The Free Motion Quilting Project: New Mentality for Happiness

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

New Mentality for Happiness

Sorry guys for missing my Monday post! Yesterday I traveled to Morganton, NC to lecture for the Burke County Quilters Guild, a wonderful bunch of extremely active quilters.

Of course as luck would have it, James had brought home a cold on Friday and was running a fever by Sunday night. I managed to stave it off until after my lecture, but then the headache hit as I was driving back to Shelby. I woke up this morning to find a totally stuffed up nose and scratchy, froggy sounding voice.

So I can't record my voice over the videos I'd edited for this week. I'm hoping I will sound better and maybe post a new design tomorrow.

Instead, today I want to talk about a new book I've been reading and a wonderful new insight into my life that it has allowed. Yep, this is a personal post so if you'd rather stay out of my personal musings, feel free to stop reading here!

The book is called "What Your Childhood Memories Say About You - And What You Can Do About It" by Kevin Leman. Talk about a loaded title!

First I must say that I don't agree with about 50% of what the author says. He doesn't have as good a handle on birth order dynamics as he could, and certainly doesn't have any idea what he's talking about when it comes to dysfunctional or abusive families.

But that being said, there is some valuable information in this book that has helped me identify with myself a bit better.

For one thing, Leman identifies several different personalities from Drivers - people who jump out of bed in the morning ready to get things done, to Controllers - people who take that drive and use it to control and manipulate others.

He also listed two that really hit a button with me: Pleasers - people whose self worth is entirely dependent on pleasing everyone else, and Marytrs - people who please others at the total expense of themselves.

Reading through that section of the book, I suddenly knew exactly who I have been since around the age of 3 years old: a big, giant Pleaser with occasional forays into Martyrdom.

Yes, there are times that I'm a driver - working extremely hard to get things done, but usually the work is being done to please someone else, not myself.

My self worth while growing up was entirely dependent upon how happy I could make everyone else. Whether it was being the cute and funny baby of the family or simply making myself nonexistent by playing for hours behind a chair, I constantly sought peace and contentment by trying to make everyone else happy.

But peace in a dysfunctional, hostile family is impossible. Essentially I grew up banging my head into a wall of family dynamics I was entirely powerless to evenly slightly affect.

This was unfortunately the way I grew up, and I can't do anything to change the dynamics or my memories of the past. Now that I'm an adult, however, I do have a choice about how I live and what aspects of my personality I allow to dominate.

Unfortunately I've already set myself up for a bad pattern. While this project certainly started with a terrific goal and challenge for myself, as it has grown I've found myself slowly pulling away from my original desire to create 365 designs and into the realms of creating books and dvds.

Don't get me wrong - I really like creating products that help to support my family!

But what I don't like is feeling like I have to slaughter myself in order to do it. I don't really even remember what August or September looked like - I was simply too busy working endless hours on the computer to get the book and DVD completed.

It was soul sucking endless hours of constant stress, and after it was all done and finished, I swore I would never, ever martyr myself for another book or DVD again.

I also saw a bad tendency of doing the exact same thing with my big quilts. As soon as I start the quilting process, I start rushing, rushing, rushing through it to get it done. There's no stopping to smell the roses! I'm hell bent on finishing that project just as fast as I can.

So after finishing From Daisy to Paisley, I decided to put on the brakes on all projects - books, DVDs, and new big quilts - until I could figure out a healthy, positive way to do them.

Because I know for a fact that if I continue working this way, I will give myself a heart attack one day. Or cancer, or something equally bad. There HAS to be a way to work moderately!

For that last 2 months, I've just focused on the project and finishing up small UFOs and what happened? My horrible inner negative voice (INV) cranked up into full gear saying terrible things like:
  • Why are you wasting time??? You've got to get on that next book. Everyone will HATE you if you don't get it written by Christmas!
  • Aren't you pathetic - can't even design a new version of The Duchess. Why do you even call yourself a professional quilter? You obviously suck.
  • So when are you going to start the next DVD huh? huh? What? You're too BUSY? What a joke, you could easily stay up for 3 more hours and finish that stupid project you're working on.
And the list goes on and on.

I was pretty discouraged when my mind started to do this because much of the INV had been worked through during Shadow Self. Why was it so active now, chewing on my lack of activity?

And I realized the reason last night - that I think by over-working myself on a new book or DVD, or rushing through a quilt, I will make everyone happy.

