Saturday, November 10, 2012

Mending Meditation

Today, I hemmed some slacks. I know, it doesn't sound earth-shattering. But for some reason, anything related to sewing seems to scare me. I tried making a dress in college. After cutting a hole in the (very expensive wool) fabric with a serger, I burnt a larger hole in the material while trying to patch the original damage. For years, I carried the dress around, thinking someday I would finish it and finally wear my creating. It never happened.

I tried again. I got a simple pattern, and had a friend who sews help me with it. This time, I did much better, until my sewing machine died just as I reached the last few stitches. Rather than hand-sew it, I wrapped it into a plastic bag, and it continues to travel with me until I give up on it, too.

So when the hem came out of my slacks, I ignored it for a long time. I didn't want to spend the money to get someone else to alter them, and I didn't want to do it myself.

Finally, today, something snapped. The place in my brain that houses my self-respect had enough. While Jimmy and I sat together, I dragged out a sewing kit and my bedraggled britches. Snarl one: I'm older than I think I am. I can't see to thread the needle. Part of me tried to give up--I had made an effort, but I could keep trying for an hour and the needle might never get threaded.

But Miss Self-Respect was made out of sterner stuff this time around. Up I got, dug out a second sewing kit, and found the handy little needle threader, and a pair of Jim's reading glasses (as long as they hold out I don't have to buy my own!).

And I started hemming. At first, I was restless. My fingers itched for the computer keyboard instead of the unfamiliar feel of thread. Sewing is so quiet--at least when I'm writing the keys click a little. My mind dragged out all the things I could be doing. It's not really so important to fix this hem. I should be writing, or entertaining myself on Facebook, or something more interesting than watching a needle burst through fabric while trying not to stab myself or unthread the needle.

After about ten minutes, my mind settled. I began to enjoy the repetition of stiching. My stitches weren't pretty--I can't write, or cut in a straight line, and I sew in the same erratic pattern. As I progressed, though, I tried to make them straighter, with some success. I began to feel calm and my worries drifted off.

Something else happened, too. I began to feel accomplished. In a world where we can do hours of work and never see a conclusive result or reward for our labors, I spent a half hour or so and ended with nicely hemmed slacks. I felt like a character on Little House on the Prairie doing the mending for the family. I almost pulled out another hemming job, then decided it was late enough to shut down Teresa's Sewing Station for the night.

Our world is fast-paced. We touch buttons and do things our great-grandparents could not even dream of accomplishing. But the further we are removed from the actual action--the more often we can turn our lights on from our computer, drop our laundry off at the cleaners, or move across the continent on an airplane--the less our brain has to fully engage. We text while driving, talk to friends while watching television, and surf the internet while doing just about anything else.

Even if we don't have an accident because of splitting our attention, we pay a price. Never being fully present confuses our brains, and gives us an undercurrent of stress as our system tries to overdo.

Sometimes multi-tasking is necessary, and may even be beneficial. But today, look for the chance to do something simple, repetitive even, with your whole attention. Notice how your mind and body relax, as if taken out of the harness of over-accomplishment. Find a moment of contentment in the slight pull of thread in cloth, in the elasticity of fresh bread dough, or in the swoosh of a broom on a floor. These domestic tasks allow your brain to release its job of managing everything, and gives you real, restful, refreshing pause. And sometimes, it helps you look a lot nicer, too.
Thanks to jzlomek at stock.xchng for the lovely photo. 

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