there have been days lately where i have really missed my personal blogging. i kept an open blog from 2014 when i moved cross country until 2017 when i changed to this professional website with a more professional blog. my work and what surrounds it has always been on the personal side, but i still feel like there’s so much that gets lost in translation.
i want to share this piece from early 2017, not as a way to bring up old “stuff”, but as a way to show some new followers where i’ve been, and as a reminder that there is so much purpose to what we do, so much healing in every stitch we make.
i am lucky that in my current life, i feel love. i feel love that is purer than any love i’ve felt before. there was a time (namely just before i wrote this piece) that i believed i would never find it in my future. it’s surreal to think that after the time that has passed, i am in my future, and it is happy. it has taken a lot of work and stitching to get here.
i’m going to preface this piece of writing by saying.. this is not coming from a place of grief. this is coming from a place of hope. this is not coming from then. it is coming from now.
from a place of work.
some of this work has been public. some of this work has been extremely private. some of it has been physical. some of it has been mental. some of it has been spiritual. but it has all been work, none the less.
yesterday, after five months of work, i finished the last of four clothing quilts using E’s clothes, for his family. i can see the box that its packed up in from the corner of my eye as i type this, along with the little bits of fabrics that were leftover from the projects.
five months of cutting, sewing, work. that is half of the time that he has been gone now.
the first three quilts were a solid four month struggle, for a lot of reasons. from the artistic perspective, from a personal perspective. but this last one, this last one felt like a breeze. perhaps it was the light at the end of the tunnel, or perhaps it was something else.. an understanding maybe.
how finally grateful and humbled i felt to participate so fully in the life-death-life cycle of things. as an artist, as a friend/lover, as a human.
after the chaos surrounding his death and the feelings that followed; how, now, could i ever feel “not enough”? how could i not be moved?
we all die. we all know we will die eventually. we all know that each other will die eventually, too. but when someone you love passes away (particularly young and) unexpectedly, no one can tell you what it will be like.
they tell you what you might feel or what might happen or maybe how they have experienced it, but no one can tell you what it will be like for YOU.
but people will try. oh, they will try…
some will try to replace your sadness with fond memories. some will try to steal your fond memories by reminding you of lies. and some will pretend that they knew that person as much, if not better, than you did. some will tell you that you’re not remembering things as they were. they will tell you stories and confuse and convince you until you have forgotten what your own truth is.
some will tell you it will be okay. some will tell you it will never be okay. both of those things are true.
some will tell you that you’ve gone on long enough, or that your grief is self-made.
but no one, NO ONE, can tell you what you’re actually feeling, or why you’re feeling it, or whether its right or wrong.
if you had told me, when i first met E, that he would pass away just shy of a year of when we met – and if you had asked me if i still wanted to meet him, knowing this would happen – i think i would have still said “yes.”
even looking back now, knowing all that i know, knowing i would trudge through some of the most hurtful words, knowing i would tackle the toughest projects and feel some of the hardest feelings – i think i would have still said “yes, i want to meet his man and let him buy me brunch.” not from a romantic place of its all been worth it, but from a realistic place of sometimes this is life and sometimes its really really hard.
we cannot escape the hard parts. and its in these hard parts that we grow.
just ask anyone who knows me well, and they will tell you from the first day that i let E buy me brunch, i felt like he changed me. changed who i was. changed my path.
it was not fully, really, truly until i was putting the last stitches into the binding on that last quilt yesterday, as the fabrics passed through my hands, that the thought resonated in my ears as if someone else were whispering it to me: it was not he who changed me, it was he who opened the door for me to change myself.
i have touched on this thought numerous times in the last year and a half, but i don’t think i actually believed it in my soul until yesterday.
it was in my relationship and friendship with – and my distance from and loss of – him that i learned how to look at myself. how to be myself. how to understand myself. he just held the mirror. and i am learning, being, understanding still. what more could we ever ask from our friends and lovers in this life, even after they are gone? those who offer us space to be ourselves, in our many manifestations, for good and for bad…
i sat ontop of the last clothing quilt on the floor as i was finishing it up, and i thanked him. i am still really pissed that he’s dead, but he knows that, so i’ve stopped reminding him, there’s nothing we can do about it now… haha… so, i thanked him instead. for this experience. for the hard parts. for the grief that showed me how heartbreaking it is but also how incredibly amazing it is to love someone. i thanked him for giving me space to learn how to love, enjoy and use my own body. for giving me space to learn how to really adventure out on my own. for giving me space to learn how to connect with people, even if it gets fucked up and doesn’t last long, how to take that risk anyway, how to not hide myself from them. how to not always be so quiet when i feel like i should be louder. how to continue to create from a place of deep inspiration and emotion and beauty.
