This Feeling Will Follow Me Wherever I Go

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When I was a kid, I had a few places that made me feel safe. I coveted them like they were as precious as a newborn kitten. Deep under the blankets of my queen-sized bed was one of those places. I got the queen size bed because my room became the guest room when we had guests, but we rarely had guests. I would turn the radio on to the Easy Listening station, the one that played Air Supply and Hall and Oates or the slow Foreigner songs. I would climb into my blanket fort and could happily stay there for hours. I craved it. It was my calm place. It was my alternate reality. It was a dreamland. I was meditating. 

My other physical spots induced the same feeling. The woods, and we had some 20-odd acres surrounding my childhood home, invited me daily. I was a latch-key kid and had a good four hours to myself after school, so I was either exploring previously unexplored areas by foot (and oftentimes barefoot) or climbing a tree. I knew all of the climbable trees. I knew the nooks best for sitting, I knew the trees with the highest vantage point, I knew the limbs that you could hang your fanny from when you needed to pee. Just like my blanket fort in my big bed, I was safe in a tree.  

My Grandparent's house in Alabama evoked that feeling of safety like no other. There is so much freedom in safety. Going through my Granny's creams and perfumes in her vanity drawers, exploring her Harlequin novels, carefully picking through her jewelry box, examining every little piece multiple times, under her tutelage at the standing mixer, sewing machine, in the crook of her crocheting arm, nestled on the couch, Bible shoved into the cushions, Lawrence Welk on as background. I can't explain that feeling of utter safety, but you know it when you've felt it. 

For the last three and half years, I've come to learn that everything I've ever wanted in my adult life was on the other side of sobriety. Some of that I've realized in accomplishments. But you look beyond the tangible rewards, life is just less chaotic, it is more manageable, less baffling. So it must be the feeling I was after. I longed for that feeling of safety. I didn't have to be in a blanket fort or my Granny's arm nook, but the feeling I desperately wanted, I have now.

As the calendar year flipped to 2018, I found myself entering a phase of something I can only refer to as Sobriety 2.0. It seems like that while everything I wanted was indeed on the other side of sobriety, MORE of everything is on the other side of this next version. I have a new quest to go deeper and I intuitively know it's through meditation that I'll get there, just like a knew as a kid, before life got really noisy and distracting. I don't know what is there exactly, but I have a hunch that there is an even deeper reservoir of creativity that I may have barely tapped. I believe there is more compassion there, less judgement. I'm fairly certain there is more love. 

Not much will look different around here. There may just be a little less talking and a lot more listening.

Inherent Vice

Throughout my childhood, my family spent a good chunk of every summer visiting my Grandparents in rural Alabama. One of my favorite memories is sitting on my Granny's couch, nestled in the crook of her arm, Lawrence Welk crooned on the TV while we crocheted. The memory is still so visceral. I don't ever remember feeling so safe as I did in those moments, it's a warmth that you feel through your skin and into your bones. As soon as I got in the car to head back to Texas, it was gone.

When the time came for booze to work, it worked. Food was probably the original offender, but alcohol eventually became how I learned to treat any and all distress. It worked better, faster. Instead of trying to connect back to that inherent, bone-deep warmth and feeling of safety, I settled for the warm flush alcohol provided, a temporary safety blanket and I wrapped myself tight. Over the years, that temporary fix began to rot away the very fabric of my being. 

Often with very old textiles, such as quilts, the fabric contains the very elements that lead to its own destruction. It happens with properties, like iron mordant, which was often used in the dying process and over time, it eventually disintegrates the fabric. Quilt preservationists lay the quilts out and very carefully and lovingly pick out the destructive fibers and replace them with non-destructive fibers. I never thought I could ever access that feeling again honestly, that feeling of being held, that emotional awareness of my own body, but slowly, carefully and lovingly, those destructive fibers are being replaced.

The mind-body connection is having it's light-basking moment today, as if we needed doctors to write about it to validate its truth. The practice of yoga takes me straight into my body, running keeps me aware of my lungs in action. Self-soothing by keeping my hands busy is intuitive now, I've relearned the art of listening to my body. I stitch during phone calls, doodle during meetings, crochet during Netflix. What may logically appear distracting, engaging my body actually heightens my awareness. 

Creating something with my hands is healing in the process, the act is the salve. I wanted to make something that symbolized that process, a tangible creation to remind me, "Pssst, what you seek? It's inside you." A meditation pillow it is.

For a medium pillow, you start by cutting out 6x9 pieces of fabric and you need 14 total. I used bright, fun vintage cotton, probably with its own inherent vices but hey, at least we'll relate.

You'll also need two circles that are 13 inches in diameter for the top and the bottom and I'm decorating mine with a couple of vintage doilies because doilies make everything better.

Next, you need to pleat your rectangular pieces so the ends will shrink from 6 inches wide to 3 inches wide. I don't get too precious about the pleating, I just eyeball it instead of measure each one, but if you are a pleating perfectionist, get on with your bad self.

So once you get them all pleated and stitched across the top and bottom to secure, you'll stitch them all together. This is where I got a tiny bit perfection-y but only to make sure the pleats were all facing the same direction.

