When I was twenty years old, serving in the military and stationed in Germany, I'd slip into feeling far, far away from everyone in my world. My mama sent me a card that I still cling to twenty years later. It's a simple note card with a pen and ink sketch of a covered bridge. She told me I was missed greatly, but her last sentiment was the one that resonated with me the most. It's stuck with me every day since:
In the many years since then, I've had times of turmoil, emotional upheavals, fear, grief, guilt, sadness, and humiliation. I've had moments where I felt hurt and defeated. I've felt lost and alone. Yet my mama taught me that there is something stable and resilient to lean on. I can be still and weather any moment because behind the apparently fraying seams of my life, there is always a stillness to be found in loving others and being loved.
Usually I can find a way to teach myself to remember these kind of life lessons in patchwork.
Every so often my scant quarter-inch seam allowance is hit and miss. Inconsistent. Fraying at the seams. Little holes where I missed my fabric, or once pressed, my block falls short of the finished dimensions. Begrudgingly, I have to get out the seam ripper and go to town on removing the offending seams from what should have been a beautiful thing.
It's just fabric and thread. It's resilient up to a point. As long as I don't attack it with the fierceness of a gardener pruning a vine down to the bare stalk, I've got the ability to put it back together again.
While my heart is not a vine nor patchwork, my friends often accuse me of never allowing others to get close to my heart. Never wouldn't be true, but I do only let a select few people into my little world. Perhaps it's because a heart isn't as resilient as fabric and thread. When I've found love and let another in, it's been a bit hit and miss, just like that scant quarter-inch seam allowance. In the end, when life and love don't measure out perfectly, it can feel like I'm the one coming apart at the seams.
I easily slip into the habit of relating to things in objective terms and just focus on solving immediate problems.
Wonky seams? Rip 'em out. Move on.
Someone does something I find disappointing? Push them away completely.
I try to separate myself from my feelings, but admittedly, I am likely to mumble a few choice words under my breath as I do so. This is true whether we're talking about fabric, family, or friends.
Accordingly, if it is people and not patchwork, I don't always recognize the feelings of others when I'm focused on problem-solving.
Those moments when I try to go it alone and turn on an analytical, detached, problem-solving mode, are the times I most need to recognize and respond to other people's feelings.
When I find myself with wonky seams, it can be very therapeutic to rip out stitches until I get to the source of my frustration. When I find myself in times of hurt, sadness, and fear, it is much harder to take things slowly, moment by moment-one stitch at a time, waiting patiently behind the seams instead of completely cutting ties and running.
In the midst of deep emotional pain, or even in times of happiness, it helps me to remember to sow seeds that heal the heart and the mind and just remember my mama's soothing words:
...and if being loved doesn't make you smile, I don't know what will.