Tapestry as a Metaphor
Have you ever seen a tapestry as it’s being created? It’s an amazing process. When I saw it for the first time I had this moment when I stopped, and I saw so clearly that it was all a metaphor for life.
So much of life is talking to us in metaphor form, and, to be honest, I miss many of them. I caught this one.
As viewers, we look at a tapestry from the front, because it’s beautiful, and that’s its purpose – to be a beautiful work of art. Creators, however, sit BEHIND the loom, their perspective is from the back. (They also have really cool tricks to keep them on track with the vision of what they are creating!)
Do you see it? Our lives are tapestries, and we are the creatives, the artists.
On our side, or from our perspective, we are weaving and knotting and living, and working, and we see all the loose threads and the ends of things. And meanwhile, we’re not sure what it looks like from the front. We have an idea, some assumptions, and even some faith that what we’re weaving is creating something beautiful, but we can’t see it from other people’s perspective.
And just like the weavers, there are some awesome tricks that allow us to zoom out, take a different perspective and get a glimpse of the beauty we’re creating on the front of our tapestries.
You feel it. The challenge of staring at the knots, the hanging threads and all the unfinished work yet to do that sit on the backside. You experience the missteps, failures, and lessons, and forget that there IS another side, one that is beautiful and inspiring and tells the amazing story of your life.
The Other Side
The flipside can be getting caught up in what the front looks like to everyone else. You’ve felt that, too. Is what I’m doing good enough, does it have enough color, too much, will ‘they’ (whoever they are) like it?
In the immortal words of my mother “what they think of you is none of your business.” I heard her say that so many times, and I thought I understood it. In some ways I got it, and it seems like each year brings a new, deeper comprehension of that saying.
In reality, our job is to let go of what our tapestry looks like from the other’s perspective, and not get caught up in the drama of the knots and strings that we see from the back. “What?” I can hear you saying, “what the heck, then on what do I focus?”
Here’s the fun part, we get to focus on the vision we have for the tapestry and tracking the threads on the backside. This is foreign. I repeat, this is not what we’ve been taught. We’re taught to have a goal and strive for it, push through obstacles, do whatever it takes to achieve.
So you get to shift the paradigm by intentionally discovering your true purpose, following your intuition and practicing presence so that you can not only know the vision, but hold it, and track the incoming threads that want to be woven.
That might seem like a lot to tackle, so let’s start with one piece.
Starting Where You Are
Getting some feedback. While others’ opinions of us are not what define us, sometimes it can be helpful to get a wider perspective and see our tapestry from the front. Done well, it can be a very powerful and enlightening experience.
Stephanie and I talked about the power of this practice on podcast Ep 83. It’s a great way to stop and take stock whether you’re between projects, starting something new or just feeling itchy in your skin.
So, for this practice – identify 15-20 people that you trust and ask them if they’d be willing to answer five questions for you. You can tell them it’s an assignment or just a personal inventory. You can also offer to do the same in return (only do it if they say they’d like it – no one wants unsolicited input). If you’re a leader, this would be a phenomenal exercise to do with your team.
You can send these in an email, ask them over the phone or even do it in person. I’d recommend you record the answers and keep them. I do this exercise every 5 years or so and it’s been fascinating to see both the changes and the similarities. Another bonus for me is that I have several from my dad who has now passed.
Here are the questions:
- What is the first thing you think of when you think of me?
- What do you perceive is my greatest strength?
- What do you feel is my greatest achievement?
- What is my most interesting and unique feature/aspect?
- What would someone come to me for advice or help about?
As they come in, make note of things that surprised you, things that you hear from multiple people, and assumptions you had going into it, and anything else that stands out to you. That will allow your glimpse at the front of your life tapestry to serve you as you continue to track the threads on the back.
I’d love to hear what you learned and how you used the practice!