Once my dear friend had a little child in CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) with a scary infant heart surgery. That place is AMAZING. And heartbreaking.
Walking past numerous doorways, seeing through the glass windows in the doors, beautiful Arthur Rackham illustrations framed on the walls, messages from patients, and heartbreakingly inspiring photos of little children battling things one never should have to, I just yearned to be doing something useful with my life. ‘I should work in a hospital supporting people who save babies!’ my heart cried.
Then, why am I a fashion designer?
I call it the ‘Tea Pot and Scrub Buckets’ theory…an epiphany I had a couple of years ago, over the second of two full pots of gorgeously caffeinated rich British tea with my cousin and friend (she’s another creative who writes, paints, draws, and directs film pieces from original screenplays she creates). *
I was having one of those Artistic crises where I question everything–questioning whether I should do something REALLY useful with my life, such as Baby Brain Surgery, or cleaning floors, or building houses for humanity , or..or.. (_younameit__) rather than ‘just making garments’.
I was having tea and recounting to my cousin the story of a time when I had gone out shopping for a friend; my friend is the dearest person, and she needed a winter coat and was too tired, too expectant with her imminently arriving new baby, and too busy to go trudge around shops or the mall to find a coat.
So I went, purchased 7 coats, brought them home, sat her cosily in front of the fireplace, and proceeded to let her ‘shop’ amongst the tailored wool coats (and then I’d return the rest).
She found two she loved. Then her face fell because they didn’t quite fit her petite- but-blossoming figure, and she knew she’d not get around to altering them. ‘No worries’ I said, ‘Easy’. And we altered them right then and there. Fun. No stress–a simple afternoon’s task for me.
But ‘what could I do to REALLY help her,’ I wondered, since she lived far away and I wanted to be there for her?
At this point in the story telling the epiphany struck me.
Doing something for someone– giving to them from your own skill set and your love for a particular area of life, can be VERY useful. Just because it feels easier than some tasks does not lessen its value. MAYBE it actually makes it just as valuable as anything I could have given my friend: that I did something for her that I had competence and ease with, and something she couldn’t do at that moment.
Maybe I didn’t need to find a horribly hard task I am not very good at doing to be useful to her, a task that others are amazing at.
‘IN FACT’ (I said to my cousin as I gestured at the table) ‘maybe it’s silly to try to be some other thing than I am. For instance, what if I’m a TEA POT. A teapot is for making tea.
A teapot can definitely be filled with soapy water and be used as a scrub bucket… but then it becomes a scrub bucket, and can’t be used for tea. A scrub bucket can’t make a good pot of tea, it would absorb the soap and the tea would be soapy!
Maybe a person should focus on being the best teapot it possibly can, because that is what it DOES!’ (by this point I was mixing so many metaphors I could have been a cocktail shaker, instead of a teapot)
‘Maybe I should stop wanting to be a scrub-bucket, or a funeral urn, or an olive oil jar. Maybe I shouldn’t feel like all those other types are somehow ‘better’. Maybe I should be really excited to be a teapot. Maybe I shouldn’t keep getting distracted from making amazing tea by thinking I OUGHT to be a scrub bucket because it’s more useful!’
The conversation went on amidst much laughter and tea drinking…
But it did make me think: in the end, we are all vessels, filled with whatever spirit, inspiration, and power we allow to flow through us. What we love shapes the vessel to be the type of useful container it is. And we can do many things, really, but to sigh after other types of vessels, to use their skills and special qualities to beat ourselves up for being teapots instead of focusing on making the best tea we can…is just wasteful.
Instead, we should be appreciating the many many different types of vessels there are out there. Vessels being useful, beautiful, and downright unique.
And we should feel grateful when we have moments of clarity on what type of vessel we currently are.
Watering cans. Scrub buckets. Water glasses. Honey pots. Vases.
Aren’t they fabulous! ?
And, as it turns out, pouring my energies into the areas I love means, as those endeavours succeed, I can use my business to support other people in their amazing useful work…so in the end, perhaps I will get to help with Baby Brain Surgery after all!
*Here I must insist that the arm waving ENERGY with which this epiphanous soliloquy was uttered had nothing to do with the caffeine consumed…at least I don’t think…much.