It really comes as no surprise. I made everyone in my original family happy when I was busy and occupied and essentially nonexistent, why shouldn't it work now?

But here's the thing - it doesn't make ME happy and I'm tired of trying to fool myself into thinking that with the next big quilt or the next big book, I'll finally have the magic bullet to happiness and contentment.

If you've been following along with the blog for awhile, you'll know that I pieced a quilt called Sinkhole in September, but that I decided to wait to quilt it until 2011.

I'm so very happy I decided to wait to quilt this quilt because if I hadn't I might be continuing that cycle of rushing through it. And if I had done that I might not have realized one incredible truth: that all of my feelings about worth and self esteem are a lie.

Allow me to explain: I have many memories from between the ages of 3 and 7 years old, which is when most personality is being formed. Almost all of those memories involve some form of shame: getting in trouble, being yelled at, or being shamed by another family member.

This collective shame has led me to believe that I am intrinsically wrong, bad, and ugly for most of my life. When I would look into the mirror, I would expect to see something horrible and disfigured, like a zombie, because that's how I felt on the inside.

But all those memories were lies.

I'm not saying that the memories didn't happen - they certainly did! What I'm saying is that the emotion I took from them was never true.

I was made to feel stupid and ugly, both of which are very obviously not true. While those memories and emotions still exist, I can look back on them now and see them for what they were.

The truth is perception is everything.

I could write "I got some nasty emails today." and some people might perceive that I got a mean email and some people might assume I received porn!

As a child, I took every memory and experience and added it as another notch in the totem pole of Leah Sucks.

Had I had any ability to see and judge experiences through another lens, I might have been able to see things differently: that slap wasn't because of something intrinsically wrong with ME, but something wrong with my parents, maybe they had a bad day, or maybe I was being annoying, but they didn't know a positive way to tell me to shut up.

Whether this level of rationalization works for you or not, the fact of the matter is, I've finally found a lasting, positive solution for a problem that has crippled my life for far too long.

I've been asking for a lot of opinions lately simply because I haven't been able to make up my mind about what to do next. Write another book? Quilt another quilt? Create the printer friendly PDFs?

So finally I've decided to not decide to do anything. I'm going to stop making huge statements like LEAH IS WRITING A NEW BOOK! because these statements usually serve as the green light to go kill myself until the book is done.

I'm going to take things day by day. If I feel like working on a book, I'll work on a book. If I feel like working on a quilt, I'll work on a quilt.

I'm going to continue the project, no doubt about that, but what I do beyond that is going to be left wide open for the time being.

I'm going to work towards a common goal to find balance in my life which has never been balanced. To learn how to work and be productive in moderation.

I might get less done, but really I don't think so. Just like seeing how I speed up when I slow down, with less stress and pressure new books and DVDs and quilts may still be made each year, but without the gut wrenching slaughter fest that usually accompanies them.

So what I'm I off to do with my slight fever and head cold? Take a nap and play some video games!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day


  1. Leah, thanks for sharing your struggles! I must share with you the flylady concept, you can read all about her at There is LOTS of stuff there but the basic premise of her 'Ministry', yes, I'm calling it a ministry, is that you can do anything in 15 minutes or less. Stop trying to be a perfectionist and just do IT (whatever it is) for 15 minutes. Oh, and by the way , Fly stands for Finally Loving Yourself. Do it for YOU because you love yourself. Flylady has helped me from cleaning to schoolwork advice for my kids. And to help me realize that I can get over perfectionism or whatever is stopping me from DOING something. God Bless you!

  2. Leah, you are an amazing woman and as you work through your issues I have no doubt your strength will lead you on a positive journey, touching many lives for the better. Personally I treasure your gifts that you share selflessly through your blog, be it a new design, insight into your struggles, or a piece of your artwork. Take care of yourself - and I hope you feel better soon!

  3. Leah -
    GOOD FOR YOU!! Have you ever heard the song "Garden Party" by Rick Nelson? I know it's way before your time - but the chorus goes - "But it's all right now, I learned my lesson well. You see, ya can't please everyone, so ya got to please yourself." That says it all. Take care of yourself and your family - and let the rest take care of itself.

  4. You work thru your INV and put it behind you. It will raises it's ugly head again when you least expect it, when you are tired, not feeling well or stressed. Just step on it and say "Shut up". Then think about possitive aspects of your life and laugh. When you fake a laugh, your body does not know that it is a pretend laugh. You will have endorphins released and feel better for real. You are a very talented and beautiful young woman. Do not let your INV tell you otherwise. Keep stepping on it and it becomes easier to put behind you.

