There was just enough for this project, which seems to be the case for everything I make lately. The sewing goddesses are smiling upon me. I had so much fun with my retro western blouse hack a few months ago, that I decided to try my hand at ’embroidery’ again. First order of business, I traced the yoke pattern pieces onto scratch paper, then hand-sketched the design I wanted. Then I took an Exacto knife and created a stencil:
Next, as I did the last time, I went over everything with a very tight zig-zag sitch, the same setting used when making a bar tack on jeans:
It’s far from perfect, but there is no way to adequately express the amount of hard work that went into it. Each and every stitch had to be torn out and re-worked at some point. What you see above represent three days of my usual sewing time. Now you know why I operate by the mantra ‘progress not perfection.’ After I put these pieces together, I realized that the leaf design looked like maple leaves and the colors are the same as the Canadian flag, so I started calling it my ‘Calgary Stampede Shirt.’ Then, I referenced the Tom Petty song “Waiting Is the Hardest Part” on Instagram, and the commenters inspired me to call it my ‘Tom Petty shirt.’ So shall it be.
Twenty years is too long
To feel like this inside
To be told it’s all in your head
Feel tired in your bones
To feel old inside your cells
Be dismissed time and again
Laughed at and ignored
As the world passes you by
Twenty years is too long
To be invisible like this
To be blamed because you’re poor
That your life doesn’t look how it should
That you’ve failed since you haven’t arrived
Though your feet hurt too badly to stand
To speak and never be heard
To cry and watch tears bathe the floor
Twenty years is too long
To have to make the hard choice
Between things that bring you joy
And taking care of yourself
To let down the people you love
Over and over again
Knowing you have no choice
As you sit there and take on the blame
Twenty years is too long
To be patient amidst the pain
To watch thousands of days pass you by
Be told that you must be at fault
Since assistance is always in reach
So they say, as they offer no help
To watch others get to partake
While old bills pile up on the floor
Twenty years have gone by
And it all seems so easy to solve
From the outside looking in
It’s easy to be cavalier
But I can’t singlehandedly solve
The mystery of this disease
Simply because they can’t see
The daily battles I fight
Twenty years is too long
To try and keep trying again
While others sit back and stare
Then silently shake their heads
There’s no getting around it. Forgiveness is complicated. This is the deepest spiritual work any of us can ever do. I should know; I’ve been doing this work for just about as long as I’ve been alive, because life doesn’t stop dishing it out. No one gets through this life unscathed. Hell, most of us don’t even make it to kindergarten unscathed. Just when you think you’re good at it, something rears its ugly head, like that whac-a-mole game I used to play at Chuck E. Cheese’s when I was a kid. You can’t seem to ever keep those moles from popping up, no matter how hard you try to clobber them all.
It’s one of those oddly paradoxical things about forgiveness. The moment you decide to let go and soften your heart to forgive, there is a rush of emotional crap that wants to come flooding out of you, because you can no longer allow this pain to take up residence inside of you. As it rushes out you have…feelings. You know the type: ugly, snot-filled, angry feelings. It feels like the opposite of forgiveness, the opposite of healing. But the idea of spending your entire life holding a beach ball under water is so exhausting, you just can’t do it anymore. Peace will come, but for a while you just feel drained and confused. This is not the same as “dazed and confused.” It’s the grown-up, clear-minded, slightly jaded, yet ever hopeful version of that.
Why the confusion? Because letting go of things that are unacknowledged, especially when they have hurt you that badly, feels like you’re letting bad behavior off the hook. I know, I know, I’ve heard all the deep profound thoughts on the matter. I mean, I am on Instagram after all, so it’s not like I haven’t seen all the memes informing me how to be #woke #authentic #conscious. Plus, I regularly follow the naked yoga chicks standing on mesas wearing nothing but Minnetonka hats and fair trade jewelry, while they write stream-of-consciousness poetry about #source #spirit #handmadejewelry #glowyskin, so obviously I am a deeply spiritual person. Give me some credit. But what about accountability? What about apology? What about the power of confession?
I realized something recently. After years of believing that I understood these concepts, and that I didn’t need the acknowledgement, I was actually waiting deep down for some sort of “Big Apology Moment.” Then my accusers and I would hug it out and have an inspirational story to share of triumphing in the face of adversity. I blame the Hallmark Channel for this. On some level, I really was expecting Candace Cameron Bure to leave her high-powered career in the city, come to town, fall in love with some faux lumberjack guy with age-inappropriate hair and overly manicured nails, and save Santa Town in the end. But I can’t even afford the bus fare to Santa Town, so here we are.
