Tuesday, 30 November 2021

"Los Litte"

The meaning of the title will become apparent further down in this blog

It was gratifying to get so many responses to my last blog featuring my Covid Crazy Quilt. One friend emailed me, “In these times of Covid and restrictions, it is interesting to hear what people are up to. Quilting is your way of remembering these many days. Your blog made me think of my way of coping ...”

Coping is a big word these days, and no wonder. Covid isn’t the only thing we’re dealing with. Here in British Columbia, a massive storm has wrought devastation to many people in our province. It’s destroyed homes, farm animals, transportation routes, taken lives, and left us bewildered and anxious. After record heat waves and forest fires this summer, now this. What’s next? 

When I checked the dictionary, I found this definition of coping: “Something a person does to deal with a difficult situation.” We need to find ways to deal with these difficult situations, or they will destroy our hope and our emotional health.

And if I dig around a little deeper, I find lots of advice and tips. They all sound so good:

In my recent post, I wrote about one method of coping, which took up about one hour a week. If you subtract about 50 hours for sleeping, there were 167 other hours left in the week to fill with other coping mechanisms. And the truth is, that didn’t always go so well.

Those walks I planned to take? The projects I started? The intentions I did not fulfill? The kind words I wanted to always speak to my resident sweetie? The positive thoughts and affirmations I wanted to fill my day with? Ha. Often the wheels have fallen off my coping mechanisms. I loaf around on the sofa, eat too much, doom-scroll through my phone for bad-news stories ... and just listing my shortcomings isn’t helping at all.

I’ve been pondering this. Why is it that I feel I need to be so much better at coping than I often am? Shouldn’t I be in control of my feelings, not have these blue days (or weeks) when nothing goes right? At my ripe old age, shouldn’t I have figured out “the secret?”

That’s when I realize that I’m equating “coping” with “control.” Coping methods often help us get through or around or over anxieties, sadness, frustrations and anger, but these methods cannot remove the situations we are facing. 


Whatever the situation you are dealing with – Covid, natural disasters, losses, root canals/toilet training/empty shelves at the grocery store/gasoline rationing, disease, __________ (fill in the blank with your own personal mountain to climb) –  coping methods cannot change that.

As long as I am fighting against things I cannot control, I am fighting a losing battle. The limitations on our lives right now? That is Reality. The imperfections we carry within ourselves, so that coping mechanisms don’t always work? That is Reality.

I think back to my dad, as he struggled with the disabilities of old age; he, who loved to read and write and explore new places, was blind and in a wheel chair. “Ik mat los litte,” he told us, using the Frisian dialect of his youth. “I must let go.”

It’s what I need to do, too: let go of the mistaken belief I can control everything, that if only I could learn to cope better, all would be sunshine and light. It won’t be...and yet, as my dad did, I can find a measure of peace and equilibrium. I can be easier on myself and others, knowing we’re mostly doing our best, and (as Rumi said) “We are all just walking each other home.”

This blog finally found its legs when I read this, written by recovering alcoholic Holly Whitaker and posted  at this site: https://cac.org/category/daily-meditations/2021/

“I’d always considered the word surrender to be blasphemous. Surrender was never a possibility to consider; it wasn’t something self-respecting, self-reliant folk like me do—we scheme around and bulldoze through whatever stands in our way.

 ... [But] Surrender is the strongest, most subversive thing you can do in this world. ... It’s a way of existing, a balancing act. For me, it looks like this: I pick up the baton and I run as far as I can, and I hand it over when I’m out of breath. Or actually maybe it’s like: I’m running with the baton, but the Universe is holding on to the other half of it, and we have an agreement that I’ll figure out the parts I can and hand over the parts I can’t.”

"Los litte," my dad would say. Let go.

Whittaker continues, “By surrendering to whatever is unfolding and by accepting what is ... you not only get a break from the exhaustion of having to control everything, but you also get to experience life, instead of what you think life owes you.

