by - December 21, 2015

paige puckett pottery

I was on track to have a load of pottery ready two days before Christmas, and then in the middle of firing, I heard a thud... the familiar sound of the fuse box. I went out to check the garage, and the kiln had shut off, but the kiln sitter had not tripped. It smelled like burning wires and plastic. I turned off the box fan and unplugged an empty power strip, and Joe flipped the fuse back over. There was a spark. He did it again, and there was another spark. With the fuse tripped, I went over to where the kiln was plugged into the wall, and it was hot. We inspected for fire then and then again before we locked up the house for the night. The plug and outlet were charred and melted.

Joe immediately began looking up how to make the needed repairs, and I immediately began to plan my exit from pottery at large. I had my own internal mini-meltdown in which I bemoaned that everything falls apart. Joe's truck is 30 years old, my Jeep is 12 years old, and both cost a lot on yearly maintenance and major repairs, and both make noises that turn heads in the carpool line. I can screech out the tune of jingle bells just by turning the steering wheel. The kiln melted down. I've been battling sinus-loads of snot for two weeks, and then I sat down to work on a scarf I started two years ago only to have to pull out ten rows and tie up one ball of yarn that a moth had munched multiple passes through. Everything falls apart. It's never just one thing at a time, it's all the things. It's a real bummer when things break and you have to start over.

"I could just not do things that lead to disappointment."

A hobby like pottery can be disappointing. There is so much that can go wrong in the process, and hours are easily lost. The same can be said of gardening.

"But all of life is like that. You can't just go about avoiding risk and potential disappointment."

My struggle with depression and insecurity tends to be mutually rooted in the fear of a wasted life and in resignation to decay. These two often leave me cynical because while I long to do great things, I am left with facing the futility of effort. It took me nearly a full year to get started on my PhD research project. It was like standing on the end of the diving board and being unable to make the jump. I didn't want to start something and have the efforts be a waste of time. I did finally jump and I did waste time. My initial efforts were scrap data. I spent an entire afternoon trying to set up survey equipment and never got it to work. I made plans that I abandoned. As for decay, perhaps it can be slowed down; perhaps it can be fought against, but eventually, everything, including your Subaru, will fall apart. Any you know what? - the work I did is nearly obsolete now. There have been projects so much smarter than my own, that I can't even wrap my brain around the introductory paragraphs of the published papers.

So was it a waste? Or course not. Should I not mess with a bowl on the potter's wheel to get it just right in the chance that the glaze will look terrible or the kiln will break? Of course not... though maybe I should work on my efficiency. This childish whining reeks of nothing more than self-pity. We don't get to check out. We don't get to quit striving for beauty and excellence because things may break. We shouldn't avoid stretching our skills and experiences out of fear of realizing our limits. We can choose to simplify, but life itself is always be complicated. If we always choose the path of least resistance, we will never realize our strength, and our kids will never learn resilience by watching us endure through setbacks.

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