I’ve made another patchwork square for your Dear Daughter quilt. This one is called Farmer’s Daughter. I fussy cut the bees for some pieces, but left others so they look like they are scurring under the centre pieces. It would have worked more effective if the red fabric had less white. I’m hoping it shows from a distance.
With every finished square, I include a letter to you. Often I think about my words as I add little stitches to pull the bits of fabric together. The repeating action of sewing concentrates my mind and I can focus on what I want to say. Other thoughts can wait, which fits nicely with the topic I’ve chosen this time. Time to launch in to my letter….
There are no two ways about it. Life can serve up some real humdingers of moments, that we’d prefer to write out of our day. We all have them. We really do. Easy to dwell. Easy to let them pull us down. Easy to let five minutes of something not going our way, to make the whole day feel like a write-off.
So often we forget, dismiss or simply don’t register the simple joys in life, instead focusing on the bad. It’s the way we’re wired. A survival trait.
In basic terms, since time beyond, we are set up to pass on warnings and danger messages so we, and the rest of our community or tribe, survive. There is an immediate benefit from hearing about a wolf seen attacking local sheep. Less true of learning that the lilac down by the river smells particularly good this year. Especially if you depend on your sheep, rather than lilacs, for survival. In this case, focusing on the bad saves lives.
In modern terms, the gossip might fly about the cafe in town that’s linked to a possible food poisoning outbreak, or the road works that add time to your journey and cause major inconvenience. All will be discussed in detail and at length, while a rainbow overhead fades unnoticed.
With the focus on danger and disruptions, it does mean that we need to work a little harder at seeing life’s joy and making it part of us. Hang on. Wait a minute. Why does it matter, you may ask? Good question. I should cover that first.
I think it matters because each of those moments of joy lift our spirits and strengthens us. In contrast, being under a cloud of stress and anxiety leaves us depleted. Try tackling a day in that state and I think you’ll see the advantage of experiencing an uplift instead. Even if it is only fleeting.
By focusing on the small, or seemingly less critical (think lilac), we also glimpse the bigger picture. We gain perspective. It takes us out of ourselves and that is a good thing. A moment to step back, regroup, and then on to tackle at least some of what life can throw at us, slightly stronger than we were before.
Let me give you an example. It’s spring at the moment. We’ve spotted the first swifts of the year, flying over the house. What a sight for winter weary eyes. Often they are flying as pairs, but soon they’ll be more than we can count as they weave and streak through the sky above our heads, outmaneuvering flies to munch on.
Here comes the part that always catches my breath and makes me smile: they’ve flown all the way back from Africa to our patch of the world. Reportedly, without stopping. Just take a moment to think about it. Those little birds have covered thousands of miles, and they do it every year of their lives. Awesome. We witness only the end and the start of their epic journey.
I’m not sure why I was so worried about the traffic jam now. I’ll leave earlier. Although, I might loiter a little longer to watch the swifts dart above my head. ‘Tis a joy.
So how do we see life’s joy in our daily lives? Like gold dust it can be spread thin and difficult to grasp, but with practise it becomes easier. Look around. Stand still and look up. Stop, listen and notice. Take a moment and experience it. For one moment, give yourself permission to not think about the past or overthink the future. Be.
Here are some ideas on how to lose yourself and see the joy:
1. Go outside and take a camera. There is nothing like spotting something new – be it flower, insect or street art – to make you look. I mean really look. Frame it in the camera lens. Take the photo. (this is one of my favourite ways – just look at my instagram feed) Alternatively draw it.
2. Do something you really enjoy doing to the best of your abilities. Entirely for you. Baking, playing the harp, drawing, plant a seed. Concentrating. Getting lost in the process. If you make something, feel free to throw it away at the end, if you want. It’s all about the journey. (Although cake is nice. Just saying.)
3. Spend time with someone you like/love and enjoy their company. Fly a kite. Laughter is compulsory with this one, of course.
4. Find music that really resonates with you. Play it. Dance. Sing. Tap your toes. Lose yourself in it.
5. Meditate. Cloud watch. Stand out in the summer rain.
You will find your own method. Lose yourself in the process. Take no baggage with you. Tomorrow can wait. It will take practise, but the good news is that what ever method you choose, it will make you happy. In a better place to deal with whatever comes next. I know you can do it.
Wishing joy to all.
your loving mother
I’m back with another quilt block and letter. Your Dear Daughter quilt is growing. As is the clutch of letters.
I really like this patchwork block. It’s called Rosebud. Somehow I’ve managed to flip the pattern over, which I’m fine with. Eye catching isn’t it? The red against the yellow. I love the raggedy ends of the petals. Probably just me, but they remind me of prayer flags flapping and fraying in the wind. A reassuring image.
This is a patchwork block I would like to do again. I think it would look good en masse in different fabrics but the same design repeated.
While I’ve been stitching, we had an interesting conversation this week. We often do, but this time you told me about the people at school who you find good to be around. I was so pleased to hear you talk about these friends.
You describe them all as positive people. They don’t drag you down. Even when they are unhappy about something, they are somehow upbeat. Most importantly, you know they are approachable and easy to get on with.
I thought your observations were insightful. They sound like wonderful people and I’m glad you know them. It made me ponder. What is it about a person that makes them positive? I’m talking more about the definition of a positive person rather than how they became positive. I won’t go into the nature -v- nuture debate here. Instead, I’ve jotted down a few ideas about how I would define a positive person:
They have a genuine smile. One that reaches all the way to their eyes. I first heard that description in Danny the Champion of the World and it is so true.
They use positive words and phrases with ease. Instead of “I hate“, they use “I like“. Instead of “I can’t“, they use “I’d like to have a go.”
They see others as equals and not as instant competition. Or someone that needs to be squashed so they themselves can rise above. Instead they enjoy hearing about other people’s successes.
My personal favourite. They look for silver linings. The most successful silver linings are ones that move you forward. They may cause a smile (“it’s raining.” “Great for the ducks“) or open doors (“I’m too late.” “Nevermind, now’s the perfect time to do that something I’ve been wanting to do.”)
They share positive moments. Believe me, a positive moment is multiplied once it’s shared. Ten fold, at the minimum. Ask a teacher how they feel after they are able to compliment a student on something done well. Or a small child spotting something for the first time and sharing it with others.
They surround themselves with other positive people. Like minded folk will flock together. It does work the other way round too. (If you are miserable…..)
Goodness. I could go on, but I suspect you have some ideas that you would like to add. I’m sure this is a conversation that we will return to.
I like that you take a moment to understand. You can see the good in people. I hope that you are forever surrounded by people that make you feel good too. People who can turn the negative on its head to expose the shiny positive side of the coin.
Your loving mother
I’ve updated the Dear Daughter page to include photos of all the patchwork blocks so far. Would love to know which is your favourite.