The other night as I was pulling the needle through the fabric I was hit with the realisation–both pleasing and profound–that I am a better person than I was ten years ago.
If you had asked me what good would come out of being chronically ill and irreversibly disabled I may have even just a year ago given you a vague and spiritual answer. There is a closer bond with God, a better understanding of entropy and frailty and a greater appreciation of beauty. All of that is true and is nice for writing in journals and printing on cards but it doesn’t necessarily translate to concrete differences in the day-to-day living of life. (Well, it does, but they’re pretty ephemeral pieces of concrete…)
Now I see that I am better because I take my time. I’m concerned with the getting-right of the smaller things. In the Before Illness phase of my life I was a proud multitasker who devoted myself to being spread as thinly as possible. I worked long hours and came home to more hours spilt over a puddle of tasks like chocolate syrup on cake. Nothing got my full attention and everything got just as much devoted to it as I could get away with.
I had to pick apart my angel’s wing when I realised the stitches I made seven years ago were slightly wrong. They weren’t vastly wrong or ghastly wrong, but only slightly marred. The trouble with counted cross-stitch, though, is that a slight marring in one place can domino-collapse across the entire work, leaving you with a cockeyed tilt to your picture. All those hundreds of hours can go horribly awry with one false cross. My self from seven years ago had known this but figured she’d barrel ahead and just work around the accident.
When my self of now was poring over the work I knew that I could continue to dance around the problem. Or…I could take an evening to rip out the bad work and replace the wrong stitches with right ones. That’s what I did. When every stitch you take or every letter you type costs a higher price you want to make sure you’re getting the best return on your investment.
In the evenings since I’ve found myself taking fewer shortcuts. Fewer as in None At All. My work is taking a bit more time but leaving me immensely more satisfied.
I remember reading a book of old letters sent from some Westward-forging pioneers to their families back East. One of the lines stuck with me for years but I never really thought to apply it to myself until recently.
“Don’t Take No Cut-offs,” is what Virginia wrote to her cousin all those years ago. And of course she knew of what she spoke. If their wagon train hadn’t taken the purported short-cut, Virginia Reed and her family wouldn’t have gotten stuck in the wild. They wouldn’t have been forced to live that hellacious winter with the rest of the Donner Party.
Fortunately it only took my body eating itself for me to learn this lesson.