And, she ends by saying, “Hint: what life wants to give us is infinitely better than what we think it owes us.”

I've sewed the squares of my covid crazy quilt together, and will share the end result when I've figured out how to finish it. Don't hold your breath! Things take a little longer these days, and that's okay.


Sunday, 7 November 2021

One Strip at a Time

February, 2020: that’s when we started hearing about “that virus in China”. March 2020: Yup, it’s here. Social distancing, self-isolation, and hand-sanitizing become part of the lexicon. April 2020: Debates about masking begin...remember that? 


We tore off the calendar pages as the story unfolded and our knowledge grew. We got the vaccine. And yet,  now it’s November 2021, 19 months later, and we are still struggling. November is  the beginning of the grey times. How will we get through another winter?

Last year, when all this started, I optimistically decided the days would go faster and better if I counted them off, creating a concrete reminder of each day to bring me closer to the end of the pandemic. Sort of like an advent calendar counting down to Christmas. After all, how long could Covid possibly last?

In April 2020 I counted off the days by creating little 2x3" fabric snapshots of something that brought me delight.  I called it my diary of daily delights. 


In May 2020, I shared my journaling thoughts with you. In June, I counted off the days by walking every day. And then the wheels fell off. From July to October 2020, whatever good intentions I had, evaporated. But in re-reading blog posts from those months, I find a repeated theme: left foot, right foot, breathe. Repeat. This is how we will get through this. Keep on keeping on. And I did. I hope you did, too.

Then, at the beginning of November 2020, I decided to create a quilt square every week; I had so many scraps that needed to be used. 


 Each square would consist of 7 randomly cut strips in colours that summarized that week’s events. For instance, 7 grey and black strips to represent a full week of rain; 7 gold and orange strips for the week when the temperatures were blazing in mid-summer; and 7 pink and green strips for the week the tulips began blooming in our garden.


So that’s what I did. The year is over, and I now have 52 squares of 7 strips in a huge variety of colours, all of them together representing one full year, 365 days, of a Covid-dominated life. I just finished the last square on November 1, 2021. 

This practice...of doing one little thing a day, or one little thing a week ... works for me. I may be cranky about the pandemic, upset with the political shenanigans all around the world, angry about the rich getting richer while the poor get poorer, worried about climate change, frustrated that we are hemmed in by Covid, but when I am working on this one small thing, I get lost in the process of creating, and for a little while, I forget about the ugly. Perhaps I’m creating hope. And that hope stays with me.

Now I have 52 squares. When I started, I had no idea of what I would do with these squares, so I didn’t worry about the rules of design. There’s no unifying colour to tie these squares together. I did not use the colour wheel to ensure nothing clashes. I did not map out a design to follow. There was no big picture. These squares were about getting through the pandemic, one lovely strip after another, one day at a time, one small step at a time.

Yesterday I laid the squares out on the floor in the order that I had created them, a bright orange square next to a subdued grey next to a vibrant green, and on and on. Lo and behold, what I saw then was the Big Picture. 


One strip at a time, I had created a picture of life. My blanket of many colours is what life is like: the hours make up a day, the days add up to weeks, and one week at a time, we live through a year. Good days and not so good days, bright weeks and dark weeks, one leading into another. Each fabric, portraying just one day, is beautiful in itself, just as each day has some moments of beauty. Each square is beautiful/interesting/evocative in itself. And when you put them all together, what you have is a picture of this past year, a picture in riotous colours that don’t match, don’t create a pattern, aren’t nice and neat and orderly -- just like life.

And beautiful, anyway. 

If you are a stickler for details, you will notice that there are actually 53 squares here, and that one of the squares is a picture of a tree. That's the week when we got together with our whole family to celebrate our 50th anniversary on the edge of the ocean, where the full silver moon rose every night over the water. I think I will sew all these squares together and create a covid quilt as a keepsake.