  5. Just wanted you to know, I got my Canadian Quilting association, CQA, magazine today and there was a lovely pic of you in front of 'Release Your Light'....

    I write for the mag, so have an extra one, if you want me to mail it to you.


  6. Thank you for sharing Leah. So many of us have deep scars from childhood and we pretend that things are fine and that it doesn't hurt anymore. It's good to share and know that we're not alone. You are a beautiful, talented person and so many of us admire your work and want to be like you. You need to do what is best for you and your family. Your fans will be here to buy your books/DVDs whether they come in 4 months or 4 years. I have no answers for you except to say you are not alone! God Bless You!

  7. Two things - first, check out Brene Brown's blog (and books):

    Second, and although it sounds awfully negative I truly mean this in a positive way: Once we navigate away from your post, we don't care. We genuinely wish the best for you when we're engaging with you through a post, but most of your readers who do not know you personally leave the site and forget. Please remember that your readers are your READERS, not your FRIENDS. You don't have to please us. We're here for content, and if it's available, we read it. If you haven't posted something lately, we probably won't realize it. You have real friends and a real life, a real family. They are important. We are just readers. We appreciate everything you offer, and we encourage and support you, but we move on to the next blog fairly quickly. Don't harm yourself to please us.

  8. Hi Leah,
    I've only just "discovered" your blog and I think that you're so creative & talented! I've poured over your designs and videos and am totally in awe! Your blog is filled with things that I can't do :) But that's okay - I can do other things and admire your work too. People aren't just "one thing" or a certain "type" . . . I believe it's the combination that makes us unique and beautiful. I did not raise my daughter in the same manner that I was raised (which wasn't horrible), but chose to incorporate all of the more positive behaviors that I picked up from many people. However, I would like to say that I am me because of how I grew up - every thing factored in . . . and while I (of course)am not perfect, I AM ENOUGH. And so are you!!

    Blog on, my friend :)

  9. I think one of the hardest things we women do, is look at ourselves and try to make sense of our INV. I know I have them, and I do not know a single woman who doesnt' also have them. Sure, the INV say different things to different people. Some say things like needing to be a better mother, or to eat more healthy, or to stop procrastinating, or to lose weight, or to keep the house cleaner. Mine say all of the above from time to time.

    Leah, I am so glad you are figuring out some of this stuff at such a young age. You will be a better wife, mother, and woman for it. You are an amazing woman already, filled with generosity and true caring. You are an amazing quilter and artist, as well as business woman.

    When I first started reading your blog, I wondered how on earth you could come up with a design every day for a year. Shoot, girl, one a week is fine by me! Take a few days, stay in bed, get better, and enjoy Thanksgiving with your loved ones. Hopefully on Thursday your husband will post a killer holiday recipe and you can stay in bed, getting healthy, both in mind and in body. It's okay to recharge.

    By the way, thank you for everything you have posted thus far, and for sharing your wonderful skills.

  10. Good for you!
    It took me 30 years to learn what you have in a handful!
    You have validated yourself, and that's what's important.
    Sending you sunshine, my dear Leah
    Feel good. And remember that you don't have to be sick to play video games and relax :)


  11. I definitely believe that Pleasers constantly struggle with balance. I feel lucky I was not born with that gene. Frankly when you were asking for so many opinions I was sure it would just make everything more stressful because in the end, you're the one who has to do ALL the work--and there is no pleasing everybody, every time. I hope your step back and "non-decision" period results in the productivity you desire. We can wait, truly the public will, there is no deadline except that which you self-impose. Slow down to speed up is a great place to start :)

  12. My dear Leah, oh how we have so much in common! Please do me a favor, go look into your mirror (often)and tell that person you see that you are beautiful, very intelligent, incredibly talented, a terrific teacher, quilter and so very kind and generous! Why else would you do all this for us?

    People in the quilting class I attend were talking about your talents the other day. We love you! We thank you! Now, please take good care of yourself, if you don't take care of #1 (you!) no one else will! And don't you DARE put yourself down! Do not ever criticize yourself (we women are so good at that!).

    I do hope that you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving. You are someone for whom I am very thankful.

    With love,

  13. Take a deep breath
    you must to do what you really makes you happy at all times, take your time for every little thing and enjoy everything you do.
    I like your tutorials, tips and see you happy. Thanks for yor blog.

