Occasionally memories of living in the desert come flooding back. Being young at the time the memories are limited. Walking across the desert to get to school. The Rockies in the distance, the one time we had snow and wore socks on our hands to keep them warm while we played. Years later my sweetie and I drove through the Painted dessert, the color, oh the color! I can still see the images. The dessert is so incredibly beautiful. In spite of a lack of water, the extreme temperature changes there is life there, beautiful, vibrant colorful, life.
There is another desert context. A spiritual context. There is imagery in the faith context all over the place. A dryness that seems without end. A thirst that is not quenched. Feelings of (keeping this in the context of quilting and creativity) not wanting to do anything creative, no new ideas. The thought of sitting at the sewing machine or quilt frame (hand or machine) brings a deep sadness and physical ache that is not eased by the usual remedies. Looking at our quilt making supplies deepens the sadness as we realize we have no idea what to do with them. Projects that we were once eager to stitch sit neatly bundled where we first left them, unopened, uncut, unquilted. We turn away the sadness and longing deepened.
This desert, this dryness seems to go on for a very long time. Sometimes the event that brought this desert experience on is very clear: a death, a major job change, a loss of friendship, hopes and dreams seemingly dashed for whatever reason. Sometimes it’s not so clear an innocent comment from someone we trust, a change in the season, actual depression (when this is the case please get help, there is nothing shameful or unfaithful about getting help).
In late April I wrote a bit about this experience. This desert experience was deep and long. Truth be told I was due. I needed to be rattled a bit to get me out of a place in my own head and heart that wasn’t a good. One of the most important remembrances from this particular experience: the desert is a place of rest. After 4 1/2 years of trying really hard to make a go of being a teacher, quilter, author a tiredness set in that I couldn’t shake. Add to it being very deeply feeling and somewhat sensitive I needed the down time. I’ll be honest it was brutal for a long time and I seriously thought about giving the whole thing up. No more teaching, no more quilting (yes I thought about this), no more writing, no more blogging. That’s it, stick a fork in me, I was done. Thank God I have some really amazing friends who talked me through this! This was rough. Really rough. This deep desert experience made any sense of rejection feel very personal, when it wasn’t.
On this side of it, now, I can see the necessity of this time. Quilting and writing are once again part of my daily life.
How did I get through? Talking with the right friends who at once empathized and called me to a deeper understanding and reminder of the beauty of the desert. At some point I remembered that navel gazing is painful. As a short, stout woman this is doubly painful, yes it is. I kept blogging and trying to be positive and creative, though I let the quilting aside for a bit. Finding something creative other than my passion allowed me the opportunity to think through the things that were troubling me about my chosen career. I did quilt during this time however it was things I Needed to do rather than what I Wanted to do.
I worked on weeding stuff out of my sewing room that did not belong there, that I am no longer using and moved things around a bit. I can not tell you the sense of freedom that came from that move. Stuff that I’d been holding onto for a long time in hopes of finishing tote bags and writing patterns for said totes. It’s not gonna happen. I’m still in the moving things around process and I’m okay with that, it’s going to take a little bit of time.
There are other types of weeding that happen as well during this time in the desert. The type of weeding that is a little bit more painful and necessary. It’s kind of an examination of conscience, a looking at my strengths and flaws and trying to learn from both of them.
It’s a time to embrace my flaws. Oh my yes. In recognizing those flaws are I can recognize what they are as they happen and deal with them more effectively. I can, very importantly, become more patient with myself and in the process become more patient with others. We all know that the things that usually bother us in others are the things we find as flaws in ourselves. Deepening our patience enables us to strengthen kindness and gratitude. What a gift to develop!! What a truly amazing gift to develop because these gifts are not simply about me – they are a gift to those around me.
2 thoughts on “On being in the desert”
Teri- I know that desert. Lately I’ve been in a place where I’m forcing myself to be ‘productive’ and it’s a very dry place at times. But a chance reading of a poem reminded me that what I want isn’t so much productivity but fruitfulness. Sometimes to be fruitful we need pruning and a period of being fallow. That’s when I think I am doing nothing and then all at once things just happen, flow, bear fruit. This is when I know I am not the one really in control!
So glad you are still going to quilt whether you teach or write books or not.