Friday, June 29, 2007

On "a count of" I'm getting older

I’m not a smoker, but in my job as a medical transcriptionist, I am witness to the many descriptions of smoking history in patients. Some patients even started to smoke as young as 7 years old! One of the more common ways for the doctor to glean probable cumulative effect of a patient’s history of smoking is to use the “pack years” equation.

From Wikipedia:
A way to measure the amount a person has smoked over a long period of time. It is calculated by multiplying the number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day by the number of years the person has smoked. For example, 1 pack year is equal to smoking 1 pack per day for 1 year, or 2 packs per day for half a year, and so on.[1]
Number of packs smoked per day * Number of years as a smoker = Pack Year
Example: If a person smokes 30 cigarettes a day for 40 years, then we would calculate as follows:
30 Cigarettes a day = 1.5 packs a day (20 cigarettes in a pack)
1.5 x 40yrs = 60 pack years

We use years as a way to measure other things, too. Think of fiscal years, light years, dog years, lunar and solar years. I am proposing a new classification - craft year.

My friend Sally told me she was scrutinizing her cross-stitch patterns to determine what she could actually complete in the remaining years of her life, what she really, really wanted to complete, and what she knew she would never have time to complete. As a crafter myself, I am entirely empathetic in what is in reality a mini-lesson in mortality.

Back to craft years. I started quilting in 1988. If historically I created 2 quilts a year since then (and this unfortunately is an overestimate, unless you count quilts I made in my head), and used some similar calculation to the formula above, I might be able to determine how many quilts are “left in me.” (I would have to factor in my current productive capacity as nil, in that I'm working so much at the aforementioned job that I still have Rachel's wedding quilt unfinished 5 years after the wedding.) If I divide that by the number of patterns and books I own....well, I’m not sure I want to live past the age of 200 just to quilt. Add to that scenario cross-stitching and sewing clothes, I’d have to live even longer than that.

As always, being human is a gift and a curse; the curse, of course, is that we are aware of our own mortality and current calculations of our life expectancy. There is a reason for the bumper sticker “Too much fabric, not enough time.” How many craft years do we have left? Substitute one’s own personal passion for “craft” and it does give one a sense of urgency, especially for those of us who have started the second half of our lives. Question marks have never been my favorite symbols of punctuation.

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