Yep, here we are. I’ve opened the floodgates of forgiveness, and I have not been a forgiving person like I wanted to think. You know how I know? Because I realized something else recently. Even if those who stand accused in my heart actually did give me my “Big Apology Moment,” it wouldn’t set me free. I would scream, rage, accuse, unleash my list of grievances in the name of righteous anger after holding it in so long. All this would accomplish would be to re-traumatize myself and deepen my sense of righteous indignation. Nothing anyone did would ever be enough, because the pain is that big.
So, I need to forgive. This is the spiritual work that all other spiritual work leads to. I experienced trauma. People I loved let me down in big ugly ways. They made shitty, selfish decisions and I have been left to deal with the aftermath of their behavior. “Big Apology Moments” can never give back what was taken, undo what was done. It takes time and effort. I am not required to be in fellowship with anyone just because I forgive them, but I need to forgive them anyway. Someone might have come along and burned my entire home to the ground, destroying everything, and that really sucks. Even so, I need to clean up the mess and rebuild, because I’m the one who lives there. Sitting among the wreckage, angry and indignant, holding onto the grief, will not restore what was lost. I have to let go, as often as I need and as many times as it takes, because I’m still here and the sun is still sitting in the sky above me. The work of rebuilding is too important to allow my strength to be drained by the overwhelming emotions that I’ve hoarded inside, and hanging around with someone who still loves playing with matches is not integral to that process. In fact, it is yet another way of keeping the pain fresh, real, and debilitating. I have to make hard choices, life-affirming choices, reclaiming my sense of personal power.
Maybe those who have hurt me will confess and apologize one day, but this is their spiritual work, not mine. I need to worry about myself so that if the day ever came, I would be capable of receiving it. If I am incapable of forgiving those who’ve wronged me, I will lack the humility I need to be capable of receiving forgiveness when I inevitably wrong someone else. Because you never truly understand the power of forgiveness until you are the one who needs to be forgiven. Setting myself free from my pain through the work of forgiveness doesn’t let someone off the hook for their crimes. It simply makes me a better person, and I am responsible for me. I have been set free to rise up into a more evolved version of myself, and the world is better for it.
When I found this amazing piece of selvedge denim at Austin Creative Reuse this Summer, I was very excited, but very uncertain how I would use it:
I already have Ginger Jeans this color, and I have a very complete collection of denim in my wardrobe, but this was not a deal I could easily pass up. I mean, $2.25 for 2-1/4 yards of 58″ wide selvedge denim? I’d be a lunatic NOT to buy it. Luckily, I had recently purchased the Salida Skirt pattern from True Bias:
I’d been wanting this pattern since it was first released last year. View B has a very 30s/40s silhouette and feel, while the design itself is decidedly modern. It would make a perfect addition to my wardrobe:
I originally envisioned it in corduroy, in a very Fall green or burgundy, but then this denim came into my life. It was the exact right amount for this skirt. Having made many pairs of the Lander pants/shorts, I knew I could rely on any True Bias pattern to be well-designed and easy to follow. I was able to cut entirely one size without grading between sizes. The only alteration I made was to add a total of two inches to the length: 1/2″ at the bottom of the yokes pieces, 1/2″to the top of the skirt panels where they attach to the yoke, and 1″ at the lengthen shorten lines to accommodate my height.
Here’s the result:
All in all, I can already tell I’m going to be using this pattern again. I’m definitely making one in true black denim. I love this silhouette. I recently did a 70s version that is similar in forest green. Since I now actually have skirts in a Fall green and burgundy, I’m back to the proverbial drawing board for what to do next with this pattern. In addition to black, I can also see this one in a teal or rust-colored corduroy. But not this year. I have way too much on my sewing plate right now. Back to it.
Into the darkest of human emotions
You fall like a rag doll
Tossed aside for the shiny red truck
With all its sharp corners
As the dog drags you to the yard
And buries you
Beyond the sight of human eyes
Like all his old bones
What brought you back
Into the rays of the sun
All moldy and decayed
Only love can know…
Recently, somebody told me, “Smile, you never know who’s watching.” Remind me – am I supposed to care who’s watching? Is it my job as a female to go around looking like a lunatic so other people won’t think negative things about me? Is this the part where I give two fucks? Can a person ever really give enough fucks to make ‘other people’ happy? I guess I didn’t respond quickly enough, so they said, “A pretty girl like you should smile more.” Pretty girls are required to respond and tend to the egos of surrounding somebodies. These are the rules of being female. We must acknowledge all who need to feel acknowledged. We must do penance for the wounds of pretty-girls-past.
