Ants, Quilts, and Emerging (Im)perfections
I recently listened to an old podcast from one of my favorite shows, Radiolab, called Emergence. In it, a scientist who studies ants describes how if you follow one particular ant, you will see chaos and seeming futility of activity. For example, she explained how she watched one ant drag a stick one direction, and another ant came along and dragged the stick back the opposite direction. The two ants did this for days, making no discernable progress with getting that stick anywhere.
However, if you look at the ants as a whole unit, it is amazing what they accomplish: huge structures with such precision and functionality, the ability to move incredibly large things compared to their small size, and cooperation on a grand scale.
It got me thinking about my life, and how looking at one decision, one year, or one aspect of my life that I consider a failure might just be one small part of an overall picture that means something so much more.
I’ve been working on a quilt for a loved one for the past six months. In the past, I’ve made quilts for many family members and friends to celebrate the birth of babies. Baby quilts are pretty easy, approximately 1 yard square. My current quilt project isn’t to celebrate a baby but rather a momentous life achievement, and so I embarked on my first “adult-sized” quilt. Making a quilt is in part meditative, as you get into a groove and listen to the rhythmic sound of the machine, and it is in part tedious, as there are so many parts to put together. The irony of cutting up fabric to then sew it back together isn’t lost on me either, but I love the combination of colors and designs of the finished squares and then the finished piece. While I am making a piece like this, I think of who I am creating it for and try to infuse my love for them into each stitch.
At the point where all the pieces of the top (where the main design is) came together and I laid it out on my dining table (which really should be renamed my sewing table), I saw the glaring mistakes I made. The particular quilt design I chose has vertical lines and horizontal lines outlining the squares of stars. The vertical lines are straight – the horizontal ones aren’t always. For a moment, all I could see was the mistakes, and I felt crushed. I constantly have to fight my perfectionist tendencies, which threaten to ruin nearly everything. As it was too late to go back and fix the mistakes, I had to come to terms with the fact that the quilt wasn’t going to be perfect. And perhaps, like my life, the mistakes won’t be as important as the overall piece of art.
A new chapter is beginning for me, which has had me thinking about all the steps that brought me to this point. I am starting a new full-time job with an incredible company, Health Union. This effectively ends my six-year journey as a self-employed entrepreneur, and while I am sad that the dream of what I wanted it to be didn’t come true, I am so relieved that the long struggle is over. Becoming a coach, I was so idealistic and optimistic about how I could use the tools and gifts I have to help others. And I did. I’ve worked with some incredible women and men and know that I have been of service and made a difference. I know that I am a great coach. But building a business is much harder than I imagined, and life catastrophes, multiple relocations across country, and several health challenges made that even more difficult.
Throughout the last six years, I’ve done consulting work for various companies and individuals, and I’ve had the privilege of working with Health Union for the past 20 months. They are such an incredible group of people, dedicated to helping people living with chronic conditions get the information and support they need. Imagine: a health company that is truly focused on patients first! I also appreciate and am grateful for their ability to see value in each of the individuals who are a part of the community – they see beyond the limitations of our diseases and conditions to what we can offer and bring to the whole.
And so I will continue to help others – it’s central to who I am – but I will be doing it in another form. I’ll still be a coach and will continue to coach a few individuals on the side, but my main job will now be as senior medical writer for Health Union.
The definition of Emergence is “the process of coming into being, or the process of coming into view.” My story isn’t finished, but a new pattern is materializing.