I’m sewing half circles (ish) side by side for this quilt. Once in a while, a half-circle is going to become a panda’s face. This was the draw for me. Andy LOVES pandas. He has a stuffed ‘danda’ that goes everywhere with him. Just to keep it as complicated as possible, I’m imagining I’ll have the ears of the pandas stick out, to be three-dimensional. I haven’t quite figured our how that will work. Another one of my challenges is to figure out what colour of thread is going to work best. With all the different fabrics I’ve chosen, I need a thread colour that will work throughout the quilt. I don’t think changing colours each time I join two half-circles will be practical, because never will two same colours be side by side. And of course, I want to find the perfect colour, one that won’t be a distraction, but that will hold it all carefully together, and that will last for as long as Andy treasures ‘dandas’.
As you can imagine, my tiny mind has been whirling with thoughts, and with images of coloured threads. Not surprising at all, all my thinking about threads has opened my eyes to see threads in other places in my life.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been spending time visiting my wonderful and dear friend Graham. I met Graham on my very first day of teaching, well over forty years ago. He was my principal, my boss, and we became fast friends right away. Although we differed in age, and interests, and although we held different positions in our work, we clicked. We spent many hours talking about teaching and life. When Jim and I were expecting our first child, Graham and Carolyn were expecting their second. We both had girls, who ended up being close friends. Now they both have sons of the same age, and so it continues.
Last week, at the hospital, when we were visiting, I asked Graham how he got his start of his love of opera. Graham has been all over the world, appreciating opera, and he has shared his love of it with family, friends, and students. It would be impossible to know Graham, and not know about this love of his. As he told me the story of his history with opera, he ended by saying. I love my family first, but of everything else in the world, it is music that has been my true love. In fact, he said, without it, I would not be here today. It is really the thread that has woven though everything I have done. It plays in the background of every part of my life.
This was easy for me to picture. Opera is the beautiful thread woven through Graham’s entire life, adding beauty and joy, and soothing him when life showed her rough edges. I began to wonder what threads may have wound their ways through other lives I have been lucky to share.
My mother-in-law, Jim’s mom, has had the thread of faith in her life. There has never been a time when this thread was not present. She is not a preacher, well, actually she is. But you know what I mean. Despite being an ordained Anglican priest, she is not a ‘preacher’. Yet you cannot know her without knowing how important this thread is in her life. If you know her, you have felt her faith.
My sister, Mary, would say the thing that sustains her, that plays in the background of everything she does, is storytelling. For her, this began as a small child when she created little plays for us and our neighbourhood children to perform. But it has woven into something much more profound. She sees and appreciates the stories of life. She notices small details and sees connections between people and events. I doubt there is any car ride, or activity, or interaction she is part of where she does not have snippets of a story in her head. She understands the value of story as a tool for making sense of the world, and of uniting people. She uses her gift of storytelling to enrich the lives of those she interacts with and to shine a light on things she is passionate about. If you know Mary, you know she is a storyteller.
Each of us has many small threads running through our lives. Some involve people, some weave us to important places, some are relationship threads. All trace the path of significant parts of our lives. Some of these have a clear beginning and a clear ending. I believe we each also have the capacity to have a distinct, strong, remarkable thread in our lives, like those of Graham, and Jim’s mom, and Mary. But for those threads to appear clearly on the quilt of our lives, we must choose to make deliberate decisions about what we want those threads to be, and to consciously nurture them, to bring them along with us.
Mostly, those special threads should carry important meaning for us. They must reflect the very fiber of who we are, sometimes flying in the face of what others think might be better pursuits for us. When we choose our thread correctly, when we nourish it in just the right ways, when we make time for it and pay attention to it, it returns our favour, making the quilt of our life ever so much more meaningful.
I stood in the quilt shop today, picking up one last bit of fabric for Andy’s ‘danda’ quilt, and then trying to pick out just the right thread. I realized when I held one spool of thread, and then the next, that in fact, the thread I choose will not really be seen. Mostly it will be hidden. What I do not want hidden is what I’d like this quilt to reveal in time. I want the little ‘danda’ quilt I’m sewing for Andy to include a little of the thread of my life. I hope he will feel my love for him. I hope he will know I support the things he loves. And I hope he can feel my love and desire for him to become exactly who he is.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘What is the thread running through your life?’
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups and has expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to find out how to find your perfect thread.