Friday, May 5, 2017

May: Positivity In Loss

Candle, Flame, Candlelight, Light

The Many Sides of Loss

I feel myself struggling to explain the sentiments of loss in all its wide definitions, but also how it affects our lives as quilters. No one's life is immune from loss, but some people manage better than others. It makes me wonder how the same experience is processed differently by people. Losses in our quilting life are much lighter in comparison to everyday life, but I think the psychology of things that trip us up is the same. We save certain fabrics and tiny scraps, form deep attachments to things we've created, and question if we really have to give that quilt away! But the process of making, completing, and gifting a quilt is full of decisions based on these concepts. Can we make some of them easier by changing our attitude about them?

The last post I spoke about eating healthier, loss of joint pain, and losing weight--good things, but I've felt some other kinds of loss this year. One of the hardest things I experienced was having an argument with my oldest, childhood friend, and her death before we had worked it out. Loss in the most elemental form of both friend and friendship, and reconciliation impossible. Loss reaches both extremes.

Chess, Board Game, Play, Lose

Is Losing Always Bad?

We tend to think of loss in negative terms, but that's not always the case. If someone said to me, "Name the first things that come to mind when I say 'loss, lose or losing', I would say, "Death, weight, job, fight, friend, money, nerve," and so on. Most of those words signal devastation or fear. Is it any wonder when we say 'lose weight'  and tell kids they'll 'lose their teeth' that we might not be completely okay with it down deep? Hmmm. 

Holding on to things feels safe while giving them away freely can be a hard concept to accept positively--even if that thing is bad for us! One of our daughters had a blankie with her all the time when she was small. It took a lot of courage for her to allow it to be washed even when it reached the unsanitary stage! 

Farm Animals, Toys, Dog, Cat, Beef, Cow

In myself, I see it when I store a battered skillet as a back up in the pantry when I have a brand new one in the kitchen. Or how used twisty ties end up breeding in a kitchen junk drawer? Isn't being frugal a good thing? We may need those things we save! Up to a certain point, I agree it is. But what about the things you have too many of or can no longer use? Can you pass them on? We say, "We're giving them away." Sometimes those words make it easier, but not always. Isn't it still losing something?

What's the big difference?

The gurus of simplified living will tell you rules of thumb like, "If you haven't used/worn/noticed it in 6 months, you don't need it." Perhaps that helps us justify the loss. 

Beyond material things, we continue bad relationships because we think it's too harsh to end it or we have too many years invested. Yes, even if it's no longer healthy. 

Kindness, Accepting, Attuned, Generosity

The Attitude of Gratitude

So let's brainstorm how we can turn our thinking, change our words, and create a positive scenario. 

"The other side won."
"We did not win this time."
"We'll try harder next time."

"I'm choosing to eat things which make me feel good.
"I'm still Me. It's just my clothes are getting too big."

"I have some things to share with others."
"I have more than I need."

In the case of losing my friend, I had to come to terms with it. She might have passed on, but I had a conversation out loud with her one afternoon in the garden. I apologized for my mistake, and said we would continue the conversation someday. I guess you would say that was closure since I no longer felt it was unresolved. It didn't stop me from feeling sad about her death, but the anger of not laying things right was over.

Our Lives As Quilters and the 
Concept of Losing Rethought

Ask anyone making a quilt who it's for, and most of the time it's for someone other than themselves. A relative, a friend, and in some cases for someone they've never met. Yes, a charity quilt. We quilters are big on giving.

Divine Light, Light, Clouds, Sunlight

The Opposite of Loss

In making one of my first charity quilts, I felt like it took forever as a new quilter. When it was finally done, someone asked me if I was just giving it away. Just like that it would be gone. And actually, I was fine with it. I think it was easy from the start because each time I make a quilt, I see a face of a women with small children, an older man and his wife, many kinds of people, but those who need me to give so they can receive. 

I can share warmth, security, and love for others by giving a quilt. But in reality aren't I losing time, money, and fabric? Yes and no. The good feeling I get completely displaces any idea of loss. My gain is far greater than the effort put into the quilt. "For it is in giving that we receive," is something easier understood through experience.

That same wise daughter that dragged the pillowcase blankie has grown into a beautiful woman, and pointed out to me: "Losing sight of what was created or given up does not mean it ceases to exist or doesn't count anymore. It's still there, but is put to use where you cannot see it. The meaning is still relevant." Thanks, B. 

What do you think of when you hear, 
"Loss, lose, or losing?"

Have you ever had something negative  made 
positive just by changing your attitude? 

Do you have any ideas about your work that would benefit 
from a change in thought or action?

The hour is late, and I have work that is waiting. While there is more to this post, I will share it later. In the meantime, peace to you, and...

Come on, Doxie girls.
Let's go sew.

Linking up with~
Crazy Mom Quilts


Linda Swanekamp said...

Pretty heavy post. I look at the quilts I give away (most of them) and setting them free to work their comfort on those who need it. It almost always does, even if it is for a short time. I get notes from people once in a while how they treasure the quilt given to their loved one who has died. One father put it on the wall behind his bed for comfort. All stuff will be lost, used up, or discarded eventually. People are the lasting treasure. Every quilt I give away, frees me to do another.

