The patchwork quilt of my life

quiltMy mom makes the most beautiful patchwork quilts. She is an amazing seamstress and taught herself how to make quilts years ago because it was something she’s passionate about. She now teaches classes and passes on her knowledge to all who are interested and come to her.

Mom and I don’t share the same passion for quilting, much to her chagrin. Although I can sew, making quilts hasn’t really interested me much in the past. But recently, my thoughts have begun to change.

I wake up every morning under the most amazing quilt that she made me from batik fabrics. I feel like a mermaid and the quilt is the ocean wrapped around me. I love the colours of this quilt – seagrass green, dark stormy purples, sea foam teal, dark blue, bits of tan like pieces of seaweed or the beach, and white for waves crashing in. I am a true Piscean. If I can’t be at the beach, then my quilt brings the ocean to me each night.

I had dinner with a good friend a few weeks ago. She’s one of those people I consider a ‘trusted advisor’ in life. She’s older than me and always leaves me with at least one piece of wisdom to contemplate. This night was no exception.

She shared part of her personal journey with me and as she ended she said, “I’ve always thought of my life as a patchwork quilt. There are all of these different bits stitched together. Some of them good, some bad, but every experience has taught me something that I can take forward. When things get uncomfortable, I retreat under my quilt until I feel better and can face the world again.”

I thought that was beautiful. And from my point of view, I think she uses her patchwork quilt more like a superwoman cape, than a blanket to retreat from the world.

It made me come home and look at the quilts in my house with new eyes.

At the same time, I’ve been reading and working through a book, Desperately Seeking Spirituality, which has been written by another one of my trusted advisors. The book highlights five spiritual practices of being: willingness, curiosity, empathy, generosity and delight and asks the reader to do some serious soul searching around each practice.

I’ve been working on empathy. Before reading this book, I thought I was a fairly empathic person. But after reading this chapter, I figure I’ve still got some work to do. So I’ve spent some time figuring out the answers to these questions as prompted by the book:

  • Which experiences have significantly shaped how I perceive the world around me and my feelings for being alive?
  • What happened? What didn’t happen?
  • What needed to happen? What did I wish had happened?
  • How has the truth of what happened changed over time?
  • How has the quality of my storytelling changed over time?1

I’ve come up with a number of experiences in my life that have significantly shaped how I perceive the world and my feelings for being alive. When I first wrote the list I thought they were all unrelated. The experiences have taken place through all different periods of my life. On face value, they don’t look like they have anything to do with each other

But the more I explore these experiences, really delve into them and write my answers to the questions above, the more I realise how intertwined they are. They each impact on the others. They were all experiences I had to live through in order to learn what I need to live today.

Collectively these experiences stitch together into a wider fabric that is connected by smaller pieces that fit in amongst the larger ones; much like a patchwork quilt.

When a quilt is made, many small pieces are sewn together into blocks and then the blocks are sewn into a quilt top. This is then sewn onto a backing (usually one continuous piece of fabric) and a layer of batting (for warmth) goes between the top and the backing. The three layers are then quilted together and the whole quilt is surrounded by binding which helps hold it all together and finishes the edges.

In my life’s quilt, each patchwork block of my quilt top is an experience or lesson that I have learned and/or block I have somehow worked through. The patchwork blocks touch each other at various points and have other pieces of fabric that link them together. These pieces of fabric are the friends and family members who tie my experiences together throughout life’s journey.

The backing of my life quilt is the path I chose before I arrived on this planet. The innate part of me. My soul.

And what binds my quilt together?

I could be glib and say that the binding is the last part of the quilt to be attached and as my life isn’t over, it isn’t bound yet and so I don’t know. But I don’t think that’s right. I think there is a greater force than me, an universal energy that binds my life quilt and keeps it in shape. Sometimes I feel more certain of that than other times. Right now, that’s what I’m betting on.

My life quilt is still a work in progress. What other blocks will emerge over time? What shape will the quilt be at the end of my life? Will it be tent sized? Or superwoman cape size? Or something in between? And what condition will it be in?

I’m betting on very worn, but much loved.

One thought on “The patchwork quilt of my life

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  1. Appreciate this post and not just because you reference me and my work. Or how questions for reflection in the Empathy chapter were helpful. Ok, I do love and appreciate that stuff but also how you’ve used and extended the quiltmaking metaphor. I, too, am betting “very worn, but much loved” and definitely a superwoman cape!


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