Yesterday I mentioned that a new quilt was coming. This is the quilt that has been on my mind almost constantly for the last 2 months:
If you are particularly sensitive to stories of alcoholism, abuse, dysfunction, anger, sadness, and depression, simply stop reading right now.
In essence, I'm warning you that this quilt is dark for a reason. It's called Sinkhole now, but more than likely the final name will be The Circumference of Dysfunction because that is what this quilt symbolizes: dysfunction and depression, and the endless cycle this can create in a family.
Of course you may be wondering why in the world I would want to create a quilt about something so horrible. Isn't life depressing enough? Why do I have to go and make a quilt on it too?
Well, if you were around for Shadow Self, then you will remember that I use the quilting process to help me process emotions and challenges that are simply too big, too complex, or too entrenched to work out on their own.
In the case of Shadow Self, I created a quilting design about my terrible inner negative voice (INV). I showed how it felt to live with a shadow over half of my head and heart, and I followed every nudge my intuition sent me while working on that quilt.
One nudge led me to the bookstore where a particular book "I Know I'm In There Somewhere" by Helene Brenner jumped out at me. This is about finding your true inner self, allowing yourself to want the things you REALLY want, and trusting your instincts to lead you down the right paths.
This book also helped me identify what was my REAL inner voice, and by the time I finished Shadow Self, it's like my mind had gotten a good solid scrubbing and all the darkness there was washed away.
But... there is always a "but" isn't there? Shadow Self helped me work through one specific issue: my inner negative voice. The core reason why I had my negative voice, why I was delegated with such a terribly low self esteem, and raised to doubt every move I made... that is still a very big problem.
I believe that all of this happened because of my family's history. Because of the abuse that one generation bestowed onto the next carried down, passing from one person to another like falling dominoes. The core design of sinkhole is circular rings that symbolize the echoing effects of abuse, always rippling out to effect a bigger area, a bigger ring of people.
To say it straight: all 4 of my grandparents were abusive alcoholics. They never hit me personally, but they hit my parents, and my parents, in turn, hit me.
Physical abuse is an extremely damaging thing, and to be hit by a parent, the person you absolutely love best of all in the whole world... well, words can't rightly describe it.
But physical abuse is actually easier to bear than some forms of verbal abuse. At least after getting slapped, the sting doesn't last for longer than a few minutes. Verbal abuse, however, is like poison ivy. Words spoken in anger like "selfish," "stupid," "worthless," "pathetic," and "ugly" snake into the mind and stay there, poisoning all your thoughts with negativity.
Growing up, I experienced both forms of abuse, but it was the verbal abuse that has left the deepest scars. Even now, even after completely eradicating my INV, I can still get set back by a painful memory full of particularly barbed words.
In fact, after working through an exercise within I Know I'm In There Somewhere, I realized that 90% of the horrible, nasty things my INV said was not my thoughts, but things I'd heard my mother say over and over to me throughout my childhood and adolescence.
Of course, I completely understand now how difficult it is to be a parent. It's not an easy job and I will never claim to be perfect at it. But looking into my son's face, I have to wonder how it would ever be possible to hit him or verbally cut him down the way I was on a nearly daily basis. The idea is simply unfathomable to me.
For years I felt an inability to hold my parents accountable for their actions. My childhood was a cakewalk in comparison to what they got, so it seemed selfish and immature to complain about it.
Now, however, I believe that personal experiences should never be discounted or disrespected. Just because Jake or Bob or Sue had it worse doesn't make my pain any less.
I was hurt, and I have every right to be angry about it, to feel that anger fully, and then to let it go.
So Sinkhole is also a way for me to work out my anger, my bitterness, and my judgment of my parents' actions. The pain they inflicted on me will end in this quilt. It will not be passed down to my son to continue this cycle of dysfunction. It will end here.
Understandably, designing Sinkhole has been extremely difficult. It is hard to work through these issues, to allow the memories to come, and to feel all the feelings that come with them. It makes me very sad, and a little fearful that there is no limit to this sadness.
So for the last two months I've avoided this quilt. I stacked my plates up high with everything I could possibly do EXCEPT work on this quilt.
But now the nudges from my inner voice have turned into full body push. I simply have to get the top designed and together. I need to see this quilt and have a visual representation of the feelings in my heart.
I need to get all this darkness out of my mind, and then at the end, maybe I'll be able to find that space of forgiveness and acceptance on the other side of all this anger.
I'm still struggling with a final layout for the piecing design. I keep fluctuating between fusing the pieces together perfectly using Robbi Joy Eklow's fusing techniques with Wonder Under, or simply painting a white bedsheet like I did with Release Your Light.
I've also fluctuated with many different variations of the circular quilt theme:
Creating the visual 3D effect that you're looking down a deep hole is quite difficult. The idea for the quilt was inspired by images of the Guatemalan sink hole, so I'm really trying to create the illusion that you're looking down into a dark tunnel.
This is the first time I'm using a computer graphics program to help me design a quilt, so that may be the problem. Maybe if I get off the computer for a few days and sit at the kitchen table, the designs will start flowing and the quilt will take shape.
So I'm off to clean up the studio a bit, put away every fabric that isn't black or gray, and settle down with my Sadness, pull out a chair for my Dysfunction, and start designing all the Abuse and Anger out of my body and into this quilt.
Let's go quilt,