in place without leaving gaps or hitting clashes of time over run. And of course the time allowances have uncontrolled variations built in because some days kids don't sleep, or do but not when you expect, or get sick or stay up late or give me insomnia or other people run late or work comes in peaks and troughs.
And I realise that one of the consequences of all this is that some tasks get done more often simply because I can fit them in easier.
Time to load and turn on the washing machine - 1 unit
Time to unload and hang out the washing - 5 units
The washing machine is often full of clean wet clothes.
Time to write a blog post - 6 units
Time to write a research paper - zillions of units
Not just because the tasks are smaller, but because they are easier to do in little bits and can be stretched to fill in unexpected gaps or curtailed when time drops off (knitting), are portable and accessible (crochet), or can be done whilst doing something else (watching crap TV without subtitles).
And I have to keep a to do list that's equally complex in structure and variety. Urgent tasks, quick projects, long term undertakings, things I can do on trams, by phone, when I am being quiet, when I have diminished concentration. Things I can do one handed while I hold a baby, things I'd like to do, things that must be done. Things that can be bought or outsourced if push comes to shove.
I remember reading a blog post by someone (was it you?) about getting stuck in a hospital for hours waiting for tests or something and reading about this awful day, I utterly understood her punchline - the biggest tragedy of it all was that she had been caught without her knitting.
Oh, all those wasted units!
There are a few things that rarely get a look in, like enough sleep or a quiet walk or rigorous exercise, unhurried observation of the world, mediation or reading for pleasure and I feel their absences keenly. There are things I don't even bother to contemplate anymore like sewing a new suit or clothes that require maintenance.
The system is far from perfect.
But I take some comfort that quite unnoticed this system I have has been slowly evolving. Somewhere in my unconscious mind I have been developing the neural muscle to keep it jammin'.
Oh, and in totally unrelated news I got an email from the boy knitting god in response to a comment I left on his blog. I feel like the heavens opened up and out of the clouds a little finger poked right at me. So his hat just shimmied up the priority list, even though I don't have any of the lusted after Malabrigo worsted. Zarina double strand will have to do.