Fabric Fast

A Closer Look

I mentioned in another post that I engage with intensity, part of that is personality and part of that is patterning. I imagine most people have a handle on personality, so I’d like to explain patterning and the pattern I’m trying to rewrite.

Patterning 101

We are wired for maximum efficiency and habit. Sort of like how some quilters have few favorite patterns or designers they use over and over. We are constantly looking at what is happening around us and matching the present to the past. Growing up you learned a style of dealing with conflict. You may have learned healthy things like how to listen, respond assertively, and hold boundaries. If you learned growing up that it didn’t matter what you said, you would have to do thing the way your parent(s) wanted you to, the pattern you may have learned was to go along to get along and not assert yourself. As an adult, you will likely struggle to set boundaries. If growing up you were encouraged to keep trying no matter what, you likely developed a pattern of perseverance and resiliency (the ability to bounce back after a set back).

We are constantly pulling patterns to respond to our present. If you have ever had the experience of meeting someone new and immediately disliking them, they likely tapped into a pattern. If you find yourself doing the same thing over and over again and you feel like you can’t stop, pattern. I hate that stuck feeling.

I would now like to introduce you to my favorite phrase in all the study of brain and wellness: neuro plasticity. Neuro plasticity refers to brains ability to grow and change at any stage of life. So right now, even in my mid-30s, I can undo a pattern that is causing me problems in my life. So about that pattern…

My Pattern:Where it came from 

My parents are wonderful people. They are wonderful and like everyone else, they are not perfect. My parents got married very young and had four kids in five years. We did not have a lot of resources growing up. Money was tight and my parents were exhausted most of the time. My dad work 12-13 hour day, often 6 days a week to support us in a job that was seasonal, so every winter my dad didn’t have work, unless it snowed. I was probably one of the few kids who was super conflicted about snow on Christmas. Snow at Christmas meant no dad but holiday pay. And we really needed the money.   My mom was tasked with caring for four very young kids by herself from wake up to bedtime. Anyone else feeling tired and stressed just imagining this?

Growing up in my family, I developed this connection between spending money and value. If someone bought me something it was a BIG deal because it didn’t happen very often. Special people were given gifts or spending money. Anyone else see how this can be problematic later in life?

I developed this association between spending money and feeling good. Every time I got to use my extra income for a new thing, I felt empowered and special. Today, I find myself buying fabric, participating in another sew-a-long or buying a new quilting tool I saw cool people use on Instagram to stop me from feeling uncomfortable, tired, or emotionally drained. But as soon as those feel good chemicals cool down in my brain, I am left with all the discomfort, exhaustion and emotional drain with the added stress of having spent money I did not need to spend.

So that is how I got to this fabric fast. Really, it’s more like “don’t spend any money on quilting related stuff.” For me, I need a hard line in the sand that I cannot dance around to force myself to handle feeling drained in another way. To use all the strategies I teach as a therapist for myself so that I can experience the benefits. In the end, I hope to be a more balanced, calm, thoughtful person.

Step One: Follow the Breath

My favorite tool for healing to connect with the breath. In addition to all the physical benefits of lowering your heart rate and reducing tension in the body, deep breathing also helps to switch myself from an anxiety state to a calm state. Now when I’m sewing I make an effort to connect my breath to my movements and engage as many of my senses as I can. I even started doing a lot of yin yoga to help me learn to slow down my breath. The overall goal is to be a fully integrated person.

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. 🇺🇸

Fabric Fast

I’m Already Messing Up

When I first had the idea for the fabric fast, I had great visions of increased clarity and creativity. Maybe I would have an idea for my first pattern or feel inspired to create a class.

At day seven there was no glory only a feeling of failure. I broke my rules seven days in. Here’s what happened:

I was feeling disappointed about something when a package arrived in the mail addressed to me from a store I did not remember ordering anything from. I got really excited. I love mail and packages.

I opened the box and it was a gift I’d bought for someone else and wasn’t expecting for a few more days.

Extra disappointing.

A few hours later my husband sends me a few items to order from Amazon and I find myself looking at my wish list. I notice the preorder price on a book I’m interested went up by TWO WHOLE DOLLARS. Friends, this is a disaster. What if I wait and don’t get the best price? What if my life cannot be complete without this book?

I was feeling disappointed, sad and a made up story that if I didn’t decide to buy this book NOW bad things would happen.

I bought the book.

Rush of pleasure and excitement.

I remembered I resolved not to spend money on quilting stuff.

Rush of embarrassment and shame.

At first I wanted to pretend it didn’t count. There’s nothing specific in the rules about books, right? That rationalization sounded too flimsy.

Next, I wanted to hide it. Maybe make it my anniversary gift from my husband. After all gifts are fair game. But, let’s be honest; it wasn’t a gift.

Then I remember one of my favorite therapy concepts: The What the Hell Syndrome. Here’s how it works, it’s New Years and you’ve resolved to give up desserts. On January 14th, you’re celebrating so-and-so’s birthday and eat some cake without remembering your goal. Or maybe you remember your goal and ate it anyway. Then you think, “I messed up my goal. I already failed, so what the hell? Put some ice cream on my cake. I’d love seconds.”