i thanked him for those things, and then i thanked myself. for those things.
being finished with these four clothing quilts after five months now means i have a big empty spot where this project was. my workspace is mostly clean, my time now free. no longer on my to-do list for every single weekend minus a few over the last twenty or so weekends. there is now room for more projects, more feelings, more love. in this moment, as i write, its quiet – i feel quiet. unsure. how it all moves on from here. what will it be like now. now that these projects are no longer in my hands. after all this time, since way back just after he passed and i agreed to eventually do this project, it is now surreal to be finished.
there are still parts of me that house anxiety. sometimes i forget to breathe, sometimes i take myself out of a moment completely as its happening because trauma does strange things to our bodies and our minds; the affects last much longer than the grief. my body still feels like its catching up. on all the sleep i missed, on all the comfort i didn’t get, on all the things i tried while moving so quickly. but i’m learning more how to check in with myself. how to be mindful of where it lives inside of me so that i can coax it out and talk it down. the more i get in tune with myself again, the better i will continue to feel. as i’ve learned to heal my heart, i’ve started to learn how to heal my body as well.
when E first died, it felt so personal. i was literally sitting on the couch waiting for him to walk into my house. how could he just not do that one damn thing?! how could he just not have done what he was supposed to so that he could have been there with me??? i had done everything in my ability to always help him, be there for him, try to understand him, give to him anything he wanted… and then he was just gone…
….and as time has gone on, those feelings have dissipated. the selfishness has subsided. the isolation i felt in the experience of losing him has subsided.
i miss him. i do not necessarily miss our existence together in its flaws. but i miss him.
the people who i’ve started to meet recently know me mostly outside of this loss, it is no longer the first thing i feel like i need to explain about myself… the people i knew before, unfortunately had to witness the whole breakdown from the beginning… its not that i want to be known without it now, it will probably be a part of who i am forever – but i’m looking forward to being known from here on out as i am now. not as i was.
when people tell me i should have grieved less, i remind myself that they did not see it or feel it. they didn’t see me on the days i felt like i was being suffocated by my own pillows, or my own thoughts, or simply the air. they didn’t see me being strangled by a ghost.
when people tell me i’m doing it wrong, i remind myself that i’ve recently bought a bed, against every part of me that is scared to get stuck somewhere. i’ve been with three men in seven months, which is more than i ever have in that amount of time in my life. and i have no shame in that.
i remind myself that all of my spaces have been full for so long now, and now i’m just letting the air out a little bit at a time like a slow leak that sometimes feels like an avalanche, and it comes out sounding like words… and maybe to some i look like i’m empty but my cups have been overflowing. and i do not think that we are bound to our pasts like some kind of holy war, and here we are standing at the end wearing nothing but a t-shirt that says “i survived the great storm.”
where we have been is part of us, but it is not who we are.
i know that now.
this is not coming from a place of grief. this is coming from a place of hope. from a place of work.
i have shared these quilts, and these stories, before.
i sometimes sit with my current work and i reflect on where inspiration can come from. each quilt and pillow cover, even each fabric i dye, comes from somewhere. but i no longer use my work as medicine as i once had to. the beauty comes from the present and not the sorrow of the past.
but these quilts that i made, just like every one before and after, passed through my fingers and told my stories. stories that will always be mine to keep long after the quilts go to their new homes and take on new stories. they could last for hundreds of years – what will they see?? what sorts of comforts will they provide??
these phases of life that we travel though – the ones that break us and the ones that bring us the most joy – how to we pave them? how do we honor them? how do we enrich the world with them, even though maybe we can’t quite hold ourselves softly yet?
through trauma i found magic. in magic i found solace. through the work i was rewarded with a new life to participate in. how do i accurately convey how privileged and proud i feel to have made this happen – and now being able to share life with my partner instead of ghosts or whatever cane next.
i am lucky.
and i never want to forget what i had to sew to get me here.