I have made quilts for a quite a while now, most of them for my son. I try to make him a new one every other year with the hope they create a path he can look back on to see his likes growing up, remember good times where we snuggled under them or that he enjoyed going to sleep covered by. They weave a story of a childhood filled with love that I hope one day gets passed down to his children giving them a look into his own life at their ages and sharing sweet memories.
The current quilt I am finishing up is for a birthday of a friend’s wife. She turn 50 in October and he wanted something special for her. He reached out and said his wife had a lot of marathon t-shirts and all they did was take up space in their closet. He encouraged her over the years to get rid of them but she always held firmly against that. Without telling her what they would be used for he had her go through them and send me about 50 of them. Remarkedly, she still have 25 to 30 of them still in their closet! I admitted to him I was nervous about cutting these shirts knowing how strongly she felt about them and it was my wish she didn’t beat him with the quilt when she opened it on her birthday. Thankfully we live a few thousand miles from each other if this doesn’t go well.
This t-shirt quilt presented me some interesting thoughts as I cut, sewed and worked on it. First,how does one person run all these marathons? Kudos to her for sure! I was so impressed by her achievement in doing this and intentionally used pieces that showed the dates of these races where I could. What a testament to her endurance and interest in not only raising money for so many worthy causes but to her own health! Secondly, was she going to love it? Would it be something she looked at and was proud of her own accomplishments? Would this quilt bring her years of joy and sweet memories of her journey? Would she remember certain races and what happened that day?
The second question stuck with me. How often are we faced with something in our life that makes us look at back at what we have done or where we came from? Are we proud of those moments or do we have regrets? I for one know I don’t take nearly enough time to recognize my work or progress. It isn’t often I take a step back and assess where I’ve been. There have been certainly those times when I feel relief something is over and am ready to start something new.
Then there are other times when I feel rushed forward having to think on my feet at applying what I have learned over time. However, I wonder how I would react if part of my life was shown to me in a quilt. What would that look like?
As I pack up this quilt in preparation for it’s journey to Arizona for her birthday, I’m curious of her reaction. I have pictures of the process in making this quilt that I have intentionally left off social media so this surprise doesn’t get ruined. My friend says she’s going to cry but love it. He’s only seen a couple pictures of it, including a cut of pile of remnants when I first tore the shirts down. Somehow I think physically touching it, seeing the shirts she trained and worked so hard to proudly wear in a race is going to be overwhelming and touching. It is a picture of something significant in her life that she achieved. I am in awe of her ability to run in the Arizona heat to be honest. Yet I know this achievement is so much bigger for her. It’s an accomplishment I’m deeply proud of for her.
When I looked at this quilt I realize we are so bad at not giving ourselves enough credit in life. We are so fast to move on to the next thing that we don’t realize what we have done, where we have been or what it meant or did to us personally. We try to hold back the emotions of those situations and see them as checklists instead. Yet when we are faced with them such as with this quilt, old photos or even videos showing what we did and those tears start coming from our eyes we realize the magnitude of our own stories. We give in to what we had seen as only a bucket list, goals or a milestone and truly feel what that work meant to us, how it shaped us and what it looks like on the other side.
While I know she will deeply love this quilt, appreciating the work that went into it, and remembering each race represented from these shirts, it is my hope she sees the beauty of her own achievement. When she looks at each one and remembers the sore muscles, trainings, tight diet and time I hope she feels deeply how those races helped her be who she is now. Similar to my son’s quilts I hope he sees the story of his childhood in love that surrounded him and recalls special memories of what led him to be who he will one day be as well.
Turning 50 is a big milestone birthday for many of us. Some of us dread it , myself included for when I hit it, and others rejoice in it. How we approach this milestone in life I think sets the tone for what happens next. It is also a time for recognition of what we have achieved and where we want to grow and become because of that journey. In making this quilt for someone else’s achievements at that age milestone I realized I had many of my own that deserved reflection.
In all that I write about living naturally through this blog, the thing that speaks to me the most is how much this is about our personal journey. How much of all this becomes a deely wild and personal quest to become our true selves, speaking from a place in our heart that represents where we’ve been and where we’re going. It becomes a reflection of our life on t-shirts sewn together lovingly for us to enjoy in a new way while we build new memories and travel new roads in the next phase of our life.
Our own mindset is the very essence of what it means to live more naturally. It encourages us to get comfortable in our own skin and see the journey in front of us as more than goals, checklists and milestones. When we hold our journey in our hands like a quilt it is letting our emotions of what that has meant come through and seeing them as the woven journey they represent that has let us to this moment now.
Being in touch with that journey and seeing it unfold is a beautiful experience. Reflecting on it at certain points in our life gives us that appreciation for what it is that helped us become who we are now and the courage to look forward. That is our life unfolding before us and yet some will only say it’s an old t-shirt quilt.
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