A more dangerous version of this the teenager who thinks, “Well my parents already treat me like I’m a terrible untrustworthy person even though I am not. I might as well do those terrible and untrustworthy things and at least get some benefit out of it.”

So I messed up. Now I have a choice. Let the What the Hell Syndrome walk me towards quitting or remind myself:

“Everyone makes mistakes, so why can’t you?” -Big Bird (That Big Bird is really wise for being only six.)

So this fabric fast isn’t going to be perfect. I make mistakes. And just like it wouldn’t be fair to expect my kids to walk on their first try, I am going to be kind to myself when I make mistakes. Because Big Bird says it happens to everyone.

Side note, If you’re wondering what book I just HAD to have:

Side note: can we take a moment to laugh that I titled this blog “Welcome Too Imperfection” as an upfront acknowledgment that I make mistakes ALL THE TIME and then I got stressed out at the idea of saying when I made a mistake? Yep, I thought that was kind funny/ridiculous too.

Fabric Fast

The Fabric Fast Rules

Let’s be honest, I can rationalize my way into or out of basically anything. Which means, if I don’t have clear goals and rules I will worm my way out of this fast as soon as this gets hard and pretend I was successful.

So here is the big rule:

1. No money spent on quilting stuff from May 8th, 2018 to January 1, 2019

I’m already asking myself if amazon points and gift cards I didn’t pay for count as money…I’m going with “yes” for now…see what I mean about worming my way out?

Exceptions:

1. I am free to accept fabric/quilty stuff as gifts (because Christmas and my wedding anniversary are included in that time)

2. Day to day maintenance stuff life needles, thread, rotary blades, etc. are fair game

Goals:

1. Keep quilting as an act of mindfulness and creativity which adds beauty to my life

2. Discover how much quilting I can reasonably fit into my life at this age/stage

3. Focus my attention on what I have vs what I see. (that seems like a more inspiring way to say “sew from my stash”)

4. Find my voice as a maker and writer rather than trying to be like the people I admire

5. Do something about my growing pile of WIPs.

Fabric Fast

The Journey Starts Here

About four years ago I decided I wanted to learn the sew. I’d just given birth to my first child, and I was obsessed with cloth diapers (I will totally own the weirdness of that sentence). Money in our house was a bit tight, making it difficult for me to convince my husband that spending the money for the start up on a new hobby was a grand idea. In all fairness, I have a history of discovering something new, becoming super obsessed with it and then moving on to another thing. I was a vegan, super into loose leaf tea, making homemade ice cream, scrapbooking, roller skated some marathons….well, there’s a list. My husband was not going to invest in another hobby to take up space in the closet with the vegan cookbooks, cast iron tea pot, and ice cream churn I just had to have.

I was not giving up. I got my hands on a used sewing machine from a family member, and I was going to make this happen. While talking about learning to sew, my husband mentioned he’d always wanted to turn his old t-shirts into a t-shirt quilt. I saw my opportunity and I took it.

“What if,” I suggested, “my first project is making your t-shirt quilt?” Husband went for it, and I was in business. Now all the start up supplies: needles, thread, a class, fabric, etc. are all in service of making his quilt. He had so many t-shirts it turned into two quilts. I was hooked. All thoughts of sewing diapers flew out the window. I was a quilter now.

Fast forward to now. I love quilting. It has turned into the practice that keeps me sane and balanced. Our family has grown to two children, and my work as a therapist has evolved into specializing in trauma. I need something to help me unwind and quilting is my thing.

Here’s the problem, more specifically my problem, I don’t know how to engage without intensity. The pattern of throwing myself into something 110% has followed me into quilting. In the past, I’d throw myself head first into a hobby get bored and move on to something else. This time I threw myself in 110% and quilting as a hobby had enough diversity to absorb it. There is so much to do and learn. Between the online sew-a-longs, different piecing and quilting techniques to learn, and the new lines of fabric coming out ALL THE TIME, quilting started to lose all the therapeutic benefits. I started more projects than I can finish, buying fabric I cannot afford or don’t need, and trying to work or produce on par with makers who quilt as a full-time job.

My hobby has gotten out of control. I started to distract myself with quilting rather than heal and restore myself with quilting. Since I don’t want to quit and I don’t want quilting to continue to run amok in my life, I’ve decided on a challenge.

I am starting a fabric fast. It’s actually more like don’t-spend-any-money-on-my-quilting-hobby, but calling it a fabric fast is much catchier and shorter. For anyone who doesn’t quilt or sew, imagine giving up all added sugar.

The fast will go from my birthday, May 8 to January 1, 2019. That’s 238 days or 34 weeks, starting on a Tuesday and ending on a Tuesday (I didn’t plan that, but I think it’s  pretty cool). I hope to use this blog to document my journey. It took me 7 days to figure out blogging and set up. 7 days down and 231 to go.

I’m sure I can do this. After all, I was vegan and skated a marathon on roller skates. What’s 231 more days without new fabric?