The journey of life can lead us to the certainty of the truths we seek, but only if we avoid the pitfalls that can come due to expectation.
Expectation can often be the biggest roadblock faced on any journey. Expectation can even scuttle a journey before it begins. Remember, expectation is only a belief in something, whereas, it is on the journey that certainty can be found.
Truth is both simple and complex – the greatest of all paradoxes. Truth is more than just a belief, it relies on a preponderance of evidence. Sometimes this evidence has little value or certainty for anyone other than ourselves, but that does not mean the evidence is not valid. It may simply mean that we are seeking a small understanding of something much greater than we are yet ready to perceive.
If we remember that expectation is simply the starting point – the hope, the belief, the dream – and that the journey provides the data, the trial, and the proof, then we should move beyond belief and gain the true knowledge life offers to teach us.
Just over 30 years ago, around the holiday season, an older gentleman asked me the question, “What do you do to give back to the community?” The question gave me pause, and caused me discomfort. I was a college student at the time with no excess finances to share. For a bit of time I felt pretty low because I felt I had no answer to give… then I began to remember.
I have always been a person who gives of their time and talents, but I didn’t realize until that year how much society values some contributions more greatly than others. Some service is valued as being better than other service, not because of the needs being served, but because of how the service conforms with a perception of what the provider considers valuable. Even the notion of charity seems to have a hierarchy, with some charitable acts being considered more valuable than others, not due to needs being met, but rather with how the charity is viewed by the peers of the one giving the charity.
Three decades have passed since the question was asked of me, and I find myself pondering the sad reality that for many (including the gentleman who asked the question) service and charity is measured by a monetary value rather than a kindness value. There is no rule that says that the two values cannot coexist, but there is a general notion that if the monetary is given the kindness is not necessary.
Consistently giving of ourselves, of our time, of our talents, and yes, even of our monetary surplus when such exists, is how we give back to society, and thereby contribute to a better society in which to live.
When we give with a focus on the kindness value, we need not feel discomfort when asked, “Do you give back?”
Sharing our joy with others helps us find our own inner peace, but we can only find this peace when our hearts and minds remain focused on the sharing and not on the receiving. The moment we fixate on how our handmade gift is received, we have shifted our focus from our act of giving and are now concerned only with the gift we expect in return – the recipient’s gratitude.
Giving a handmade gift to someone we know personally, as opposed to an anonymous donation gift, often leads to concern over how the gift will be received. This concern has the potential of undermining the joy the process of making has given us. Expectation of gratitude is a dangerous path to enter when we are on our handmaking journey. It is fraught with pitfalls which can cause us and the recipient of our handmade item emotional harm.
When we treat all gifts as we treat the anonymous donation gift – in essence, when we simply hope that the item will find itself being loved, even if it must pass through many hands before it finds its home, then we can hold on to the joy that is the byproduct of our making and our giving.
The guiding principle I live by when I give a handmade gift is this:
If I make the gift with love and the intent to give it unreservedly, then the joy that I gain in the making and giving is the only reward I will expect.
Living by this principle is not always easy, and even the best efforts can still allow in feelings of disappointment, but focusing on the joy of making will usually fend off such disruptive feelings.
Our desire to share our creativity, our time, and our talents with others is a worthy desire. When we make a gift for someone, and we make it with love, the joy we get from the making is the greatest reward. It is the process of doing, of making, of giving, of serving – it is this process that blesses our lives with joy and helps us find the inner peace we need.
My daughter thinks I may be a bit more eloquent in the last section of today’s video.
Time slips by, often without our notice. Goals made in January tend to be forgotten until we find ourselves contemplating the end of another year. In the crafting world, the chant of Keep Calm and Finish by Christmas may not always be heard, but it is seldom not running through the mind of the crafter. Fortunately, most crafters understand that if it is not finished by Christmas, it will still be finished by the following one.
This year I set a personal goal of making some simple, beginner-friendly patchwork projects available for family and friends. While it was not my first set of patterns to make available, it was the first set that I would highlight in video form and share with the world.
One particular pattern would have to wait until the end of the year since I so very much wanted to make it Christmas themed.
Leaving any bigger project until the end of the year is flirting with danger in this particular crafter’s home. Ideas for holiday projects flood my mind the moment the temperatures begin to chill and the leaves on the trees begin to fall. This year was no different but with great determination, I managed to get this project wrapped up despite the unexpected hurdle of having a minor injury to my right arm (It is hard to hand quilt when your hand is not cooperating).
