Getting out of a rut

Different situations can lead one into a bit of a rut sometimes. Motivation to start a project, continue work on one – in short, getting the elbow dislodged from ones behind – seems utterly illusive. Thankfully, there’s help to be found among kindled spirits!

2022 will fade into history as a rather terrible year for my family and me. One of my uncles, the one I had the closest relationship with, passed away suddenly in may. My father in law was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the start of the year, and passed away August 17th. My own father was fighting cancer too at the time, and had been ill for a few years. December 10th 2022, dad left us peacefully and he too went home to Jesus. I got the opportunity to care for him a short while near the end, and our girls, my wife and I got to say goodbye. We live in another part of the country, so I knew it was the last time I would see him.

Now the hard part is to come to terms with the fact that I cannot call him or send him a few pictures of what I’ve been up to, anymore. I used to share pictures with him and comment on the images what I was doing. When we talked on the phone or via FaceTime, he often talked about what I was doing and gave me his acknowledge and “attaboy”. But I can’t do that anymore.

Which leads me to this blog post, which I am writing in January 2023. Last year I spent what energy, effort and time I had working in our garden. Not much woodworking going on, really. And in the shop, it looked like a bomb went off. Tools and thingamabobs everywhere! I could not see my work bench top because it was full of stuff. The other day, I managed to spend a few hours tidying and cleaning up. That felt really nice.

During the summer, I stacked some white oak boards in my shop in order to acclimatise them and get the moisture content down below 9% (-ish). I shuffled the boards around a little and made the stack neater, and I put a big slab of ash and a big fir plank on the very top. Usually, this would get the juices flowin’ good, but I just felt completely empty.

Motivation? Nil!

What could it be in there? When I took the picture, it was a stack of dissapointments.

This really dragged me down, and the grief from loosing loved ones to cancer became overwhelming. I could not find any joy in the shop, so I switched off the lights and left.

Then I reached out to one of the Facebook woodworker groups I am a member of (I miss the olden days with forums / bulletin boards! The FB group user experience is abysmal comparably!). I asked what people do to get going when they hit the wall. And I got a TON of replies! I did not ask for empathy and kind words, just what to do – it was not meant as a “feel sorry for me and give me tons of likes” type post, and it did not turn out as one either. I got lots of support and kind words which I am very thankful for, and I also got lots of different tips and ideas.

This really warmed my heart! Getting all that from a bunch of people from all around the world which I never have spoken to or met – but you all (you know who you are!) reached out to me in the most heartwarming ways. To quote Anne Frank “peopleĀ are really good at heart” – an idea I share to the fullest. I was offered to reach out to individuals via private messages, and one person who is a therapist offered any help that could be provided given the fact that we live on different continents – if I wanted to. All those nice folks really warmed my heart and gave me a push in the right direction.

I won’t list all the answers, but here’s a few examples that I want to pass on if anyone who reads this, find themselves in the same situation one day.

Adam grabs a rough sawn board and starts making shavings with a plane or spokeshave. Transforming the rough surface into a smooth one gives him the feeling of accomplishment, and it gets the wheels turning.

Hollis advices to sit with my wife, plane the edge of a board just to listen to the sound the plane makes, dive into Youtube for inspiration – and reminds us that December / January truly is the dark time of the year. Sometimes that’s more than just a literal truth.

Don learns a new type of joinery method. The harder the better.

Joseph recommends putting grief and trauma aside to do something – or allow time for grieving. But he also points out that it is wise to talk to somebody about it, preferably outside the house. Wise man indeed!

Shawn sneakily suggest just to start something even though one’s heart is not in it. Sly, Shawn! Sly! And SO true!

Several people advices to make a memorial piece, take on a commission, make something to give away – or just make anything. Carve a spoon, what ever. I also was advised to seek professional help, support groups, medical help and several good advices like getting enough fresh air and – when the time comes – start a project in the garden that is physically demanding (I have already planned at least one of those, so that’s happening!).

Getting advice from all these wonderful people, truly gave me a big push in the right direction. Knowing that people has gone through similar stuff and learning how they got on with it – it is such a powerful thing! Intellectually I know perfectly fine that I am not in any sort of unique situation. Far from it! But there is quite a difference feeling that in your heart!

The reason why we may end up in a rut is of course an individual thing. For me, grief caused by the loss of loved ones (and I’ve been loosing my dad for a long time; such is often the curse of cancer) has caused my woodworking to grind to a halt.

But I do feel that the wheels are turning a bit again, thanks to the feedback I got!

I recently bought this little shoulder plane that can be a bull nose and a chisel plane too. It is a bit rough around the edges when you get it, but I fettled it into a great little plane within a good hour or so. The review will be published here shortly!

This blog had been idling along too, but I feel that I have gotten some motivation for writing back. And that is in no small part thanks to all the wonderful folks in the Facebook group that displayed such level of kindness and so many great advices.

The most important thing for me is the fact that I have so many kindred spirits around this little blue marble. Good folks around the globe that shares my interests and – for a brief but important moment – walks two miles with me. Those are my support group, the ones I turned to that could help me get going again with my woodworking hobby. And, as the main purpose behind this blog is anyway, I am saying thank you by paying it forward – by bringing the message on to someone else.

To all of you: Thank You!

I’ll end this blog post with a quote that has helped me a lot, and which I dedicate to my father. It is from the song “Go rest high on that mountain” by Vince Gill.

I wish I could see the angels faces
when they hear your sweet voice sing

Arvid Fagerjord

I love you, dad! We will meet again.

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