I started knitting a quilt yesterday. It's a genius pattern, and I'm very excited about this project. It's easily portable, a snap to memorize, and uses up tiny scraps of yarn that I have been loath to throw away--but that I don't want hanging around, either. The hexes take about 20 minutes to make, and a golf ball-sized piece of quilt batting goes inside each one just before you bind off the edge. They are so cute and fun!
The designer, Stephanie Dosen, gives this formula for quilt-making success: a) knit the hexes in little snatches of time--while waiting for a movie to start or the school bus to arrive; and b) just keep knitting, and don't be daunted by how many hexes you need for the finished quilt.
And the number is daunting if you choose to look at it that way: for a 4x3' quilt, you need 364 little puffs. I'd like to make the quilt bigger than that, so I'll probably end up making around 600. That's a lot of hexes. If I knit two per day, it will take me the better part of a year to finish the quilt.
But guess what? The year will go by whether I knit the quilt or not. If I waste a few minutes per day instead of knitting a little puff or two, I won't accomplish my goal. But if I use my time well, by mid-summer next year, I'll have something beautiful and warm and lasting to show for my efforts.
Our hours and days stretch before us in a seemingly unlimited vista. We must not make the mistake of squandering them because of their abundance. It is common for people to value things only when they are scarce, but if we can learn to remember how precious our time is even when it seems like we have plenty of it, we'll make better choices.
On the other hand, sometimes it seems like we have only a very small amount of free time--20 minutes before the kids get home, 10 minutes until it's time to leave for church. It's easy to fool ourselves into believing that that's not enough time to accomplish anything significant, so we may as well fritter it away. A quick check of email or Facebook; a game of online Boggle; a browse of the latest "news."
I don't know about you, but I can actually get quite a lot done in 10 minutes. I can do a load of dishes or read a chapter of a book or clean a bathroom or run a mile or write a couple hundred words or take half a power nap. A wise friend recently counseled me to make the most of those little bits of time that otherwise get wasted, and it's amazing to me how those productive minutes add up when I use them well.
My new mantra is this: "The pain of self-discipline is better than the pain of regret." Whoever came up with that was truly inspired, because make no mistake, there will be pain one way or the other. Today, I choose the immediate and short-lived pain of self-discipline; I've had quite enough of the lasting and bitter pain of regret, thank you very much.
We write books a word at a time. We lose weight (or gain it) an ounce at a time. We raise children a smile or a hug or a listen at a time. The little things--for good or bad--do make a difference. Though the individual threads of our choices are almost invisible to the eye, they are the fabric that makes up our lives.