I guess the best place to start is with Express Your Love and what I expected from this journey on January 1st, and where I find myself instead here more than 6 months later. Back in January, I was looking for a bridge that would finally unite my two passions: creating new designs and experimenting with new techniques.
I also wanted to make a quilt, or many quilts, on the theme of love. Expressing it, saying it, showing it, giving it away, and receiving it with an open heart. So often around that time I found myself feeling terrible, and I hadn't yet figured out what was behind my bad feelings.
All I knew is that I wasn't as nice and as I could be to the people I loved the most. That had to change.
Over the last 6 months we've worked on three different versions of this beautiful quilt. None of mine are near completion and that's okay. This is a process in more than making quilts, but also learning and experimenting with new techniques.
Black wholecloth version - She still needs some hair!
|Spoonflower Printed Version - She still needs a lot of fillers!|
|Pieced version - she still needs a face and body!|
I'd never put much stock in guilt before. I'd certainly never recognized just how much it rules my life. When it came time to cut out the toxic people in my life, I did so without a single regret. I refuse to feel guilty for protecting myself and my family from those that would relish seeing us fail.
But somehow not feeling guilt over that made me assume I didn't feel guilt over anything at all. WRONG! It was this summer that finally woke me up to just how much I cringe over small day-to-day things.
Did I hug James when I came upstairs? No...GUILT! Did I play with him before lunch? No, I needed to get that quilt section finished...GUILT! Did I respond with support to Josh's stress over international shipping issues? Nope, I was in a hurry and I snapped for him to take care of it...GUILT!
Now that I feel it and see it for what it is, I literally feel like I'm drowning in it. I'm being pulled underwater and drowned in the river of my own guilt. A small guilty feeling over quilting in the morning makes me feel defensive and snappish by the afternoon. Soon every word out of my mouth is a snarl, and by that time everything I do and say compounds the guilt over and over.
Soon I find myself sitting with my eyes closed, trying hard not to yell the words: Get away from me! Go away so I won't hurt you! Can't you see I don't deserve you?! Can't you see I'm not good enough to have you?!
Journaling has helped so much to find this issue and weed it out. Writing two solid pages of my thoughts every morning has helped me at least recognize this guilt that causes me to act so badly. My theory has always been once you see it, see what the issue is clearly, then you can do something about it.
And I know exactly where this comes from - right from the very people I feel no guilt for cutting out of my life. My sisters were guilt masters. "You don't deserve that Leah. You were BAD." "You didn't work as hard as us. You need to finish this all by yourself because you're lazy."
My mother was equally good about flexing her guilt button. Josh actually laughed out loud when after a fight he offered to make me dinner and I responded with "I shouldn't be rewarded for bad behavior." That, along with, "It sounds to me like you're being selfish," had been a comment mom had made so often, it's like it's been stapled inside my brain.
It's times like these, when I see the thing I need to work on, but I feel so mired in the emotion I can't move, that's when I pick up my pencil and start designing.
|If you'd like to make a quilt out of the sketch above, feel free. I've posted the photo here even though this is by no means the finished quilt design, but a starting point to work from.|
I work on this by making a quilt on the subject. Yes, a quilt on the subject of guilt. As I work on it, I feel it, I process it, I ask questions about it. Eventually I find a way to step through it, and by the time the quilt is done, that huge, heavy emotion charged with the pain and abuse of my past will feel small and manageable once again.
Will it ever go away? No. I don't think so. But I can learn my way through it and how to quell the feeling before it takes over and turns me into a destructive monster too.
That is ultimately where the largest source of guilt comes from: I have destroyed my monsters, cut them out of my life and protected myself from their poison. But now I run the very real risk of becoming a monster myself.
Kindness is not optional. I hold myself to a very high standard because I've seen what happens when you stop caring. I've seen what happens first hand when you "have nothing left to give" which is what my mother said from the time I was 12 as her excuse for not caring what happened in her home.
There is so much truth to the saying "if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy" and while some women might take that as a license to act how they please, I see it as yet another mark of just how much responsibility comes to with the position of wife and mother.
Who is the most responsible for bringing peace and compassion and contentment into a home? Who is the member that can sew harmony or discord with a single comment? Who, whether she is a breadwinner or not, is ultimately the head of happiness of any household?
In the end, I know my thick, heavy, oil drenched feelings of guilt will have a very easy counterpart: kindness. It's not easy to tap into right now. It's not easy to wade my way through the waves of guilt I keep putting between myself and everyone else I love. But by the time I finish this quilt, I believe I'll have worked on this emotion enough to finally set it aside.
There has been a rawness to this post that you might have found unsettling. Please understand that I'm not a person who makes quilts just to cut out fabric and sew it back together. I work on them and they work on me, and in the end, I'm always a better person for sharing the experience.
Because even if this has made thousands of people uncomfortable to read, I'm writing it for the few people who struggle with guilt too, the few that might be helped to know that there is a choice between drowning in heavy emotion, or stitching your way out of it.
It's time to pick up a needle and take up this challenge. I refuse to let guilt ruin my life.
Let's go quilt,