  14. That's probably why most people take at least a year to write a book!! Slow down, write your next book slowly, if takes a year, great!! It'll be ready in time for next Christmas!! :) Write it the way *you* want to, stop asking for opinions because every single person will have one and they will all be different. You are in control of your 'product' (you) and if people like it, they will buy it. If they don't like it, they won't buy it. Period.

    Imagine if every author in the world shared their idea for a book with the public first? "What do you think about some kids that go through a wardrobe into another world where animals talk? Does that sound like a good idea?" Can you imagine?? No books would ever get written because half the people would love it completely, half would love it partially, and half would hate it. There is no winning when you ask for opinions. Do it the way you want to and you will attract the type of people that like your style to you, and they will support you as you continue your journey.

    I run a large forum (close to 7,000 members in just over a year) and I have had to learn this very quickly. If I took a poll every time I wanted to make a change to the site, I would constantly be disappointing someone because a decision would have to be made and I promise you getting 7,000 people on the web to agree to one outcome ain't gonna happen.

    Good luck in your journey,

  15. Peacemealquilts couldn't have said it better! If you are thinking of "us" when you think, "if I don't finish project x asap, "they" will all hate me," don't! We are all out here living our lives, Leah, just like you. We don't live for you, and you shouldn't live for us. We move right along after we read the blog and watch the videos. You should never give us more importance in your life than we give you in ours. Please don't take this in the wrong way, I LOVE this blog; but it only consumes about 3 minutes of my day. I hereby release you from any responsibility to me! :) <3

  16. You go, girl.

    I think you've inspired me to take the afternoon off and do something just for me.

  17. I woke up one morning in 1980 feeling happy. I wondered all day what that was all about. Then I realized that it was a year to the day after my mother had died and that there was no one at all in the world left to tell me what a S**T I was (no one I would believe, anyway). Too bad that it took her death to free me. Too bad she could not have appreciated me for the person I am, rather than the person she wanted me to be.

    hang in there!

  18. Your work is important work--choosing who are and aren't is a lifelong job. One valuable book that helped me quantify some of the ideas that were driving me, without my realizing they were, was called Feeling Good, by David Burns, M.D.
    As long as you stay on the path and keep your heart open, you're all right. There is no "getting there." It's all "here and now." You are doing a phenomenal job here and now.

  19. Like you, I've had my own inner voice tearing me down, and like you, I started out a pleaser. It was a book called Codependent No More by Ann Beatty that changed my life.

    I may be more of a reader than a friend, but I'm friend enough to want you to take your time and enjoy the process of quilting and writing. I don't think it'll actually slow you down that much. I have a hunch that once that nasty INV gets silenced, you'll find that your pace may be the same, but it'll feel good instead of rushed.

  20. I just recently stumbled upon your blog, and you are such an inspiration. I think JoAnne said it well: Go look in your mirror and see an amazing young woman. It's interesting that I always hear about the INV from my fellow running/fitness bloggers. The INV threatens all of us, and we have to figure out how to tell the INV to shut the heck up. Stay strong.

  21. I agree -- Peacemealquilts is right on. I do love your site and you've honestly made me much braver as a quilter, but if you didn't post for a week I wouldn't notice. Well, I would, but I would never think negatively of you. I'm a reader - you owe nothing to me and yet you've gifted me with so much.

    Thank you for taking so many brave leaps and telling us about you. I love these posts and think they're so important because I think so many blogs fall into the "Everything's SUPER WONDERFUL ALL THE TIME!!!" and life just isn't that. We all struggle with things and I think when we acknowledge that as you do here, it opens a discussion that is necesssary for healing. Posting this may help someone else look into her/himself and wonder if maybe they're too hard on themselves too. It can help folks discover their own recovery. What a wondrous thing you do with just the quilting, but to add that additional layer on top? It's beautiful, my friend.

    Take care of yourself and that adorable husband. Tell him that salsa recipe is the bee's knees. Happy Thanksgiving!

  22. thank you for sharing your heart with us. i've been in counseling for issues with my father and have been going through a book called 'father hunger' by robert mcgee, and i can't recommend it enough. it could easily apply to mother issues as well.

  23. Leah, check out the song, Beautiful, by Mercy Me on Youtube. You are a beautiful woman and I hope this song sings into your soul. I beat myself up some days too and feel like I can never get enough done. God Bless You, beautiful woman! (((((hugs))))) and thank you for sharing your talents with all of us.


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