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Monday, March 12, 2012

insights: happygirl experiment #28 banging metal

Several ago when we were living in Connecticut I took a class in metalsmithing. Each week I put on protective gear including a gigantic mask, elbow length gloves and protective boots. I felt like Alex in "Flashdance." I had a delirious amount of  fun wielding a torch and hammering the heck out of metal. The tools were enormous, sharp and hot. In every class I felt dangerous and literally cutting edge. It was amazing to me that I could wield a blowtorch and come away with a shiny metal cuff.

Flash forward. I remember how much fun I had metalsmithing that I did some research and signed up for a class in small metalworks (no blowtorch this time around.) Instead of power tools and protective gear this time I would be working with very small tools. When you have to really focus on a  small detailed project all the other stuff going on in your head disappears. It was exactly what I needed to get out of my own head.

I have always liked those silver tags celebrities wear with their kids names on them and I wanted to learn how to do it. I listened to the instructor as she handed out materials. I watched her show us the proper way to hold the tools, how to work with cold fusion. With a small sheet of copper I started to practice and for someone who is a Type A it is hard to fail at something, you want to be great- excellent, perfect out of the box, but I wasn't. My efforts at hammering were uneven, the letters and numbers that I thought would be so easy to do were in fact harder than I expected. You can't go into something like this with your thoughts someplace else. You. Must. Focus.

In this class I was learning patience and how to go slowly, that whacking the hammer hard doesn't necessarily make for a better project, just a louder one. Instead of trying quickly to get through the lesson so I could make my project, I took my time. I studied the metal, I felt the coolness in between my fingers. I slowly measured and taped my metal to my workspace. I took my time and I realized when you start something new it's OK to practice and practice and practice. The instructor was patient with me as I became frustrated, annoyed that my work looked like a kindergartener's project. I was impatient with not turning out a perfect piece right away.

And it happened. The slower I took it, the better my piece was turning out. The secret was being present in the moment of hammering the letter H then the A then the P. In this afternoon I learned that whether I was in control of a 2000 degree blue flame or a tiny 1/8th inch piece of metal that to succeed in a project you must be entirely focused in the present. Anything else happening in your life can wait. In experiment #28 I learned that for a few minutes if I stopped obsessing about perfection and what was next that  I could be happy in the moment, thanks to a hammer, a piece of metal and one very patient instructor. I spent the rest of the afternoon slowly hammering my way to happy.

Would you like a Happygirl tag? I made a handful of these of these discs and if you would like one, email me at Taylor at TheHappygirl dot me. (Quantities limited!)

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