It's a week of time off, of relaxed schedule, and short dark days that are much more cozy in the warmth and comfort of the sewing room.
I never realized the potential of this special time until 2008 when I was working, and rather stuck, on The Duchess. That project had stalled, but the day of Christmas I was downstairs basting and by New Years Day, the entire center had been quilted and the new year was looking bright indeed.
Last year I used the week to blast through 9 blocks of Winter Wonderland, which was both fun and meditative as the blocks were all gray snowflakes perfectly matching the weather outside.
And this year I'm working with shades of gray again in Sinkhole. Warning - this is a deeply personal post with some explicit language. Read only if you wish to go there with me.
To say that quilting this quilt is difficult is an understatement.
It is not technically difficult. The quilt is moving over the table just as smoothly and evenly as usual. I've been quilting a lot of new designs this month so my arms aren't too sore moving the bulk of the quilt around.
No, it is WHAT I am quilting that is difficult. I decided back in September that the only way to quilt this quilt, to truly make it symbolize my dark past in every respect, was to quilt it with the harsh, negative words of my past.
Words like "You are so selfish" and "You are so ugly. No one will ever love you if you look like that."
They were the lies I was told or inferred from the situation I was raised in, but because I was a child when I heard them, I didn't know they were not true. I believed these lies. I truly thought I was an unlovable person and expected to be treated badly because I thought I deserved it.
While that might seem incredible to believe, I now think that most people are carrying around words like these. You may not even know it, you may not even realize you're consciously doing it, but when I dug down to the roots of my horrible Inner Negative Voice (INV) I found only these lies, these relics of my childhood that were so obviously not true.
It is only now, after 27 years of living with them tattooed on my skin, pumping through my veins, bouncing around in my head, that I'm finally asking the question:
What is really true? What is MY truth?
Facing these words, actually writing them down, marking them on the quilt - that was a hard couple of days. I've been on this journey for a long time, I've had many breakthroughs, especially with this past year with Shadow Self and My Cup Runneth Over, but I have never, ever experienced anything like this.
Because for the first time I'm facing the lie. Looking it in the face. Staring at it and honestly accepting the fact that I have believed horrible things about myself. I have hated myself because at the root of my being, I believed the lies for years and years.
Writing down these harsh, cruel words - actually stitching them into this dark quilt is absolutely essential. I can pretend to get better every day for the rest of my life, but the lies would have stayed at the root of my being, always ready to undermine my actions and thoughts.
Many people tried to talk me out of quilting the words on. Why add to the negativity? Why say the words again, let alone several times? Why stitch that dark shit on a dark quilt only to make something that you will never be able to hang on the wall?
I can only say this: if I had any doubt that this was what I needed to do, I wouldn't have done it. The idea came during the piecing of Sinkhole and I knew it was the only way to quilt this quilt.
With Shadow Self inference and symbolism worked. With Sinkhole, I need to make myself perfectly clear. These are the lies and this is the truth, any questions?
Last week I mentioned that I was planning on only quilting the lies into this quilt. While marking it however, I quickly found that I could not write the lies on the quilt unless I had the truth follow it.
I've kept a journal with me the last few months and whenever I remembered a scene or got a particularly harsh thought, I would write it down. By last week I had a page full and I began marking the rings.
I knew I'd hit a dark ring on the head when it would make me faintly nauseous. It does make me slightly physically sick to face these words, not because they are bad, but because I believed them so completely. They literally made up the seams of my personality. What negative junk!
Writing the light rings were no walk in the park either. I'm not content to write "Believe in yourself" on a quilt and call that positive. That's a band-aid. That's a statement like "Wash your hands," but has less effect because it's not something we can do by turning on the faucet.
For the light rings I've searched for the words that are true, and also the words that should have been said. "We all make mistakes, we all fuck up, but there is nothing you can ever do to stop me from loving you."
I know I've found a solid light ring when I tear up. Here are the words that touch my heart, that flow purely from my mind into my soul. Here is the self love I've never been able to find before.
I've heard it said before that with every child you have, your heart expands a bit more, swelling with more overwhelming love for this new being. I have personally found this true because it was only after having James and feeling that enormous tidal wave of love that I began to ask why I could feel it for him and not for myself.