The journey of bringing this project from conception to fruition has been a joy. Soon this tree skirt will be in the mail, traveling thousands of miles away to its destination, and providing joy to its recipient. With a bit of luck Christmas Logs Under the Tree will arrive just in time.
Finding the rhythm that makes life a joyous journey is not simply finding one melody or tune. In our world of 3-4 minute songs, we are in constant need of playlists that fit our mood or inspire our activities. Our journey through life does often resemble short bursts of chaotic noise, or calming melodies, or soulful ballads.
Finding the rhythm that works for us can often require frequent changes in playlists or channels.
As I grow older, I am finding that I gravitate to only a couple playlists, and have all but abandoned others. Rather than making new lists, I simply adjust and refine. I add and remove songs – refining my playlist much like I find myself refining my life.
I also am finding that I enjoy the rhythm of a quiet room. No room is without noise: there is the typing of keys; the air systems, heating and air; the sound of birds outside my window; and the occasional sound of humans nearby or in the distance. Oh yes, there is also the furry roommates who demand love and attention at least a couple times each day.
Long ago a friend asked why I always needed the radio on, and why I could not just sit in a quiet room. I responded that quiet was unnatural. Nature is not quiet, and our human attempts to block out sound is simply not natural. There is always sound unless we force it out.
I need fewer artificial sounds these days, I certainly need fewer sounds designed to distract me from my environment. Life itself seems to be creating its own pleasant symphony. Much like the great masterpieces in classical music, the rhythm of my life has quiet melodic moments punctuated by dramatic blasts of emotion.
There is a life coach out there who talks of getting rid of the things in life that don’t bring you joy, and I can certainly appreciate the guidance she gives. However, I think that finding one’s own joy also hinges on finding one’s own rhythm. Music is emotional, and life is emotional – often times emotional in ways that do not inspire joy.
Finding our own rhythm is not about eliminating sorrow or anger or pain. It is about learning to follow those dramatic blasts of emotion with melodic, soothing moments. Allowing ourselves to breath and listen – allowing ourselves to embrace the undulating rhythm that is life. When we do this – then all that is in our lives becomes something that gives us joy.
As I near the anniversary of making my first video, I find myself amazed at how much I have learned. Certainly video making has had its learning curve. Yet, it is what I have learned about myself that amazes me the most. When I began this new adventure, I would have been anxious and even horrified by the silly video-short that wraps up my latest vlog.
Covid-quarantine hair notwithstanding, a year ago I would have struggled with accepting the person I see on the screen. Now I can find joy and whimsy in the person – the whole person – who allows herself to be filmed.
Last year marked the 20th anniversary of a major turning point in my life. I went from being/feeling healthy to something else entirely.
As with most who find themselves challenged with trauma, tragedy, and underlying health issues, I travelled through many phases of adjustment, including anger, denial, and the belief that I could control the outcome. Finally in this past year, I gained a greater understanding and perspective of just how much I have faced in these last decades, let alone, what I faced in the earlier years of my life. With a more clear understanding of the past, I was able to feel at peace because was able to stop longing for what I could not have, and instead, I began to truly celebrate who I have become.
None of us want to believe we are vain. Although vanity is not always a bad thing, it is a crippling thing when it prevents us from embracing life and from sharing our life with others.
Aging is a part of life, and for some, the events of our life speed up the aging process. It certainly has in my case, but then again, my body and mind have never really been in sync.
As I compiled this latest video, I recognized that vanity and fear of aging could prevent me from sharing a silly video-short with the wider world. This gave me pause and had me reflecting all that this past year of vlogging has taught me.
After reflection, I decided that I would continue embracing the joys of life and the pressing onward with my healing. Yes, my healing. Being able to see myself as I am and not as I have wished I could be is indeed a sign that I am healing.
My Mid May Vlog
In this video, I share updates on what I have been doing, provide a quick fiber dyeing tutorial, and share a ridiculously silly demonstration of basting a king-sized quilt with my husband on a breezy day.
Heroic efforts and stunning success are not the results of optimism alone. Desperation, insecurity, and fear can often be part of the equation.
There is a well-known adage about successful endeavors. It is about eating an elephant one bite at a time.
Even when we are wise enough to know that success comes from taking one bite at a time, we might find ourselves with aches from having bitten off more than we can chew. We might find ourselves needing time to adjust and regroup.
Optimism, hope, and determination are essential attributes in successfully eating that proverbial elephant. They are the attributes most often celebrated by the adoring fan club who cheer on the hero; a fan club who seldom wants to see the gritty, sweat-stained brow, the tear-filled eyes, or the weighted-down shoulders.
