mental health, Project Status, quilting

Crushed By Comparison and How To Talk To Anxious People

I few months ago I had this vision for a quilt project. Using only left over fabric from another quilt project I would make a blue/purple peacock on a background that went from yellow to orange to red. I was super excited when I started working on the project. Check out that eye!!!

I was so excited I did not read the pattern closely and ended up piecing the project backwards. I thought that was pretty cool because I think I have enough fabric to make another one in reverse, so green to blue to purple background with a yellow/orange peacock. If I made the second one the correct way it would look like they were mirror images.

Then I started scrolling through other people’s interpretation of the pattern on Instagram, realizing that what I was treating as background was actually the peacock’s feathers.

Now my idea feels stupid to me. How did I not catch that the feathers make up the background?! I’ve spent more than 30 hours hand piecing this project, and I don’t want to look at it. I don’t want to do another version mirrored version of my same stupid idea.

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Some of you may be tempted to write a comment about how much you like what I made and reassure me that my idea is not stupid.

I am gong to invite you not to do that.

If I don’t believe that for myself either I won’t believe it from you, or I will need you to remind me forever. This is why telling someone who is anxious that everything is okay is a waste of your time. If a person cannot do it for themselves, then it won’t stick when you do it. You’ll have to keep doing it. Forever.

It is also not effective to tell people who are anxious to calm down or stop worrying. That’s roughly the same as me telling you not to think about Abraham Lincoln.

Seriously, stop thinking about Abraham Lincoln.

Stop thinking about the beard and the top hats or the Emancipation Proclamation.

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STOP THINKING ABOUT ABRAHAM LINCOLN ALREADY!!!!

To which any sane person would say, “Every time I try to stop thinking about him you remind me of him, and I start all over again.” That process is exactly what happens to an anxious person. Each time you tell them to calm down they are reminded of their anxiety and start all over again.

So what to do instead? Ask people what they need to handle whatever it is they are worried about. If they don’t know, I either invite them to take a few deep breaths or take a few moments to think about it. I do not solve the problem for them. Solving the problems leaves ME with the burden of relieving THEIR anxiety. No thank you.

Where does this leave me and the peacock? First I need to make peace with how my original vision is different. Then I need to decide if I want to spend another 30+ hours making another version or if  I want to move on.

One of my favorite things about quilting without deadlines is that I can put something away for awhile and look at it again when some of the original emotion has worn off. So away goes the peacock for a bit.

Until then, I’ll be thinking about Abraham Lincoln.

mental health

Musings from the Gold Coast

My husband and I are celebrating our lucky 13th anniversary this weekend. Our kids are at a sleepover with their grandparents, and we went downtown Chicago. It is beautiful here.

Sunday morning I woke up at 6:00am, like I always do, and after playing on Instagram for awhile, I knew I wasn’t going back to sleep. I decided to walk around. We’re staying in the Gold Coast, probably the wealthiest neighborhood in Chicago. You can see the money: fancy cars and all those designer stores people fuss about.

I was wandering around looking at the houses and they range from beautiful to a bit ostentatious.

I love the clean lines of the stone. Or the details on the one below:

Then of course there were the ones that seemed to be trying too hard:

I started to get caught up in the idea that people who live in million(s) dollar homes a block from or ON Lake Shore Drive must have a better life and be happier than I am. They can probably buy whatever they want right? (The fabric! The machines!)

Lucky for me, I’ve heard the research. Only about 10% of happiness has any connection to our external circumstances. If you’re a generally miserable person and you win the lottery, six months later you’ll be back to generally miserable. If you’re a cheerful, content person and loose a leg, six months later you’ll likely be a cheerful, content person.

When I think about, I do poorly with excess and scarcity. When I have too much I start to stop seeing what I have and obsess about more. I also start to internalize our culture’s silly idea that lots of expensive things some how makes me special. As if my significance was some how for sale.

When I don’t have enough, I feel tense and anxious, like I have to constantly be alert. I grew up in a home where money was super tight and I remember feeling the stress of not enough. When I was about three or four a Pizza Hut was built at the end of our street, and I remember thinking to myself, “It doesn’t matter. We can’t afford to eat there anyway.”

I think part of what my fabric fast is to help me recognize enough. My “daily bread” if you will.

As I was reflecting this morning, I remembered a passage from Proverbs (9:7-9):

“Two things I ask of you, Lord;

do not refuse me before I die:

Keep falsehood and lies far from me;

give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.

Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’

Or I may become poor and steal and so dishonor the name of my God.”

So today, surrounded by wealth I will never achieve (and I’m not sure I want), I am striving for gratitude for what I have. And if I’m honest, what I have is pretty great.

Happy Memorial Day. 🇺🇸