“A tranquil mind gives life to the body, but jealousy rots the bones.” — Proverbs 14:30
People often say to me, “You’re so lucky to have talent.” I usually respond with a “thank you,” but what I really want to say is, “It’s not luck, it is a blessing, one which requires many other skills and sacrifices to ensure my talent turns to success.” As I have said before, I believe everyone is blessed with a specific talent intended to be used to do God’s work. We are His hands and feet. He gave us eyes and ears to see and hear what needs to be done. However, it is not like we are each struck with a magic wand and “poof” we are gifted and we know what to do with it. On the contrary, it usually takes a long time to discover our individual potential and then it requires time, often many years, to put it to good use. And, it’s not a one time venture. We must keep working. We must keep finding the needs, while always improving our methods.
Michelangelo Buonarroti said, “If people only knew how hard I work to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” When I first read this quote, I felt a little bit of a connection with Michelangelo. In the 16th century when he lived, artists were very highly regarded. There must have been a great deal of envy directed toward him for the prestige he received. By no means do I consider myself to be anywhere near Michelangelo in talent, but I understand what he was trying to say. I imagine he was constantly under stress and rarely got enough sleep, all the while people were expressing envy of his talents.
When I agreed to make a quilt to memorialize Father Vincent (see “Something about Sr. Ann,” November, 2010 post), I was aware of my time limitations to complete it, but as it was a promise for a nun to honor a priest, I knew I must get it done some how. I felt my eternal future hung in the balance! As it turned out, my schedule had only seven free days to do it. “Well,” I thought, “God made the whole earth in seven days, I can probably make a quilt!” (How terribly smug of me to compare myself first to Michelangelo and then to God!)
When I print pictures onto fabric, I use a high quality product, which can be expensive when doing a large quilt. Each 8 1/2″ by 11″ sheet runs about $5.00 so I don’t want to waste even an inch of it. At the time of creating Fr. Vincent’s quilt, I had a computer set up in my studio — a cozy room off the side of our garage. The printer, however, was in my husband’s office. It was a little bit of a trek to get there — down a couple of steps, through the garage, up a couple of steps into the laundry room, past the TV room, into the kitchen, out of the kitchen and, finally, into the office. On the first day of this work, around 4:00 a.m., I began printing the photos.
This is how the routine went that morning: I set up the photos in the computer program. Wearing my slip-on slippers, I scuffed my way down a couple of steps, through the garage, up a couple of steps into the laundry room, past the TV room, into the kitchen, out of the kitchen and into the office to the printer. I made sure the fabric sheet was properly placed in the printer and then I scuffed all the way back to the studio. I selected “print” and then scurried and scuffed back to the office (down a couple of steps, through the garage. . . ) to make sure the fabric sheet properly entered into the printer. I had to do this about ten times. Somewhere around “scuffing and scurrying” on trip number four, I noticed my husband was up with a cup of coffee and heading to his computer. On trip number five, I discovered my expensive fabric sheet just exiting the printer with “Car Facts” printed as a heading! I had neglected to tell him I was printing. This was early in the morning on Day One. I truly wanted to go back to bed. For some reason (Sr. Ann said it was the Holy Spirit), I kept working. It wasn’t long after that when Ted purchased a printer exclusively for my use.
Another time I was designing a quilt to mark a significant anniversary of a special couple. I wanted to get a few pictures of their house without their knowledge. This required a little bit of detective work because I did not know them well. One morning, I took a chance they would be at daily mass, entered their address into the GPS, and headed out. I started out with a big hat and sunglasses, but then decided I watch too many movies.
A quick survey of the neighborhood told me I had one chance to get pictures. First of all, it looked like a close-knit neighborhood where everyone watched out for each other. Then I saw the garage door was open meaning the anniversary couple was probably at home and possibly just about to back their car out. Even more troublesome, the next-door neighbor was outside shaking a rug. If I drove by a second time in my little red car, I envisioned several paranoid seniors happily giving up the next segment of Regis and Kelly for a chance to dial 9-1-1.
I had my camera on and ready. As I am no ace driver on a normal day, I didn’t take
my eyes off the road while I aimed the camera out the window and snapped a few pictures. I do not know if there has ever been a news headline, “Woman Killed While Creating a Quilt,” but I personally can envision how it might happen. One snapshot was an excellent picture of some crumbs on the passenger seat, but the others, though slanted, were good enough. Mission accomplished!
These are just a couple of examples of what it’s like to be me and how it is not always easy to do my work, but I persevere. In fact, it’s a rare day when I do not have a struggle of some sort. There are broken needles, difficult patterns, flawed threads, sewing machine break downs, accidents, interruptions, illnesses and emergencies. In addition, much of what I do cannot be done by me alone. I need assistance all the time from my husband and daughters especially with computer and technology gadgets. I ask them to use their special gifts to help me fulfil my goals.
There are an inordinate number of attacks on successful people these days and it deeply saddens me. The feeling of envy is not only sinful, but it is a wasted emotion. It’s an emotion with no positive benefits. Feeling envy only serves to diminish oneself. It can keep you from attaining your own personal success especially if you believe someone else acquired their success due to luck or some magic formula they are unwilling to share. Rather than envy, it is far better to admire others for their achievements. What’s more, we should take every opportunity to learn from the journey of a successful person.
I like to believe my work is important, but I am realistic enough to know what I do is not rocket science. No one’s life is at risk if I make a mistake. (Well, that is, if you don’t count
my photography driving!) Few people, if any would be impacted if I stopped quilting and writing. There are countless others, however, whose work, sacrifices and successes do make a tremendous difference. There are engineers solving serious problems and social workers protecting innocent children. Every day there are scientists finding cures, nurses comforting the dying and soldiers saving freedom. These people and many, many more, worked longer days, skipped numerous meals, gave up time with their families and risked personal finances. Every one of us on earth has benefited in one way or another by the success of others. We should be very grateful.
I had a difficult time in high school. I struggled with the core college courses. I was more suited for the arts, but because most of my friends were smart and headed for college, I felt inadequate. I did not see success in my future. A caring teacher, Miss Branigan, gave me a little booklet at graduation, a treasure I still read from time to time: