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This Crazy Quilt Life

Hey, All: This originally appeared in the blog Beauty In Belief way back in 2014! Some things in my life have changed since I wrote this, but overall, not that much (my kids make different kinds of messes now). In any case, the sentiment I'm attempting to express is universal to all times and circumstances, so if you missed this nine years ago, now's your chance to catch up!

If I'm lucky, (and really energetic and well-organized), I might get my indoor trim painted and the walls touched up before Thanksgiving. Notice I wrote "if", because it's a tall order to get an old house Martha Stewart-party-ready while you're still living in it, along with a bunch of people who look at you like you're from Mars if you suggest that they not casually smear jam all over the walls as they pass through the rooms. And what with homeschooling, shopping, shuttling folks to lessons and ortho appointments AND trying to keep up with the most basic of cleaning and cooking (you'd be surprised how often that last item catches me off-guard: "What do you mean---what's for dinner? Didn't we have dinner yesterday?"), there is never a time when all of the tasks are finished more or less at the same time.

We've all been there: Experiencing a moment of relief and satisfaction as we finish cleaning and organizing one room in the house---perhaps even just one corner of one room---then stepping back to admire our handiwork. Then we take a few more steps back and see all the grimy woodwork, dinged walls, dust bunnies and piles of unprocessed laundry that make up the other three corners, and we feel incompetent and discouraged. Possibly due to repeated viewings, I'm often reminded of Flynn's words from the opening sequence of Disney's Tangled: "For a moment, everything was perfect. Then that moment ended".

It seems our moments of perfection are so fleeting that we often don't even see them, we're too focused on tweaking and comparisons. Maybe we had always pictured our adult life as being a sort of tableau where our kids, arrested at their ideal age, gather around a perfectly prepared meal in a show-room dining space, not spilling anything or squabbling with each other over yesterday's stale potato chips. Maybe deep down we think there's something wrong with us because nothing stays clean or calm for very long. When the realization slowly dawns on some of us that life is actually meant to be an ever-shifting series of (often unfortunate) events containing only small flecks of perfection, that there are many smooth passages of unexpected beauty and insights in even the dullest or most frenetic days, it can still take us awhile to re-set our expectations. We want to be lovely and whole, RIGHT NOW but instead find ourselves becoming strange patchwork creatures, shuffling and complaining our way through our whirlwind days.

And our inner lives mirror our outer lives, don't they? We identify and start uprooting one bad habit, and while we're focused on improving in one area, a half a dozen other problems quietly put down roots and start to grow. And again we experience discouragement. But in reality, it's our assumption of what it means to "be perfect" that's causing so much strife. It would seem that our whole view of the order of things is upside down, and the reason we are so frustrated and disheartened is because we forget that it is through the struggle, in the small daily victories, that we gain strength, humility and gratitude. Think about it: If we could instantly get whatever outcomes we asked for---ideal body weight, perpetually clean house, serene temper---would we really appreciate those things or we just eventually take them for granted and begin to stagnate?

Victories we achieve through blood, sweat and tears are much more valuable and lasting. Those are the lessons that really sink in and have a lasting effect, that add another gleaming gem of true wisdom to our precious little hoards. If the "perfect moment" in the cartoon had never ended, there would have been no drama, no strife, danger, bravery or growth. No story. Those are the things we're supposed to be experiencing here and now, not some idealized, motionless, soul-less glossy magazine image.

So with our collection of moments-- good, bad and even ugly--we assemble a big, sprawling, out-of-control crazy quilt, with strange bits and pieces being added with seeming randomness. And yet in the end, God-willing, we'll have created a dazzling, unique thing of lasting beauty.

Our individual, one-of-a-kind, precious, and very human--- lives.

(c) 2023 S.Kirk Pierzchala

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Thomas Susanka
Thomas Susanka
Sep 25, 2023

Most enjoyable and insightful, as usual. Thanks. I replaced the Martha Stewart to-dos and the home economics with Today's Horticulture landscaping perfections and an elderly gentleman's dust-covered list of retirement to-dos...and arrive at your conclusion: God willing, we'll create a dazzling, unique thing of lasting beauty. Ahem: God willing. Love, Tom

P.S. Send more early or recent writing, please.

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