On one of our adventures estate sailing in Dallas, I saw a display of more than a few unfinished canvases and baskets of wool and threads. A few were appealing possibilities. But why take on another woman’s unfinished projects when so many of my own await completion – and may become a cheerless part of our own “estate” sale?
I picked up needlepoint in January of 1970; I hoped needlepoint would help me stop smoking. But I learned I could do both.
Also, the ambience of that first needlepoint shop -- now long gone--created an impression, wholly of my own imagination, that if I became proficient, my living room might be as lovely as the shop. Located off Dupont Circle in Washington DC it was nestled in a former grand residence – of someone important in perhaps Teddy Roosevelt’s administration. I still recall the soft gray color on the walls complimenting the multitudinous carrels of colored wools surrounding racks of canvases; a splendid chandelier illuminated a large rectangular table with comfortable chairs.
I remember the woman in the needlepoint shop who kindly showed me how to get started. She made it look doable.
She didn’t show me how to correct my mistakes, though.
That was trial and error – and more error than anything else. I learned to use scissors and a seam ripper gently, lest I cut the canvas and create a hole.
Now, I eventually stopped smoking, and I have completed several canvases. But I have accumulated quite a stash of unfinished canvasses – and so much thread!
I never work as fast as I think I will when schmoozing with the sales folk – nor as capably as others, whose work is displayed. I make mistakes -- some mistakes glare at me in the pillows I finished. Other times the mistakes crushed my enthusiasm and I just lost interest, or got distracted with other stuff. So, I have collected quite an assortment of canvases, not quite the equal of the estate sale display – but perilously close.
Writing about this propensity to procrastinate in one area makes me face the fact I have put off finishing other projects. Or, I have shelved what was no longer exciting, creative and rewarding: from finishing too many books, and completing some paintings—not the only things on my to-do list.
But chucking writing is something I won’t do, as long as the Lord allows. One of the reasons I started blogging was to work out some knots – and get comfortable writing about personal stuff – without whining. Or pontificating. (The first blogs)
It’s hard to do that.
Writing helps me look at the tangles and knots on my life’s canvas – and my tendency for not finishing what I start. Forcing myself to write turns out to be the best part – the act of writing turns out to be its own reward. (Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott, page 20.) “Good writing is about telling the truth. We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are,” whether or not we ever get published! (Lamott, p. 26)
Okay – it’s a given -- I am a knotted mess on the underside, a work in progress on topside. That’s not news, and I am not special. Writing helps me see my canvas, remembering all the stuff I have squirreled away for whatever reasons, and helps me feel a little compassion for other people who may have a design on their canvas – a trial, or burden – that has them tied up or bothered.
Maybe nobody ever told them even world-class artists make mistakes?
· Or, nobody trained them how correct their mistakes?
· Or, maybe they need a bit of encouragement, and praise for the work they are doing?
· Or, maybe they need a bit of help – something I can give so they can finish the work at hand?
· Or, maybe they need encouragement to simply set their problems aside for a season?
Owning up to my knots -- admitting the failure, being willing to change, and then trying a better way – is a way of showing, we can correct mistakes without blowing holes in our lives or the lives of others.
They're not gray hairs. They're wisdom highlights. ~Author Unknown
· You know you are getting old when it takes too much effort to procrastinate. ~Author Unknown
· Do you know the difference between education and experience? Education is when you read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don't. ~Pete Seeger