The last cross stitch I count as actually being completed was January of last year. It was a pattern I adapted as a gift for my mom.
I have stitched, off and on, since then. I stitched a bit while I was in Vegas during her hospital stay. I tried to maintain my hobby while my life shifted around me.
Shortly after returning back to Orlando, after her death, I threw all of my projects away.
They hurt. They reminded me that things were different. That they would always be different. They were from a different time, a life time ago, a life I would never, could never, go back to.
I couldn’t finish those projects and I placed them into a trash bag without feeling. There was no sense of loss. There was no anger or injustice.
There was nothing.
For a really long time there was nothing aside from existing. Sometimes my days are still like that. My biggest accomplishment is waking up. Breathing. Sometimes I still need those things to count as being successful. I still need those things, those simple, unconscious things, to count towards something because if they don’t then what’s the point in doing them?
I saw this pattern one day while I was in Jo-Ann Fabrics.
I realized, standing in the aisle of a fairly mundane store, what it was that I had truly lost when my mom died. Why I hurt so much. Why I felt so lost. So alone. So vulnerable and exposed.
I no longer had a feeling of “home”.
I bought the pattern, I can’t remember exactly when, but most likely around the end of July.
I’ve had this pattern for almost a year.
It’s fairly simple; only three colors. It’s stitched on 14 count fabric, which for me is huge. I tend to gravitate towards 28 and 32 counts. There’s nothing hard or challenging about this piece. In fact, it’s pretty mindless and uninvolved.
And yet, it has taken me almost a year to complete.
Most of the time it would sit, a reminder that I had a project I “wanted” to complete, a hobby I used to enjoy, and yet it would go unattended.
One thread, a handful of stitches, I was lucky if I could get so much done in a single sitting. I have every cross stitch I ever made for my mother packed away in a “box of memories” in what is now my china hutch. I can remember holding those fabrics, threading those needles. I can remember her smiles when she opened her gifts. I can remember seeing them on the fire mantle when I would visit home.
I would remember all those things, feel all those feelings while holding this new project in my hands, the words reminding me that my home used to be two eyes and a heartbeat. Reminding me that “home” wasn’t here anymore and would never be the same even if I found another.
This is the first project in a very long time that I have completed for myself.
It’s important to me. I know it is even though right now I hurt from its completion. I know I’ll value it later but right now all I can feel is the hole in my chest where I wish so desperately there wasn’t what feels like ruin.
I thought so many times about throwing this project away. Of burning it. Destroying it. I thought so often, seeing it sitting on my table or in the corner of my living room, that it would be easier to give up on it, abandon it, rather than to work through all of the memories and emotions.
Right now it sucks. Right now it hurts. Right now I’m angry and sad and all of these fucking emotions that I’m so tired of feeling everytime my grief feels this uncontrollable need to remind me that it’s still there, that it will always be there, that it will never ebb or fade or ease. I’ll simply, at some point, become better at coping.
I had thought after a year I would be better. I had thought I would cry less. I had thought I would find some inspiration or meaning. I had thought I would find home, or some shattered pieces of happiness. I thought I would find something.
And maybe I have.
I’ve learned how to define myself to myself by myself.
I’ve learned that I’m not defined by my job. I’m not defined by my relationships. I’m not defined by people or by their expectations of me.
I’ve learned to have discipline instead of motivation.
I’ve learned to say, “Go fuck yourself.” I’ve said it to Life and all of its continued petty bullshit. I’ve said it to other people. To society. To myself. To the emotions I feel and rage and struggle against only to accept at the end of an exhausting and futile battle.
I’ve learned to be angry. I’ve learned to be sad. I’ve learned to keep going even when it feels like I’m at the end of myself and have nothing left to give.
27 years cannot be replaced. It cannot be erased or forgotten. It cannot be eased or soothed or medicated.
This project hurt, like so many other things in my life this past year. In a way maybe that’s fitting. Maybe one day it will make me smile. Even if it doesn’t, I’m glad I finished it. There’s something about it that’s solemnly appropriate.
I hurt, but I am content, and right now, that’s enough for me.