Like so many others who quilt or create there is a strange dichotomy lived wherein I want to both hide under the table and never have my work seen until I am a posthumous hit; but also have my work seen as though I’m dancing through a torrential storm with great glee, face up, pelleted by said rain, grinning from ear to ear. Herein is the choice faced by those who enter any work wherein the focus is the creative part of their being do I simply do this because I love it and remain at the sidelines or do I take the bigger (to me) risk of living full on in that work and sharing it, opening this work up to the potential criticism of others. In all reality I’ve flirted with the latter, choosing to put my quilting work out there. I say flirted as there is a deep sense where while I’m serious about this work, there are struggles that hold me back, and oddly enough it’s not the fear of criticism from others. I’ve heard that first hand with one of my quilts and I giggled. Even the couple of reviews of my book have made me laugh out loud. It doesn’t matter so much if others don’t like my quilts or my book what matters is doing the work. And This is where I’ve struggled the last few years. The self-criticism has been over the top beginning with “I’m not good enough” and questioning whether or not I have something to offer. Um.
And then last week I attended Quilt Festival in Houston experiencing the great joy of teaching, speaking, and demonstrating. What I know is this I’m a teacher and presenter, and I find great joy, I find Life here and pursuing it with reckless abandon is the thing to do. And it’s time for me to adapt and grow. I used to think I’m slow at this, and there is an element of this – it’s more that the way I learn and do is a little less orderly than others and therein there is a fear of falling flat on my face doing the things publicly that I want and need to do. Gah!
I started Spiritual Direction in August. I’m not so much seeking that next thing I’m supposed to do as I’m working on actively listening for two different things: the first how God is working/speaking in my life; and two the opportunity to flip both the internal and external scripts that replay. I took one experience to Confession a few weeks ago, that I took to Spiritual Direction because something didn’t quite sit right with me. And herein is where the title of today’s post comes in. As I shared this with my spiritual director he said two things that have stuck with me: push through the fear to do the work, ask the Holy Spirit for the gift of Courage. In some ways I live that courage, in others oh how I need to exercise it! The other is, something along the lines of “It’s not the experience For You!” The words aren’t quite right however they fully embody the sentiment that there are often other ways of looking at experiences I’ve been in that the thing that’s caused some fear or trepidation on my part wasn’t about me, that the other person involved needed this experience for their own growth in holiness and in their relationship with God, as unpleasant, hard or painful as they were.
For us as quilters and creatives we know in some ways that our work, our quilt making, our choices of colors and style of quilting, isn’t for everyone. What often bothers us is the negative comments based on personal choices – which is often where they begin. Let’s flip both our internal and external scripts looking for the good work other quilters do and sharing with them how much we appreciate that. Let’s look at quilts in shows and admire the quilter for taking the risk of putting their quilt in a show. Instead of panning a teacher let’s recognize that they might not be for us or that I might not be in a great headspace and am not fully paying attention/participating. I know full well my quilting style isn’t for everyone – I quilt out loud – and teaching style isn’t for everyone.
I also know that talent and creativity are at their core a deep understanding of the tools and mechanics of a craft and in that no matter the format, this deep understanding may be a niche, a small part of the overall craft. Personally I think of myself as a technician with an understanding of needles, thread, and tension that allows me to quilt in a highly personalized style. This understanding of these things together and the progression of stitching designs, that there are only two motifs in machine quilting, straight lines and curves and they’re both hard, that allows me to help newbie quilters begin to understand the movement of needle in thread, getting them going in the direction they choose.
As a teacher I provide a treasure map to the flaws, in My Own Work, often pointing them out with great accuracy because from a distance most quilting looks good. Up close though, oooph, there are jagged stitches, not great color choices and motifs better placed elsewhere or not at all on that particular quilt. I do this pointing out because I’m the teacher showing you that this stuff happens and it doesn’t make you a bad quilter, it makes you a quilter who’s honing their skill set. Just like my Spiritual Director is helping me look at my faith life in a different way, helping me see that some experiences and how I’m relating them may or may not be connected in the way that I *think* they’re connected. He’s teaching and showing me how to look at the quilt of my life from a different perspective and this is so, so good. It’s that standing back from the quilt and looking at the overall piece rather than up close and personal and seeing all the things that look like flaws, and yes it’s a little more complicated than that but I’m a quilter and this is a good analogy.
I’d love to end this with both a go hone your skill, and develop your prayer life. But that’s all wrong. So I’ll go with Dig into the Courage of the Holy Spirit.