A friend asked me today how I can make a prayer shawl and not be too concerned about whether or not I ever receive feedback from the recipient. Her question made me think.
There’s a certain amount of detachment, once the shawl is finished and given. But there cannot be detachment during the making. Be a channel, I thought. All creativity comes from God, I’m just the hands that make the shawl and the human being that prays, however imperfectly, for the recipient. Couple that with a thick-skinned attitude gained from years of performing with a blues band, and I suppose you have a working definition of being detached from the responses to your creative offerings. (“You’re awesome!” “You suck!” all in the course of an evening, and maybe it’s alcohol talking. Then again, maybe I am awesome! Um, and maybe I do really suck.)
Maybe one of these cool labels from www.sublimestitching.com would be a hint!
When it comes to our creative gifts, we can’t be completely detached, and I find myself mulling over the question this afternoon as I sweep floors and do laundry. God has such a sense of humor.
I cannot detach as I make a shawl for someone who is in pain. Right now I’m working on one for a woman who suddenly lost her 28 year old daughter. She is struggling with a pain and loss that I cannot understand, and yet I grieve and pray with her in spirit, and those prayers are woven into stitches. I cannot detach from songs I love to sing, and especially cannot detach from sacred music. What gives me courage to sing is to remind myself that I am doing the best I can with what I am given, and the rest is up to God.
I believe it’s that way with any creative endeavor, and especially with those where there is a recipient involved. So much of it is up to God, to the Divine Creative. Whether writing, cooking, making a shawl, making music, building or crafting something of wood…we pour an extra measure of love and heart into it. We share our soul with the recipient, whether we know them or not. We are open and vulnerable as we create, but must have a bit of a thick skin when it comes to the reception of our work – a thick skin or a constant reminding that it’s all from God. It’s a crazy balancing act, and one that I’ve never quite gotten the hang of, either.
Sometimes I love to give anonymously because I know I’m NOT going to be thanked. I can remain unknown, and imagine someone else’s surprise. No one feels obligated to reciprocate, say thank you, or anything. I love to think that I made a difference, even if a tiny one. When something is given anonymously, thanks can be given to God, and the recipient will “pay it forward” sometimes. That starts such a ripple of blessings, and it’s good for me in that I cannot expect thanks. I find that I feel blessed, and that’s thanks enough.
Sometimes I do get attached to shawls.
And yeah, sometimes I want to hear “thank you.” Hey, I’m human, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting some sort of thanks or an occasional accolade. I guess the question is, do we want to be thanked, or do we need to be thanked? It would be pretty cold to not care at all.
We take thanks where we get them, knowing that for everyone who says “thank you,” there are others who cannot do so. Sometimes there are no words; sometimes there is no opportunity. To find myself wanting thanks is also a lesson that I can be grateful for. If thanks doesn’t come, well, that’s not about me or my gift. We can only be the channel, the conduit, for something that must be expressed, made, created, given. Once the shawl is given, once the song is sung, once the meal is served – it’s out of our hands. Our humanness may be saddened (and that’s OK), when our efforts aren’t acknowledged. I can still be thankful that I have gifts and abilities to share. We can only learn from that twinge of “gee, did they like it?” and then let it go. Let it leave our hands as did the shawl, knowing that the prayer and the spirit will continue to lift us – and who knows who else.