PaulaB quilts said...

I had an experience like your loss of your friend, with a different ending. I overlooked displaying her family quilt during a quilt discussion. Later I felt terrible for two days. So I spoke to her privately, asking forgiveness. She acknowledged her hurt and did forgive me. The following evening she suddenly passed away. I am so grateful to God for giving me the strength to repair the hurt while there was time and leaving me with no regrets. I'm sorry you did not have the same chance, but we both learned the same lesson.

Sandra Walker said...

So much to say, so much good information you've shared here. Beyond the quilting/sewing world. This is the basic yogic philosophy, to let go. Non-attachment. Not grasping is one of the 5 'yamas' of yoga, meaning the 5 basic beliefs. It's very difficult in this material world! It can also mean not grasping onto intangible things like a set routine. I am working hard, with some success, yay, on letting go of fabric, by making charity quilts. I love B's philosophy, and will now take that with me to add to my mental images I get, much like yours, how interesting (and rather UN-surprising given how much we connect, ha).

Danice G said...

Very emotional, heartfelt post. Thank you for sharing this with us. I am so sorry about your friend. I'll bet that she heard your prayer and understands. It is difficult to just let go. In my own life, I have(am)experiencing some issues, aren't we all. Your words are very helpful. Great attitude.

Danice G said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stitchin At Home said...

A very thought provoking post. Letting go can be hard, somethings no problem but others near to impossible. I have decided this year to try and let more go, which is one reason I like making charity quilts we can give freely and feel good with no regrets.

Quiltdivajulie said...

Our younger adult son deals with both bipolar and asperger's - both of which involve lots of labeling and self-imposed rules about language. Loss as a term is definitely a double-edged sword that can be debilitating if not managed or re-framed. Terrific post - hopefully your thoughts will help a few people re-think the way they automatically assign meaning to a word or phrase. Changing that automatic response can make a huge difference.

Kate said...

A very interesting post. Lots of things to consider and think through. The advantage of getting older is being able to bring some perspective those losses we all deal with.

Barb N said...


Amanda Best said...

A very interesting topic/post. All my life I have struggled, (read: found it impossible), to let most things go, both physical things and mental things, if you know what I mean. Since last fall I have really been concentrating on trying to improve in this area. As silly as it sounds something that has made a huge positive impact has been Marie Kondo's Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It may sound silly but, understanding my attachment to things has freed me from a bad situation of my own making. One of the main reasons I found it so hard to part with things is that I was afraid I would loose the memories that went with it. Like a certain shirt or whatever, I would see it and remember the day I got my sweet poodle puppy from the animal shelter when I was a teenager. Would I have as clear of a memory of a specific day/event without being able to touch the item that brought it back to me so clearly? I still don't know for sure of course, but letting go of the items that are really no longer necessary in my life today, the person I am right now, is so profoundly freeing, it shows me what is important to me now, so I can make positive progress to who I want to be.
As far as quilts/fabrics go I find for me it is easier to make a quilt and give that away than to give away fabric. When the quilt is done, it can be of so much use to someone, but the fabric still has so much potential that I want to explore. I don't know if that is a common thing with other quilters or not. I also find that I don't have a problem making gift or charity quilts at all, but when a quilt is from the start supposed to be mine, I can't part with it!
Please excuse my really long comment. This issue has been a daily struggle for me for awhile now so I have thought on it a lot!
So very sorry about your friend.

Kate @ Smiles From Kate said...

A few years ago I was very ill and had emergency surgery. I had had a problem for a few months but all the tests showed although I needed surgery it could wait. The tests were wrong, I ended up close to death. As the anaesthetist came to sedate me I suddenly thought I haven't spoken to my children, it doesn't matter, they know I love them, I haven't made a will, it doesn't matter it's only money, I haven't spoken to a friend for so long, it doesn't matter, she knows how much our friendship has always meant. Nothing mattered, I was not concerned about the outcome, I let go and gave myself up to whatever was meant to be. No one thing can take away all the time we invest into a relationship, at the end, it wouldn't have mattered, it is only peace.
I have been going through a period of non attachment the last few years, I have parted with things I never thought I ever would, but at the end of the day it's just stuff. I was recently asked how could I give away the mystery quilt I had just made, it was so beautiful, but it had given me so much pleasure in the making of it it was easy to give it away to give pleasure to someone else. Joy in life and happiness in general are so much greater when shared.

Julie said...

Linda, I think you have written a beautiful sentiment. Your attitude toward giving is genuine, and it just shows that this is in your heart as well as mind. I agree. Nothing else will matter in the end. Whether we quote the Golden Rule, or any other similar words, I think "Above all be kind" is the essence. You are a kind soul! Thank you so much.

Julie said...

