Okay, taking a poll – what’s the most difficult thing you ever endeavored to make or do, and why was it difficult? I don’t like to dwell on the past, but when I ask that question, does a particular thing come into your mind? Can you look back at that one thing that really took all your mental resources, skills, time to learn/finish/accomplish? Because I think if you can think of one thing, you’re one lucky person - I can hardly think of one thing that wasn’t!
For my purposes today I’m just going to focus on quilting. An example please, you say? No problem – it will just take a nanosecond to come up with one - here you go: I was working on a quilt that had curves and circles, etc. I had this nifty curved sewing foot that I was using (Dammit, Mother – you swore by the thing!) and I was going absolutely insane because I could not get my curves right. I actually had to go and cut more fabric because I ruined so many pieces (and cutting is my least favorite part of quilting!) I nearly brought the house down with my rantings – I think I even chased all the bugs out! And I shudder to think of the number of curses and new foul language my son learned from that one incident. I was actually ready to give up altogether (much to family’s relief), when I got the idea to try to sew without the nifty device. Turns out, the nifty device wasn’t so nifty after all, at least not for me. I was able to sew so much better by just using good old fashioned pinning and clipping curves! It was amazing - and a little frightening - how all that vitriol instantly turned to peaceful smiles and humming, making me understand the true meaning of split personality. I’m surprised my husband didn’t cart me off to the looney bin right then and there. (Poor guys – what they had to put up with before I became “The Zen Quilter!)”
Another example? Not hard to come by - I am just putting the edges on a project. When I first got the idea for it, I almost talked myself out of it before I began, “Oh crap – this is going to be so hard!” I whined to myself. “Why do I always have to think of something more complicated than my skill level to do?” But although I am a whiner, I am not daunted by a challenge, so I decided to do it anyway. And lo and behold, the part I thought was going to be so tricky in fact went quite smoothly! It was fun – I had a great time. I actually had the (fatal?) thought “Hey, I’m getting better at this!” HA! That was until I got to the next step, which I never had a care for when I began. (Skinny borders between and around big stretchy blocks, and outside border around stretchy skinny borders, for those of you who know quilting.) For those who don’t, just take my word for it – it went much more (literally) bumpily! In fact, it took more time, ripping and redoing, and far more calming breaths and “centering,” than it took to do the bits I expected to be problematical. (Okay, there was a little cursing too, but only a minimum – ask my boys! And I did have the sense of humor to laugh at myself when I realized I had exulted too soon, too, so that’s progress, too.)
If I am big enough to be completely honest, I can look back at a moment during the making of every piece of art I have ever made and admit that there was some moment when I had difficulty and I lost my temper, therefore making it the most difficult project I ever attempted -so far, anyway. Hmm – wonder why?
Pondering on it, I see it has nothing to do with skill level or any other external thing – it all has to do with me. (Yes, it’s another “DUH” moment!) And yes - I’ve made (yet another) not so startling realization: The hardest quilt I ever made is my next one. And furthermore, it’s always going to be that way. There is always going to be a challenge, whether it is lack of experience, trouble with machines, nifty, time-saving (torture) devices...hormones… All of which really boil down to one thing, which is my focusing on the end result of my efforts, not on the actual doing - the how I am doing it. Yes, of course I want to complete what I start and I want it to be worthwhile, but what makes something worthwhile? I might not necessarily end up with what I envisioned, (Who knows - it might actually be better! Or not – whatever!) but if I can do it in the manner to which I aspire, it will change me, make me better – more in touch with what’s really important (my sanity…my family’s?) Yes, that too, but seriously, just to be the way I was meant to be – loving and awake – conscious every moment…alive, and joyful about it.
So my goal at this point is to get through one entire quilt without allowing myself to get mired in ONE moment of frustration. I’m not saying that I can’t recognize something as a challenge but that when this happens, I will simply do, without negative emotion or frustration, what I have to do to fix it, if I can. And if I cannot fix it, I want to accept that as well (without cursing!) And yes, I do actually believe it is possible, even for me. It may take (quite) a while, given the puerile level of my frustration tolerance, but nonetheless, I shall persevere.
I’ll let you know how it goes.
In the meantime, I’d love for you some of you to share some thoughts. Or some comments – heck, I’ll take them even if they’re nasty. (It will be good practice for my Zen-ness!) Let me know you’re out there, please. (And FYI, it would be really nice of you to let me know if I’m not the only one who is frustrationally challenged – good for your ego, too…cathartic, maybe even.)
And “Shalom, baby!” to all of you - may you have a peaceful, joyful week.