Monday, June 3, 2013


Very tall and very thin, stud earrings line her multiple pierced ears. She dresses in long, colorful peasant skirts, fitted T-shirt tops, and sandals—a hippie look—complete with long, dark, wavy hair that contrasts with the lightest blue eyes.

Leanna keeps knitting needles and yarn in her sack, along with diapers, snacks, and trinkets for her young children. Sitting in the foyer of the piano studio waiting for our children’s class to begin, I ask her what she’s making.

“It’s a sweater for the baby.”

“Oh, pretty,” I respond, “I learned to knit when I was about eight and made a couple of easy scarves.”

Leanna says, “I’m teaching my girls to knit. I think it’s important for a woman to know how to keep her hands busy. When my husband is watching TV, I can sit with him and knit.”

I think that’s sweet, however, I change to feeling that I would take that time to do something that I want to do if I’m not interested in the game or whatever show my husband is watching.

Over the years, I’ve grown into a person who always has to be doing something. It has to be necessary, like cleaning or bill/home management; physically fun, like walking with friends or horseback riding; or mentally stimulating, like reading, writing, or doing puzzles. I watch TV, but it’s the news or talk shows, and even then, I’m working in the kitchen or having a meal. Once a week, though, I might sit and watch a show with my husband or the kids or have a phone conversation with a good friend or my mother; still I’m on the cordless phone—multitasking.

In a nutshell, the art of “calm” often escapes me.

The conversation with Leanna was about five years ago. I enjoyed seeing her and her six children and was intrigued by their lives. A homeschooling family, they lived on land where they raised chickens and owned a horse or two. She loved the recipes in Southern Living magazine and baked bread. She seemed peaceful, an amazing feat with six children (all born at home) competing for attention, though they mostly got it from each other. I remember someone incredulously asking her, “When do you have time for yourself?”

Calmly, she replied, “The kids are not allowed in my bedroom before 9 am and after a certain time at night. It’s the time my husband and I have our private time.”

I’m thinking of Leanna today as I sit in bed sewing my daughter’s swimsuit. Sparing the details, it is about a fifteen minute job. No one is home except Layla the dog who lies at my feet. It is quiet and I hear her breathing as I watch her chest rise and fall in dog unevenness. The house cracks. A plane flies over. Birds are chirping outside my window. A car turns around in my cul-de-sac. The air conditioner kicks on as the temperature rises, disturbing the white noise of my surroundings.

My mind is not racing or trying to concentrate on something. Simply, my hands are busy. I am calm.

Leanna knits. My husband and friends garden. A male neighbors tinkers in his garage. I get it.

What do you do to “busy your hands” to make you calm?

Image photographed by Anita


Unknown said...

That's an awesome post and question. I could envy that mom because that is the type of calm that I love. My home is far from calm some of the time. I have so many creative outlets, yet, by the time I'm done with making dinner and all, it's time to go to bed and start the routine all over again.

I do love to draw, write, crochet, bake and play the piano as well as read for my calm time. Plus, I will sometimes keep J company while he is watching a game but I will be on the computer or maybe reading.

Hilary said...

A fine post and a good question. It varies with what I need to keep calm from.. and at various times in my lives. I've typed out thoughts. I've walked and photographed. I've taken calming joy out of processing them and prepping them for a post. I cook. I might play a game.. cribbage. I've cross stitched. I've cleaned.. I sure wish I responded with that one more often.

Midlife Roadtripper said...

Always changes for me. Sometimes I just look outside. I study the clouds, the trees swaying in the wind, a bird at the feeder. Inside, when by myself, no TV or radio plays. I never notice the quiet, but I'll notice a noise that intrudes.

Then, sometimes, I play Solitaire on my phone. Or...

Tabor said...

Well, as you know, the camera is my calming force and helps me stop and see. Some say it pulls you out of the moment, but I actually stop the face of a child and then see the emotion that I missed with my eyes. I also write and would like to get back to drawing and sketching some day. I garden a LOT and that is a true calming thing I do with my goodness, I am a calm one.

Jenny said...

I paint.

I write.

I read from a wonderful daily philosophy book.

Sometimes I just sit there and chant 'calm, calm' until I feel better.

Mage said...

I try not to multitash when I am with friends...especially on the phone. I hate phones but love friends so the friends get all my attention. If it weren't for them, I'd live in isolation. LOL

Reading blogs is calming. Writing things is a focused calm. :)

Unknown said...

I really enjoyed this post, an interesting concept, calm. I am by nature a quiet sedentary, solo person. I enjoy reading more than anything, writing second. I do enjoy some TV and movies and I have a few good friends I like to have lunch or dinner with. I love being alone in my own house, yes I clean, and cook, and sometimes those include an audio book. I also admit to enjoying a quiet walk but those aren't often enough because I hate the FL heat...and it's back!
Thanks for the thought prompt!

Barb said...