I get goosebumps reading this, Paula. How often have we said, "There are no accidents"? Profound things happen to each of us, but we need to recognize them as such. I think that's how we grow. Maybe not having the chance to iron things out was my chance to realize how fragile people are through illness. I will share that I tried many, many times to contact her, but her struggle with cancer was more important to fight than a misunderstanding with me. I understood that she didn't have the energy to do it all in a short time. I'll also share that this was an incident that happened while texting. She would no longer talk near the end of her illness. Young people may love it, but I hate texting because of the lack of intonation, sarcasm, etc. I am so much more careful now. Many, many lessons learned.

Julie said...

So true, my friend. I was unaware of the connection to intangibles, but that's food for thought now. Such is my ADD free spirit, though, so no harm there. Letting go becomes easier as I age, but I will say was something I had to learn. A friend shared a set of tapes with me about the tenets of Catholicism--no, I'm not Catholic, and thoughts on charity nearly 30 years ago. The one thing that stuck with me was not just giving our left over, second hand things, but to give our best. To truly be willing to give up that which is dearest to us is giving with a pure heart, i.e. the shirt off our back when one only had one shirt. It must have created a lasting impression because it stuck all these years. I aspire to be such a giver.

Julie said...

I'm glad this was timely for you, too. A part of me imagines some of what we go through is age-related, but I am often surprised. The lessons of life follow no order, but sooner or later most touch us all. I hope you find peace of mind and heart, Danice. Thank you.

Julie said...

Yes, I agree. Some things are definitely easier than others. Attachment vs. detachment. Loss vs. gain. Is it only perspective? You do wonderful work, Cindy, and have touched many lives. Keep setting the example for the rest of us please.

Julie said...

Kate, this is proof not to check my phone in the middle of the night while letting dogs out. I was wide awake after I read it. What a testament toward giving freely! I, too, had a significant experience that allowed me some sight. Stuff was not in that picture. To some degree, I was not in that picture. But I really think you're right when you say the lasting things are the friendship, the love, smiles and our laughter. Joy? Positively! And so much sweeter when shared.

Julie said...

And unfortunately the opportunities are coming more frequently. 50 seems to be the turning point for many people healthwise, and it's a bit scary losing those we feel are still young.

Julie said...

I get what you're saying. It took FlyLady to change how I organized 'stuff', but also to see how I could free myself from clutter. We had 5 children, and homeschooled on top of that. Any system can work as long as it has meaning for you. Many people find the Marie Kondo method is what they need vs. a little each day with FlyLady.

The longer I thought about your quilt vs. fabric detachment, the more more I could see that. Fabric DOES have potential, but even in excess it can be just a thing. It has to have a purpose for me.

I never mind long comments. No excuse necessary, and I would far rather engage in meaningful conversation than fluff any day. Thank you so much for sharing here.

Julie said...

Thank you. Words are significant in evoking feeling. It's worth saying that we can lessen a words negative impact by rephrasing it, but it can also be the reverse. We can use a horrible word so often that it loses it's meaning. I'm often shocked at how common profanity is today compared to while I was growing up. I'm no saint either, but it's not something I would say in public or televise. Through movies and television the "F" word is commonplace world wide, but it never seems to lose its impact when I hear a younger person say it without realizing the impact. English speaking youth are no different, but I remember a day it just was the worst possible thing someone could say. Now, I wonder how many times a day I hear it.

Jen said...

What a beautiful, inspiring post. I think most of us that hold onto negative (or otherwise) things have become aware of the impact it has on our lives. I know over the past few years I have been struggling with that myself. Both physical and mental "clutter". Things that do not benefit me or others. I think that you are so right with the quilt making. While I create a quilt using my precious fabric, sometimes it is hard to part with it, not knowing if it will be loved or appreciated, but having one person tell you how much your hard work comforts them and seeing the smile on their face is enough to fuel many more quilted gifts.
This is a good reminder that giving happiness brings happiness. Thank you for sharing this with all of us!

helenjean@midgetgemquilts said...

Gosh what a lot to think about here Julie , both in your heartfelt comments and in the comments and replys below . In a material sense , as I sort out my dad's house I have to let go of some and keep others . I too had unfinished business with a friend who died very suddenly , it took me a long time to come to terms with her death . As regards the charity side of letting go , I think my big thing is "humanity" now

Julie said...

I'm glad you felt that, Jen. Thank you. I think you're right how mental clutter is just as powerful as physical clutter, and how we don't need to get rid of everything we have, but to be conscious of it. Be aware that stuff can be in control of you as well as the opposite. Positive affirmation from seeing how an act of kindness is appreciated may be the starting point, but there is another where people don't even need that anymore. It becomes bigger than sharing your material things, and simply becomes loving. So true that happiness brings happiness!

Julie said...

Unfinished business is a good way to put it. We have a struggle with someone, feel bad, mad, etc., and then the unthinkable happens so we feel a responsibility of sorts to have a hand in it. Add that to the sadness of losing them from your life, and the impact you see in the world they left behind, and it's darn traumatic. I imagine this is a common experience over the course of a lifetime, but shockingly hard when it happens. I'm glad you came to terms finally.

You and I have had some back channeled conversations about charity quilts, blocks, etc., and I'm grateful for your input. Thank you.