A hero rarely earns that title because they seek it. It is a title assigned because they seek to do the right thing when faced with tough choices, and they seek to serve even at the cost of their own comfort.
A hero transforms into a superhero because they do not rest on past heroic actions. They do not retreat when exhaustion and failure seem more likely than success. The hero is elevated to greater status not because they refuse to cry, but because they push forward while openly crying – crying due fear, fatigue, and pain, but also from determination and hope.
Superheroes are not created by seeking inhuman traits. They are created when they embrace the very traits that make them human: when they recognize that joy and sorrow go hand in hand; when they allow tears to wash away the grit and grime so they can see the light more clearly.
Superheroes will cry, and then they will press forward with their quest.
Over the past few weeks, a number of my more able-bodied friends have discovered just how vital rest is when the body feels under attack.
The Covid-19 shots have given many a small glimpse at what it is like to live with conditions like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and the wide array of auto-immune disorders that are too many to list. Living with debilitating fatigue, and the feeling one is ill even when they are not, even for a few days can be so frustrating. Doing so without allowing your body the rest it is demanding can not only delay recovery, but it can be emotionally demoralizing.
I was fortunate to get the one-dose shot, and was very relieved. My body seems to overreact to any shot, and I was nervous that this shot would be no different. Interestingly, the shot itself only produced mild side effects. However, it triggered one of the worst fibromyalgia flare-ups I have experienced in years.
I prepared myself for the complications I suspected the shot might produce. It is not very often I get to prepare ahead of time for a fibromyalgia flare-up, so that was a nice way to start this experience. Yet, I did not calculate into my preparations the reality of having spent a year in a pandemic world.
My body simply said, “Enough is enough!”
I have been riding the rollercoaster of feel good one day, feel horrid the next.
With a bit more time, a lot more rest, and the knowledge that I have traveled this path before, I should regain the balance I had before I was knocked of kilter.
Living with chronic pain, fatigue, and other health issues is not what any of us wish for ourselves or others, but it has taught me that rest is vital for a joy-filled life. Regardless of our situation, Rest is Vital.
In between naps, I was able to fit in another short video.
In an effort to help answer the question, “How do I begin?” or more specifically, “How do I begin quilting?”, I have embarked on a project of creating simple patchwork quilt projects.
I believe that pointing in the direction of a path, and providing a map, is often better than holding a person’s hand as they journey on the path.
It is with this philosophy that I have embarked on my current adventure to create simple patterns and accompanying videos. No fuss and nothing to sell, just tip-n-tricks, and a bit of pithy ponderings.
There are many wonderful tutorials on the internet and in libraries, both in book and video formats. These materials can help the quilter on their journey, and I highly recommend seeking them out. However when I am asked the basic question of how to get started, I often do not have a concise direction in which to point. So I have resurrected a project I began years ago, and I have tried to make it better fit into the modern world – a world where the video helps us learn when classrooms are often out of reach.
I have created a playlist on YouTube for ease in finding these specific projects. In this first project video, I demonstrate the basic construction of the classic Nine Patch block and the construction of a small quilt featuring this block. I have also created a PDF pattern for free download.
Regardless of what change we wish to make, or what adventure we wish to embark upon, the question of how to begin can often create the largest stumbling block for us. We look for advice, directional signs, or step-by-step instructions. Sometimes we need a clear outline to follow, and other times we want only a point in the right direction.
In this modern day of information overload, often when we ask the question, we find ourselves overwhelmed by the flood of answers we are given. Maybe we aren’t asking the right question, or maybe people aren’t listening to the question we are trying to ask?
In the enthusiasm to share answers, many will rush to supply great suggestions that have little to do with the needs of the person seeking help.
This information overload – or suggestion dump – became quite evident to me recently when a new quilt enthusiast asked the question, “How do I start?” The answers came pouring in with little regard to the personal situation of the newbie. Where do they live? What is their budget? Do they have any background in the skill set?
Without taking the time to learn a bit about the person asking the question, the answers not only can overwhelm but they can misdirect. Additionally, the flood of answers may begin to seem like attention seeking rather than assistance giving. The person who posed the question may find themselves wishing they had not.
There is an old English proverb that states, “Hell is full of good meanings, but heaven is full of good works.” Over time, it has been altered to, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
Taking the time to understand the question – to understand the individual asking the question – is vital. The focus should be on that individual and not on ourselves, or worse, on our desire to promote others. When a person, for whatever reason asks, “How do I begin?”, we should do our best to remove obstacles rather than place more in their path.
Hoping that I am doing good works and not the other option, I have embarked upon Pithy Patchwork Projects. I explain a bit of my intent in this video.