Monday, March 16, 2015

When is Failure not a FAIL?

Failure isn't the opposite of success, failure is a stepping stone on the way to success.
                                                                                        
                                                                                      Arianna Huffington's mother

I finally finished my before un-named piece that I've been working on for a good two months or so.  It now has a name, Magnetism, but before I show it*** I want to tell the story of its creation.  This is one of those pieces that looks really simple (in fact I had to seriously check my ego when my sister-in-law said it looked like it was easy to make), but wasn't actually easy at all.  Basically once I had the drawing, I had to work out the construction, and it took a lot of thinking (for me at least) to figure out.  Once I got the how I was gonna do it, I had to actually do it.  Let me say, however, that although I felt it was a challenge, I really found myself enjoying it rather than being frustrated.  In the end I made about 7 extra squares because I wanted to make them as well as I could (notice I didn't say perfect, because I know better than to strive for perfection).  I even only got mildly irritated when I cut right through two completed squares and totaled them while trimming the colored circle seams. No cursing or even kvetching at all - that has to be a record!   

Once I got enough squares completed to my satisfaction, I was ready to construct the top. In my original drawing I had continued the yellow through the black sashing.  I worked on it for several days and tried many different ways, but I was just not able to make it work.  To my surprise, I really didn't find myself irritated or impatient at all even though nothing I tried worked.  Yes, I was a little disappointed, but once I saw it put together I was completely happy with it even though it hadn't lived up to my original expectations. 

Yahoo!  Now I was excited to back and quilt it, but then - I got another idea!  I decided it might be nice to put little black and white pluses in the middle of the piece.  Knowing it was not going to be a quick deal, I debated with myself and even took a photo and asked my friend Diane if I should.  She said yes of course - why wouldn't she?  It looked good and besides - she didn't have to do it!  But I agreed, so I then had to go back and undo the sashing and do what it took to add the pluses, adding more time and challenge.   And yes, some mild irritation attempted to sabotage my zen, but I succeeded in ignoring it and remaining calm and patient and yes, I really loved the result and deemed it totally worth it.

Finally I was ready to back and quilt it.  I don't really remember when I started it, but I have to say that this piece had already taken a lot longer than I thought it would but - and this is big but for me - despite the challenges so far I really had intensely enjoyed making this piece and I really, really liked it.  I spent a lot of time thinking about how to quilt it, but I couldn't come up with anything. Finally I got irritated with myself for acting like I was designing the Taj Mahal, so I just sat down and started quilting just the corner pieces.  And I'll be darned if I didn't like it!  

It was really time-consuming, however, and in the meantime I spent at least three hour-long walks trying to come up with a quilting design for the middles of the squares.   Again disgusted with myself putting too much energy into it, (I mean, I'm not going to be put in quilting jail or lose a limb if it's not right, am I?  It's just not that important, Carrie!) I sat down and started quilting the middle squares.  This time, however, it didn't work out.  Well, let me correct that - at first I thought I was happy with it.  In fact, I was so happy with it I actually quilted three entire squares.  Then I put it up on my design wall and looked at it for a day or so and realized not only was I not happy with it - I HATED it.  It wasn't true to my own personal design aesthetic at all - I realized I was trying to do heavy quilting like I'd seen on many quilts at Quiltcon - and more importantly, it wasn't at all right for this quilt.  But it was a heckuva lot of quilting and would take a heckuva a lot of time to pull out all those tiny stitches...

I thought about leaving it and just finishing the piece, I really did.  I mean, how important is this quilt?  I'd already spent so much more time on it than I had anticipated, and I do actually have other obligations to fulfill.  On the other hand, I really, really love this piece (sans the quilting, of course) and I really, really wanted the quilting to be right.  So I sighed heavily and began to pull all the stitches out.  It took over 45 minutes to undo the quilting on only one side of each square, but I took my time and pulled out every one of those suckers. And (and this part is almost miraculous to me) I actually felt grateful while I did it, because I was so glad that I could actually fix it.  After all, I wasn't in a hurry to finish it, and no, it's not important in the great scheme of things, I get that.  But when I had time, I worked on it a little bit.  To say I enjoyed it would be exaggerating, but I didn't mind it at all.  When I got too fatigued I just stopped and put it aside.  It took about a week, during which I finally figured out how I actually DID want to quilt it, and now, well - I sort of feel like it's some of my best work, ever!

But more importantly - I enjoyed creating this quilt, failures and challenges and all.  It was frustrating at times.  It took a long time.  It could have been a complete failure.  But it wasn't. And I really believe that in part it succeeded because no matter what happened, rather than allowing negativity to creep in, I just enjoyed the challenges.   I stayed calm and positive and was almost  - dare I say it?

                                              zen

Do I expect to be this way all the time from here on out?  Of course not!  I'm still me, and I'm far from enlightened.  But I'm going to try to remind myself of the joy of this experience often - especially when confronted with things that frustrate or annoy me.  Who knows - maybe in time it will become my way of handling things MOST of the time.  I think I'd like that.

***  I'll share some photos of the completed Magnetism in my next blog, I promise - it's late and I'm too tired to deal with photography right now.  Here's a look at the piece with the "all wrong" quilting, though.  I made it extra big so you could see it.  (Ugh - I still don't like it!)