I’m just coming back to the Island after participating in a Kuhn Sisters’ Week in Michigan. I had a lot of trepidation in setting out to attend this event – will I like this when I’m done? I head out anyway, thinking about it as an adventure, with no expectations. Just go!
My four sisters and I love to create art and crafts. So, one part of our time together was Craft Day, when we would all sit around the table making something fun and beautiful. On a hot and humid Michigan day, it creates a time for more personal connections and conversations to emerge. And, the bonus? We each take home a little memento of our time together.
The excitement of beginning – the moment a project is started, whether it’s knitting, painting, golf, parenting, or stepping into a new phase of life, you never know what you’ll have in the end. You might like it, you might hate it. The only way you will find out is to just start.
My sister Helene and I chose a beautiful shawl pattern, one that my sister Annie finished recently. Neither of us have knitted in a long time, but we dove in, excited about the possibility of loving the outcome. We loved the yarn and pattern, but would we love it when we’re done?
Helene, who hasn’t knitted for decades, feels the angst of beginning. “I can’t do it!” she exclaims, even though she hasn’t even tried. I observe her flitting about the house, being distracted by any number of things, unable to stay in this new practice of knitting. It is only a matter of eight new stitches to learn and implement, row after row, but it is daunting to her nevertheless.
I jump in, having Annie as my knitting coach. I feel an ease with the process, and it really helps when I see Annie making the occasional mistake, ripping it out and studying the pattern – it’s the roadmap to her final destination. Like all travelers on any of the myriad of roads of creativity, you have to be willing to see where you are from where you have been. When lost, you go back to where you knew where you knew yourself to be, assess the situation, study the map, and start out again. You might have to return again and again to this point, but it’s very comforting to know that this point exists!
As a master at creativity – quilts, paintings, knitting, life, Annie accepts that sometimes, when lost and unsure where she is in the process, she too has to stop. On many occasions, she will rip the piece apart, until she gets to that place where she knows where she is. Sometimes, she just rips it all out and start all over again. She too never knows if she’s going to like her creation, but onward she treads. She says, “If I hate it, I’ll just take it apart and make something different, or I’ll just give it to the Salvation Army.” Lucky Salvation Army, is what I say!
Patrice is also an amazing craft person and life voyager. She has a lot of practice embarking on new projects and seeing them through to the end. Less than 10 months ago, Patrice, at 66 years of age, began making a new relationship with her sweetie, David. She isn’t worrying about whether she’s going to like it when she’s done. She is thoroughly engaged in being present and focused on each individual stitch of love she makes, creating a pattern of happiness for her and her beloved.
Making relationships as an art form is challenging. Two people are required to bring about the fulfillment of the project. Every day, Patrice and David weave together the threads of their thoughts, feelings, their desires and hopes. The unfolding tapestry is something unique to each and every couple. They do not have a pattern or road map that they are following. In these precious moments, their hearts know the destination. And, right now, they are in complete certainty that they will love it when they are done.
Annie texts me on her layover in LAX. “I’m frustrated! I’m not as far home as I want to be!” Impatience is the teacher of humility and acceptance. It’s funny how often we want to get to the end and bypass the hard parts. We want to be in that place where we cruise through life, or our crafts and know with certainty we will like what we’ve created. No one likes the hard parts, except those who are masochists and those who truly know that the wisdom of life and love emerges through being with the hard stuff.
Speaking of hard stuff, my sister Mary Therese is also starting something new. After two years of living with stage four ovarian cancer, she is at the beginning of the end, again. There isn’t much more the doctors can do for her. She says, “I’m afraid I’m not going to like this when I’m done!”
There are aspects of life that allow us to live in the hopes that we will like what we’ve created. Facing death as our final project, well, none of us are practiced at dying – we won’t know if we like it until it’s done. We can’t tear out our mistakes and start over. No do-overs!
Every part of life, just like every project and hobby we engage in, brings us to these moments where we hope we are going to like it when we are done, but not sure how it’s going to end. We fear for the worst and hope for the best. For each of us, though, there is that certain something that spurs us on to finish what we start. One’s life is no exception.
If you’d like to join Dr. Rosie in the AGING – Who Me in-person discussions at the Orcas Island Senior Center, they are meeting this coming Tuesday – July 6th, from 10 – 11:30 a.m.