I was so inspired and uplifted by this reminder of my true worth. I immediately started walking with a spring in my step and a desire to break into song; high-pitched, operatic, heavy-on-the-vibrato song. I think cartoon birds flew out of my ass right at that moment and started circling my head singing show tunes as little cartoon bunnies frolicked at my feet. It is my job, after all, as a female, to show all of my teeth all the time and decorate the world with my delightfulness. I am responsible as a female for everyone else’s happiness. Because someone might be watching. My value as a pretty girl is to be adorable. Welcoming. Charming. Positive. If I’m going through something difficult, I am responsible for putting a smile on my face and being inspirational to others, or I might be accused of…gasp…negativity.
If I break down and cry sometimes, someone might shove a kleenex box in my direction while they say deep, philosophical things like, “Big girls don’t cry,” and “If it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger.” Yes, I know! Life has fifty-fifty shot of killing me. Actually, a one-hundred percent shot at some point in the journey. I wasn’t concerned about my mortality relative to what I’m feeling at this exact moment. Can I just be messy for five minutes of my life? Can I just be however I need to be to survive this moment? Because I know the future will probably work out, but this is me right now. Just let me be me today. But I digress… What’s important is other people’s perceptions, not my emotional health and authenticity. Not my ability to buy eggs at the grocery store uninterrupted. Focus!
Maybe if I try hard enough to make ‘other people’ happy, I will win their approval, then they will like me and a handsome prince will fall in love with me and rescue me from a life of sure loneliness in a house full of cats and endless reruns of 90s sitcoms. But here’s the problem. I love cats. And my ability to score very high on 90s sitcom trivia is a source of great pride for me. Throw in a jigsaw puzzle and we’ve got a winner. Here’s another problem – I already have a handsome prince who loves me very much and let’s me be my messy self and continues to love me. The problem, you ask? He was standing right next to me, not smiling, looking every bit as solemn, tired and stressed out as ever, and no one gave a fuck whether he was smiling or not. But that’s okay, he has a penis and facial hair. No smiling required. Keep emitting those male pheromones and all is right with the world.
And the biggest problem of all? I am not a pretty girl. I am a grown ass woman. I have accomplishments. Opinions. Feelings. Depth. Complicated grown-up problems like everyone else. I have a heart full of joy and passion about many things, whether I’m smiling or not. But I also battle PTSD, which causes depression and anxiety, and I have a complex chronic illness that has caused me pain every day for the better part of 20 years. Getting up every single day and getting out of bed is hard for me. But I do it. I dig deep each day and tell myself I can do it. I may be standing there not smiling because I’m trying to shop while in pain, not because I’m unhappy. Or maybe I’m contemplating the price of tea in China. This is nobody else’s business but mine and the ones I love.
I don’t have cartoon birds flying out my ass, but I crawl out of bed sometimes at the crack of dawn and go into the woods to say goodnight to the owls and coyotes as they eat their bedtime snacks, then sit with the deer, the bunnies and the chirping birds as the sun breaks through the trees. I connect. I connect with them, I connect with me, I connect with the trees. And, no, I’m not doing it while singing, “With a smile and a song….” There is no frolicking – just stillness. I connect with my divine source. I tell myself, “You can make it today. You can make it step by step by step. You’ve done it before, you can do it again.” And I do. I go home and put on the coffee. I pick out my clothes, and I choose them carefully, because I fight hard to be here everyday so I deserve to feel beautiful. Who doesn’t? I take time to put on my makeup, even though most days no other humans will see me. I do it for me. I smile for me. I laugh for me. I cry for me.
Once in a while, I go out into the world. I do the shopping, run the errands, have a little fun. No one can know as I walk through the store, how hard it was to get there. How hard it was to do all the steps involved. How happy I am just to be out. Until one person decides to single me out among the ‘other people’ to judge my facial expression while I’m doing normal things like a normal person, simply because I have a face that draws their attention and they have attached expectations to that face. Thank you, random stranger for emotionally hijacking me in the middle of my day out, treating me as though I stand out from the masses around me, yet rendering me invisible all at the same time. You meant well. But the moment it becomes about what-you-meant, it becomes all about you-and-your-intentions, not me and my feelings. I suppose one could say, “Quit caring so much about what other people think,” but it’s not about what ‘other people’ think. It’s about what happens when opinions become words; how well-meaning words can be hurtful, objectifying, unnecessary and dismissive. Next time, instead of someone telling me that I should smile, maybe they could smile at me and say, “Hello.” It would really make my day.