Anyone who knows me will tell you, I often say, “Patience is a virtue. It isn’t one of mine.”
And yet I can sit for hours upon hours with a needle in hand and stitch beautiful patterns. Well, I could. I haven’t for almost six years now. First it was my eyes and then my hands that wouldn’t cooperate. I got so frustrated that I gave up. I miss it far more than I could ever put into words, which is saying something because words are kind of my thing.
My favorite embroidery piece hangs in my mother’s living room. I stitched it on fine Irish linen with the best thread I could find. I spent close to $200 on the materials at a time when I caught hell for even buying a bottle of nail polish for myself. I was at the darkest point in my life when I started working on it. I’d screamed for God to help me and when I realized He was suddenly right there with me…I froze. I didn’t really expect Him to care. For the next couple of months, I wasn’t exactly talking to God but I wasn’t exactly not talking to Him to either. I sort of tolerated Him being around. Yeah, I know how arrogant that sounds. It wasn’t really arrogance. It was fear. I mean… What if He left?
Like I said, it was a dark place to be in.
But when I had my needle in my hand and that linen spread out on my lap, the darkness wasn’t quite so dark. After the first ten stitches, I fell into a rhythm. I didn’t think about anything. I counted without even knowing it and I lost myself in the tiny spaces between threads. Somehow, when I got lost in the stitches, it was okay that God was watching over my shoulder. After awhile, I actually liked that He was right there with me while I worked because I just couldn’t handle His closeness when I wasn’t working. I’d freeze like a deer in the headlights.
It took me six months to finish that project and I typically worked on it for four hours a day, some days more. I did the math once. It’s close to 70,000 stitches. By hand. One stitch at a time. It was a lot of time spent with God at a time when I really needed to trust Him and I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it.
I picked up a new pattern today. It’s not quite as intricate as what I used to do and I’ll be lucky if I can work on it for more than thirty minutes a day. I’ll probably end up patching my weaker eye so the pattern grid doesn’t make me go cross-eyed. Hopefully my temperamental fingers will cooperate. I don’t know what made me decide to try and pick up a needle again now but I did. Maybe I’m not quite ready to let the RA take this away from me. Not yet damn it! Maybe I need some time to get lost in the threads with God watching over my shoulder.
One thing I learned about embroidery: Before you can even make the first stitch, you have to find the absolute center of the fabric. You always work your way out from the center. It never quite works out if you don’t. It takes a very long time and lot of work before the pattern really takes any shape. Sometimes you screw it up. Royally screw it up. So you throw your scissors across the room and you cry a little. Then you tell yourself, “Suck it up, Buttercup.” You rip out a few hundred tiny little stitches and rework that section again. But when it’s done, it’s always beautiful and it’s worth every single stitch it took to finish it. Kind of like life I guess.
The other thing I learned: Looking at that piece, most people see four brightly colored birds. I still see those 70,000 stitches. I’m the only one who can still find all the mistakes. More than that, I’m the only one who even looks for the mistakes.