Meaning in a Quilt
During the first year after being diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I was desperately trying to hold on to the life that I had lost. I spent hours sitting, looking out the window, trying to figure out how to make sense of what was happening to me and how to cope with my fear.
I needed a diversion so I started piecing together a new quilt top for our bed. Over the years I had made several quilts, choosing both easy and very difficult patterns – some I finished and some are in a drawer. I looked through my quilting books and picked a new pattern that appealed to me. Here is my journal entry about how this process both helped me cope and seemed to reflect how I felt about my life during this time:
Sewing on my “Contrary Wife” quilt continues to bring pleasure. This has been such a good project because of the symbolism. The name of the pattern fits how I feel I am perceived because of my need to maintain control in my life when I don’t seem to be able to control what my brain does. I know I come across as contrary and always putting up a fight. On the other hand, the pattern is bright and colorful.
It was fun to use all my favorite fabric while buying lots of new pieces. This is bringing joy to days that could otherwise be quite devoid of joy. Each block is unique and different while having a constant pattern. As I look at the different blocks I have designed, they seem to reflect how I experience life on different days.
Some of the blocks are muted and relatively dull – although I love the fabrics and find the combination of fabrics pleasing. Some of the blocks are very bright and intense. Some are high contrast, maybe even sharp, like the pain I feel in my legs and arms. Some blocks are not so pleasing by themselves – the colors are not my favorites and I would leave them out if they weren’t necessary for holding the rest of the quilt together. Sometimes the unpleasant colors of our life-quilts are necessary for the overall beauty. I also like the strong lines of the pattern when the blocks are laid out. The strong diagonal lines seem to hold the quilt together, just like I need strong lines of faith and love to hold my life together.
The most important characteristic of this quilt pattern is the fact that, with careful work, I can make the points and seams line up. With a little effort in measuring accurately, sewing correct seam widths, and multiple re-stitching, I can make it work out. I need this as I am struggling against what seem like the insurmountable odds of finding what will work to help me feel good with a condition that will not go away even if I do everything right.
I am so glad I have my faith to guide me through this. I have to believe that God has provided me with everything I need to make the most of this situation. Of all the hundreds of quilt patterns that I know are just waiting for me to do, the one that I felt compelled to do is the one that is perfectly meeting my needs.
I finished the quilt top but it was several years before I took it to be quilted and I finished binding the edges so I could use it on my bed. This was my “fibromyalgia quilt” and fibromyalgia was causing me so much emotional and physical pain that I couldn’t get my mind around how my “fibromyalgia quilt” could comfort me as I lay under it.
People deal with traumatic experiences by finding something good within it or turning it into something positive – we want to find meaning in our pain. I wanted to find some good in having fibromyalgia but I couldn’t, no matter how hard I tried. Maybe not wanting to get comfort from my fibro quilt was symbolic of my not wanting to see any positive in having fibromyalgia. Maybe it was a symbolic act to express my anger over having my life and my very self taken away from me. Wrapping my “fibromyalgia quilt” around me and getting comfort from it was something I refused to do.
I finally did enough emotional healing to finish it in the sixth year after diagnosis and it has become a beautiful expression of my determination and courage. I’m still not sure, however, that I can find any positive meaning from having fibromyalgia. My life is good, but not because I have fibromyalgia.
Copyright © Patricia A. Bailey, 2012-2013.