When I was in the single digits, a lovely young married lady from church gathered us girls of a similar age to her home. She asked us to bring our dollies, and she taught us to make clothes for them on her sewing machine. We all got to use this amazing scary machine by ourselves like we were important.


She showed us how the thread passed through the labyrinth of the machine’s innards. We learned about the bobbin on how to adjust the tension. Of course, since she was an expert and a saint, her machine worked perfectly.


I did quite a bit of sewing in my teenage years, because I was bored and poor. I learned more about the ways a machine can fail and frustrate.


That tension adjuster!


If it was too tight, the thread just snapped and we had to start over. Simple and fatal. The problem was letting the tension go too low. Masses of chaotic thread balls would form on the underside on my fabric like a horrifying tumor.


The tension is too low.


A while back a friend developed an enthusiasm for this awesome German alternative movie called “Run Lola Run.” I liked the movie, but I loved the soundtrack. Still the best exercise music ever.

I don’t believe in silence
cause silence seems so slow
I don’t believe in energy
the tension is too low


I have spent many hours on a treadmill listening to that chorus. The tension is too low. And I think of my sewing machine. And wonder if my treadmill incline is steep enough.


The tension is too low. Some people like to wait for the last minute to get things done. I can see how the pressure and the tension builds up to final crescendo in a finished product.


“Look! I did it!”


That’s never been my way. I like to have too much to do. Every minute of every day a clear choice of something I must do now. No margins, no wasted movements.


This summer of unemployment has been difficult. A broad sweep of no pressure might be someone’s idea of paradise. For me it’s a minefield.


It’s not just me. Too many choices make people unhappy. There’s a book about it “The Paradox of Choice.” If I have perfect freedom to do anything, it’s a bad bad bad day. I can’t decide. And if I do decide, I can’t be happy with my choice because what if I could have done the other thing and it would have been a better choice?


Like the tangled knot of thread in my doll clothes, my thoughts are too free to be productive.


Taut and running. Somewhere below the breaking point and moving fast. No slack. Every stitch and every choice the right one. No time to waver or regret.



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