During the marking of this quilt, I felt my heart swell slightly with each lighter ring. It's expanding into the space it was always built to fill I guess. It kinda hurts, but it's a good hurt.
So now I'm in the trenches of quilting the dark rings. I decided to quilt these rings with a light silver thread. Yes, the words show up clearly, but I couldn't stand to write the dark words in dark thread. I've gotta shine a little light on this shit.
For the light rings, I'm planning to stitch them in red thread. Red for love. Red because they're words coming straight from my heart. Red because I want these words in my body, flowing in my blood, pumping in my veins. Red because I never, ever want to forget them.
So far I've quilted 6 dark rings. I've found I can only quilt one or two at a time, then I need to get up and walk away.
For a few days I didn't understand the need for distance. It didn't make much sense. I have a quilt ready to go, so quilt it!
Then I realized that trying to force myself to quilt another ring was making me very upset. I needed more time than it took to quilt them to think about the words, to remember them for the lie they were, and finally let them go as a lie. Sometimes I feel a tug on my heart as well. It's expending a lot of love and light to get rid of all this negativity.
After the 3rd ring, I've started to feel kinda weird. It's a good weird, but weird nonetheless.
I've just finished listening to The Puppet Masters by Robert Heinlein, which is a Sci-fi book about aliens that invade earth and attach themselves to humans like parasites and control everything the human does and thinks.
This weird feeling can only be described as the feeling you must feel when you lose your alien. I feel as though my thoughts and emotions have been controlled for years, and only now am I able to clearly think for myself.
To simplify it: I feel free.
So that is what I'm working on this Wednesday. Yesterday I took a break and didn't stitch any lines. Today I may stitch one or two.
There is no need to rush this type of work. I have decided that I would like to have the dark rings finished by New Years Eve. I like the idea of leaving these lies in 2010 where they belong and only taking the truth with me from now on.
Maybe that is silly, it's only the difference of one day, but to me starting the year completely free of this weight, this alien, this monster of lies in my mind, seems to be the best possible start of a new year.
And here I must stop and thank you. Thank you for reading through this to the end. Thank you for being willing to share this journey with me because it's not easy to write and I bet it's not very easy to read.
Thank you for sharing this year with me. It was a year of hurdles to jump, lessons to learn, and pain to overcome, but ultimately it has also been a year of deep seeking and learning.
Occasionally I will ask myself "why am I doing this? Why dig it all up? Why work so hard?" and I only have one answer:
If I content myself to remain as the limited, unhappy person that I have been for most of my life, I will be doomed to repeat my parents mistakes. I will find myself one day older, but no wiser and unable to find contentment even when faced with overwhelming abundance.
I have only to look into my son's face to know exactly why I make these quilts, why I challenge myself to face myself honestly. I need to love myself as an example. I will love him no matter what, even filled with self loathing, but I need to teach him how to love himself to break this cycle.
I also believe that to hold such self hate within is like holding a ticking bomb. One day it would go off and manifest itself physically as cancer, physical pain, or another chronic illness.
After believing that I wasn't worthy of living the life I have, that I really shouldn't plan for anything after the age of 22, I now see my life stretching on in an endless series of days, months, and years. I don't want to miss a single minute.
Looking back at my post from last year on Looking Back and Letting Go, I can see just how much things have changed in the last year. I even wrote in that post:
"I really feel like 2009 was my year to evolve and 2010 will be the year to bloom"Well, it turns out 2010 was my year to clean out my closets, pull everything out of my cabinets, and give it all a good hard look. I've aired myself out and slowly put back only the things I wanted to keep.
This means that I have also lost a few things this year as well. My mother, a sister, and my dog. Two from necessary choice and one from a totally unexpected illness. Losing Jinjo was perhaps the most painful because I feel that she had a lesson to teach me about unconditional love that I failed to grasp until after she was gone.
But overwhelmingly I can look back and say that this was a good year, a year of lasting change. As I wrote last year:
Sometimes you have to make the harder choice and give up peace of mind and sanity for awhile and just see where it will take you.
Here's to the journey. May your year be filled with light and love and the strength to overcome whatever obstacles stand in your path.