Your posts always make me think, Anita. As I get older, I can find calm without actually doing anything. I think there is less to get finished now and more time to just spend quietly. This is not the case with children in the house, when there s always something that needs doing. That said, reading is my greatest pleasure. But, it doesn't always bring me calm. Calm doesn't visit when the mind is occupied elsewhere.

Abby said...

Another great thought provoking post! Moms like Leanna always inspire me. Six kids!
I too have trouble just sitting to watch something on TV. But I will sit with the husband and/or kids. I keep a sketch pad with pens and pencils near the tv viewing area, or like you, I'm fixing some piece of clothing. But I usually do math problems.

Rebecca S. said...

I enjoyed this post very much. I like to keep busy, but I also very much need my 'calm' time, time to just be. If I go too many days without some calm time I begin to feel a bit strung out, like a dog that really needs to go outside. Sometimes I just need that fifteen minutes to close my eyes and let the world slip away.
That bit about your friend Leanna not letting her children in her bedroom before 9 am made me laugh. I had a similar rule, very loosely kept, when my kids were able to get up and get themselves something to eat, but that was 7 a.m. 9 sounds pretty luxurious, but maybe the family are night owls. We never were.
I have a routine. I get up early on school days, sit with a prayer book and drink my coffee and meditate a bit (wake up slowly):) At night I always read before I go to sleep. Sometimes I have a little nap after lunch if I can sneak it in.

photowannabe said...

Thank you Anita for stopping by my blog and commenting.
I really appreciate people taking the time to do that.
What an interesting question you propose.
What do I do?
Things have changed since we are retired and kids are married with kids of their own.
I love to read, and like Hilary said I find photography a real "unwinder".
Taking time to let go and enjoy what's around us os the best thing we can do for ourselves. I just don't do it enough.

photowannabe said...

Oops, I completely forgot the questions you had asked me on my blog...
Yes the photo is of a young Alpaca which had just been shorn.
Our friends have a few of these sweet animals on their ranch. They have such sweet faces.
Yes, this will be the 4th or 5th time we have gotten together.
We found that we have mutual people we know and the same Pastor that married them 52 years ago is the same one that married us 50 years ago this coming January.
We really have a ball and talk non stop.
Thanks for asking.

Auntie sezzzzzz... said...

OK, you gals who are busy, busy, busy, won't understand me.... Who isn't self-compelled, to be thus. I don't need anything like knitting, to calm myself. In fact, I guess I'm a bit too calm. -grin-

Well, not CALM. My racing mind and emotions can get the better of me. But that's not like having to be doing, doing, doing something.

Of late, since being sick and on meds, and better again, I have found myself to be rather more calm in one way... Less racing mind and emotions. And more active in another way... Actually wanting to do projects like learning to bake Paleo, etc.

It is wonderful! I appreciate it, mightily.

Of course, I have to help-it-along, by not, not, not allowing "the News" or other disruptive stuff, *in front of my face.* Which feels like being an ostrich and avoiding things, which I should not avoid.

But no! I deserve this time of peaceful activity. I do. I do. So there! :-) I'm appreciating it, and doing what I can to keep it around, and not gonnnnnnna' feel I'm shirking some Huge Duty, by not getting all rillllllled up, over things I can not personally change.

Wow! Not necessarily an answer to your question. But a great way for me to sort through some things... In my own head, as well as "on paper" as it were.

Thank you my Dear!

Annie Z said...

I wish I had the drive to be busy all the time. I would feel so much more productive and proud of myself. My Mum is like that and I admire it a great deal. I strive to be more like her (and you!) in that regard.

I need downtime - time to watch a good TV show or read a book or just to sit and gaze out at the world.

I'm working on the better motivation part!!

betty-NZ said...

If I get to that point, I usually walk outside and look for birds in the trees--sometimes, going back in and getting my camera. Most times, flipping through the channels over and over with the remote does the trick.

Kat said...

I could definitely use more calm these days. I found a beautiful stone and wrote the words "Be still" on it. I carry it around in my pocket. It reminds me to just be calm and let go of all the little things. That does give me a bit of calm.

To keep my hands busy? Well, lately I've been keeping my mind busy reading a lot. I go through phases of being obsessed with reading and then not reading for months at a time. Right now I'm obsessed. But crocheting does keep my hands busy. AND it also keeps me from eating late at night while I watch tv. ;)

Linda Hensley said...

I play sudoku games and watch tv, but your post reminds me of a conversation I had a long time ago with a man who suggested that I spend 15 minutes doing nothing. I felt extremely anxious just at the suggestion. I finally whittled him down to 5 minutes, and still couldn't do it. I recognized that as a problem and took up meditation. Gotta say, it helped me a lot.

Buckeroomama said...

Lots of different things, depending on what I feel like at the moment...

take pictures, do crossword puzzles, play word games on the computer or on the phone, write.

yonca said...

Me mostly take a walk or prepare food..just start cuting veggies or baking..another thing, talking on phone or a chat a friend/sister makes me calm.I am 45 and I noticed it depends also our age.Great topic!xx