Monday, April 19, 2010

Reading Between the Lines of the To Do List

The "to do list". I don't know about yours but mine seems to be ever growing, endless, equally frustrating as well as equally fulfilling. I carry it around on my phone, on my calendar, in my mind. Always thinking about my to do list.

Somewhere along the line I developed the mindset that every day must be productive or I would be considered lazy. There are so many opportunities that beckon my attention - good things that perhaps benefit others, necessary things to keep life functioning properly (like laundry), activities that perhaps selfishly benefit my business, social or spiritual life. Lots of choices.

Recently on my "to do list" or calendar were two quilting 'social' activities. One being the Island Quilters Guild meeting in Galveston. I enjoy gathering with like minded folks and talking about quilts. I've always said that my favorite part is show and tell. Every now and then I have a quilt to share....

Here I'm pointing out my butterfly logo located on the map where I live, between Houston and Galveston. I was sharing that this quilted map hang in the A-1 booth recently in Dallas and I used it as a cheat sheet to help with my geography when a customer would tell me where they were from - I'd ask them to point it out on the map....

What I really enjoy is looking at other's show and tell...always amazed at the creativity of what others are doing, love to see their color choices, their pattern layout, and how the quilt was quilted. This particular quilt was inspiring. The blocks were a part of a block exchange among several members of the guild (unfortunately I wasn't one of them). I have always loved pinwheels, and seeing this quilt set in a beautiful purple was just over the top wonderful to me!

"attend guild meeting" Check.

Next on the "to do list" was teaching a Square in a Square class at Catcus Quilts in Texas City. This was an advanced technique class and each of the ladies have now been trained in Options 1-17 of the Square in a Square technique (for more info on this check out Square in a Square). We had a fun class, lots of sewing but more important talking and laughing. A great social outing that was also productive.

"teach SnS class" Check.

The to do list was being checked off as new things were being added. Isn't this what we are suppose to do? Be organized, be scheduled, fill our lives with lots and lots of activities, get a lot out of every day? Certainly productive!

Then it dawned on me yesterday coming home from worship. Life isn't a to do list. I'm going through the motions, checking things off, thinking about what's next, reworking that list, always always thinking of what I have to finish so I can get to what I have to do next. Wait a minute. I'm not really living. I'm missing out on the moments. I heard a phrase yesterday on the radio, in fact I think it's the name of someone's new album or something..."life isn't a snapshot" ... now I don't know what meaning that phrase has to them, but gee, I'm always taking photos and trying to "document" my life as if that gives it more meaning, more much as I enjoy rambling and sharing, that can't be my purpose. Nor is it to have bigger and brighter piles of quilts -although I really love looking at my top shelf in the studio with all the quilts folded as a testimony to my accomplishments - that's not my purpose in life, it can't be. It's a pleasure for me, but there's more to life than stacking up accomplishments and checked off to do lists.

The other day I was in a gift shop on the Kemah Boardwalk looking for a gift for my mother's birthday. At the checkout counter was a little display full of little metal seashells. I'm naturally drawn to anything beachie so I took a second glance and noticed that on each shell there were words etched such as inspire, believe, etc. Then I found the one that spoke to me. Balance. Wow. I'm missing out on that. For a few extra dollars above my gift purchase that little seashell went home with me. I need to be balanced.

Time to enjoy the moments. Time to take time off from the to do list and do something unplanned, something inspired. What's really neat is when that translates to something creative, and even useful - like a new personal quilt...

Sunday afternoon I did just that. I decided that I really really liked the purple pinwheel quilt that my fellow guild member made and I wanted to make one too. The joy was working through my own scraps and making pinwheels that had meaning and purpose to me. I didn't want to totally copy her quilt, and although I have really loved purple these past 10 years I'm sorta moving into a new color, or adding a new color, hot pink! I was going to call this Playful Pinwheels but decided that it's a new decade and along with HOT pink being added to my life there's a new season of personal summers so I'm going to call this Hot Flash (giggle) as I wish at times I had all the fan movement of these pinwheels!

