Ahhh....What a truly wonderful birthday! Yesterday I finally left my twenties, turned 30, and took a day off to relax and reflect on my life so far. This is one of my more personal posts, so only read if you're into this kind of thing! You can always enjoy our most recent design, Split Paisley, instead.
This birthday has been a long time coming because this past year I watched it so closely. I literally counted down to my birthday in my journal until the day arrived.
Mostly I was wanting to finish my 20's with no unfinished business. I even had the insane goal to try to finish all my unfinished projects (UFOs) in one year. Ha! Even if I had an entire year to focus on nothing else, I definitely couldn't have worked through all this:
So halfway through the year I put aside my desire to finish physical projects and instead turned to my internal unfinished business. This was really the background to designing Express Your Love and sharing this quilting process since January:
The meaning behind this quilt is simple: express love. I wanted to show love to my family more freely and openly. I wanted to feel better, satisfied and whole, and somehow lose the constant gnawing guilt that I wasn't doing enough, working hard enough, treating everyone well enough.
In setting this intention, I got a lot of answers as to why these feelings exist and why sometimes it feels impossible to express my love freely. I thought going into it this was a simple as saying "I love you" more often. Now I know there's a lot more to all of this and I got a lot more than I bargained for, but in a good way!
Guilt was the first mystery I unraveled partway through the year. Hours of quilting would leave me feeling contaminated with excessive guilt, which made me snappish and surly, which only created more guilt!
Figuring out my guilt triggers, and most especially the negative voice in my head that likes to constantly berate me for being a bad mother, was a huge step forward. I'm absolutely not perfect, but at least now I can acknowledge when I'm feeling guilty and figure out what I can do about it.
Shame was the second mystery I unraveled this year. This is probably the most important discovery of my life because it is the core root of all issues. Shame isn't something we like to talk about because it's...well...shameful!
But it's still there, hiding in the darkness, lurking in the corners. When I first started reading about shame it's like I finally found a light switch in my heart and when I flicked the switch, I finally saw the monsters of shame that had been hiding there the whole time.
My monsters specifically are two accepted ideas that are unbelievably painful, but they have been the constant thread through my life since I was a little girl. They are No. 1 - I was not wanted, therefore I have no right to exist, and No. 2 - I will never be enough, so one day I will lose absolutely everything I have because I wasn't worthy of it in the first place.
These are two very common ideas for people who have been rooted and bound in shame. I know I'm not alone with these issues, and that they are very common for people raised in abusive, dysfunctional homes.
Working on this isn't easy. The fact that these two "truths" are actually lies doesn't seem to
matter. When I describe letting go of them - it's like trying to cut off
while I'm standing on them - impossible. How can an idea I've taken for
truth my whole life suddenly and instantaneously be accepted as a lie?
Most recently I've been slowly working through the book Healing the Shame that Binds You by John Bradshaw, I've found a therapist (finally), and I'm actively working: strength training my mind and heart, to remove the monsters from my soul.
Ultimately I know that it IS possible to rise above what I was taught and told and shown as a young child. I know that my brain is a muscle that I can exercise and work in a new direction. I know that my thoughts, good or bad, are my responsibility. I have the ability to respond to these issues and I will succeed.
So today at 30, I know I have loads of hard work to do, but at least now I know WHAT this work is and what direction I must work in.
What has helped the most this year is finally accepting that I can't be perfect. I can't quilt perfect. I can't teach perfect. I'm not a perfect wife or a perfect mother. What I can do is try my best, and to ACCEPT what that is, whatever it is.
For many years I felt intense shame any time my mistakes showed. What will people think if I can't quilt this perfectly? Obviously I'm not good enough to be teaching!
These days I see all my mistakes as opportunities to teach. Here let me share how I am NOT perfect, but how I continue to move forward. I have to keep stitching and accept what happens next.
At 20, I didn't have this sense of stability, celebration, or happiness. My life was a great big question mark then - full of scary uncertainty and negative thoughts.
At 10, I was just entering the time when my mother had "nothing left to give" and began her great downward spiral. It was after this birthday that I began baking my own birthday cakes, otherwise I wouldn't get one at all.
It's amazing what can happen in 10 or 20 years. It's amazing what can be discovered, learned, built, healed, and released. I am so fortunate to have these wonderful people in my life that have helped me grow so much in just 10 years from the confused girl I was to the woman I am now.
I am filled with wonder and excitement for the future. In the next year I hope to release my chains of shame and weights of guilt. I want to become ever more authentically ME - Perfectly imperfect, but still worthy of my life.
I also hope I can get a few of these unfinished projects done, but really...what does a finished quilt really matter in comparison to being able to truly say and finally believe: I AM ENOUGH?
Here's to the future!