I made over 50 eight inch blocks yesterday afternoon and was blessed with a friend coming over to visit with me while I sewed. She even pressed a few blocks and helped me put them up on the design wall. The blocks will be tucked away for another day, but the thoughts shared with this friend I hope will stay with me as they were profound and encouraging..

We were talking about this very subject of the to do list, balance, life's ups and downs and she shared with me what she'd learned about worry -- that worrying about something is really a control issue...

For example, she shared that she was waiting on her income tax return because there were some bills that needed to be paid and this check was the source that would relive these burdens of debt. She had been given the estimate that the check should be received on Friday and worried all day waiting on the mail...when it didn't come she worried about the overdue bills. Her husband said "worrying doesn't change anything, it's in God's hands". Simple. True. He then shared that her worrying about it was as if she could control the outcome. many times have I worried and fretted over something I have absolutely no control over, as if my worrying would change the fact that I could have control, and if I had control then I could fix it. I'd never thought of worry as a control issue. No new revelation that I'm a control freak, but didn't realize to what degree. I need to recognize the fact that many many things are out of my control, that I can only do what I can do, and that sometimes the to do list is just that, a list, not a mandate of what I have to do - just things that I'd like to do or need to do. I also have to realize that I can't control other people - how they will react, if they will like me or like my quilting or whatever, that all I can do is all I can do - trying to second guess what others want me to do or trying to do everything to please others is tiring. All I can do is the best that I can do. Worrying about what other's think is something that I now recognize is out of my control....what I can do is recognize that I need to take time to balance and balance means taking a moment to live. Enjoy the moments, not rushing to the next item on the to do list. A time to smell the roses....

For some reason I've been taking a lot of flower photos lately. Perhaps it was because I was rushing by so quickly and wanted to savor the moment later by reviewing the photos... perhaps a little part of me was reaching out for recognition that I must stop and smell the roses, that I need this time to reflect on God's beauty, time to be renewed and refreshed.... Here's a sample of the photos I've been collecting this past week...

Life isn't a to do list. It's not accomplishments that will long fade after I'm gone, it's not even the quilts that will be inherited (grin). It's about taking a deep breath and recognizing that God has blessed me by placing me in the middle of His beautiful creation. That He has a plan and purpose for me, and sometimes that's only revealed one day at a time - verses thinking it has to be a big grand and glorious accomplishment that will be recorded in history (grin). It's more of a "what can I do today that will glorify His name?" It is being faithful in the little things such as fulfilling my obligations on my to do list like keeping my word to show up for an appointment (on time) or it could be more about the people factor of those appointments, sharing an encouraging word to someone I encounter along the way? Both perhaps. Each day brings new opportunities. The key is to not place the focus on the to do list, but instead place the focus on balance and embrace life by reading between the lines of the to do list. And taking time to rest. That part has been missing for a long time. (maybe I should add that to the to do list!)

"Be Still and Know" that He is God!


Muddling Through said...

Sometimes you just have to slow down and enjoy life. Glad you did (although fifty pinwheel blocks doesn't sound too slow to me!!).

Denise in PA said...

Karen, Thank you for your thoughts on worry and control - I really needed that today!

Love the pinwheels!

Jeanne Turner McBrayer said...

Nice post, Karen, and beautiful photos. I like your Texas quilt very much!

Laura said...

Oh Karen, I could have written parts of this post. I too had the mindset about being productive and constantly living by my to do list as well as all of the control/worrying issues. I had the exact same epiphany as you one day that life was passing me by because I was too busy looking ahead to the next thing to appreciate what was going on right now.

My mindset change and transformation took place last fall. I can't tell you how freeing it is! Once I cleared my mind of the worrying/control issues and freed myself from the chains of the to do list, I suddenly had far more energy for things I loved, like quilting! Go figure.

I still have a to do list and there are always time sensitive things that NEED to get done, but it doesn't hold me hostage and I don't beat myself up if I blow something off that probably wasn't very important anyway.

Enjoy the new you!

Gudrun said...

It is so important to stay in the 'now'. I like to think of 'now' as a gift, it is the present...and we should
be here...glad your here Karen.