This next part is where you can choose your own adventure, but a "proper" meditation pillow should probably be stuffed with Kapok, which is a precious organic cotton-silk like fiber or you can use buckwheat hull filling. If you use one of these, you may not want to attach your pieces end to end without installing a zipper or some Velcro, so you can replace the filling or add to it when it gets dull. Me? Well, I needed instant gratification with this so I just went to Target and felt around the pillow section until I found one that satisfied me, brought it home and ripped it open. All of this to say, I didn't do an opening there, I just stitched my long piece end to end.

Next, you'll want to turn your pleated piece inside out and with right sides together, pin and stitch your circular pieces onto the top and bottom. Be sure to leave a gap for the stuffing if you didn't install a zipper. Trim the excess.

Commence stuffing, stitching up your opening and if you are adding your decorative doilies, it's easiest to do that after the stuffing is added.

It's not perfect, but neither am I. I don't meditate perfectly either, but I can meditate on my perfectly imperfect pillow, imperfectly. I once heard that God lets you keep some of defects so that you can empathize with others, stay relatable. My pillow and I will have a lot to talk about.

The Unruffled Workshop: Hand-sew a Skirt or Corset Top, June 26

The time is here! Announcing our first three hour workshop on Sunday, June 26, 3-6pm at the Tiny T Ranch in Garfield, Texas. For this workshop, we will be making either a corset top or a skirt from your own tshirts! So bring some of your fave shirts, ideally your bigger (large or XL) fave shirts and we're going to stitch them up, Alabama Chanin-style!

We'll provide the patterns and all of the supplies you need. I'll even have some extra vintage knit on hand. While our hands are busy, we'll have some time to get to know each other. You can keep your head down and sew, but I'd love for us to share things that we are passionate about and how these things offer solutions in our recovery. And I'll start!

We're going to follow up creative time with a guided meditation and a 30 minute yoga class (teacher TBD), so bring your meditation pillow and your mat! And if you have neither, we'll have both. We'll intersperse these activities with tea and fizzy waters and snacks...and music! And a photobooth! So no worries if anyone feels the need to break out in random dancing! How fun will this be?!

A couple of notes about the day: Tiny T Ranch is located at 3409 Caldwell Lane in Garfield, TX, about 30 miles outside of Austin. It is off of 71, all toll roads lead there and if you get to Bastrop, you've gone too far. 

This is a sacred space we've created to hold our stories. We ask that you do not share someone else's story outside of this space. We all want to feel safe here. I will be shooting photos, for fun and for promotional material, but will NOT show your face to anyone but you (after the event, I'll email you a photobooth photo if you had one taken) unless given explicit permission.

Finally, the workshop is $60 and you can go over to the Marketplace to sign up. If you need another payment option (ex: Paypal), just shoot me an email. Please don't cancel! But if you need to, you can do so up to 72 hours before the event for a full refund. You can also transfer your spot to a friend. Expect a follow up email with details and reminders.

Any questions? Shoot me an email at sondra@theunruffled.com. Share with your friends in recovery! I'm capping the group for this one at 15 so that we can all leave feeling like we made great, meaningful connections and we'll hopefully have made some new friends to share our journey with in the future! Please join us!!

 

 

Want to give less ducks?

I am no scientist, but I do know that in early sobriety, running saved my ass. A quick Google validates that sentiment. Exercise produces neurochemicals in the brain, like endorphins, whose job it is to reduce the perception of pain and act as a sedative, similar to morphine (so dope dope, yes!). The other one it elevates is dopamine and since alcohol used to do that, I'd say a good run is a healthy replacement. And yes, my exercise of choice was and is the run. Gyms just don't appeal to me, aside from the umphfshhumphfshhumphfshh of the house music that makes me want to shove hot spikes under my nails, the introvert in me much prefers the solitude of a run. 

A solitary exercise with one caveat though: thousands of podcaster friends yakking in my ear saved my ass as well. I won't go into the lists of all the podcasts I love, but I've been listening to them since 2009, so I've racked up a gamut of favorites. In the beginning, my go-tos were definitely in the inspirational/spiritual genre. And I definitely loaded up on comedy because you can't forget to laugh, especially in early sobriety, it's a great antithesis to crying. It took me three months to find a recovery community, much less recovery podcasts (maybe a story for another post), so I'm not kidding when I say this kept me from drinking. It got me out of my house and out of my head and inspired some insightful journal entries as well.

Now that I do have some time and a recovery community behind me, running is now a form of moving meditation. Ellen Langer, who authored Mindfulness in the 80's, describes mindfulness as just actively noticing things and any kind of meditation can be a sort of means to that end. Once, I counted dead frogs on my run. There were 22, by the way. I stopped to take pictures of my favorite springtime blooms in my hood, saw empty robin's egg shells, butterfly wings, once noticed a discarded, whole pecan pie (serious crimes against humanity). The point is, I started noticing all of these very small, beautiful things that before went unnoticed and were certainly insignificant. It felt like a whole new world had opened up, and that's not just a metaphor. It has made the experience that much more rich.

So perhaps running doesn't make me give less ducks about things that are important, and that's a good thing. But the unimportant things that used to consume me, things that were out of my control, things that used to baffle me,  I have a lot less ducks to give and I have to credit a lot of that to running. The witching hour voices got a lot quieter the farther I was from my kitchen...so did my precious childrens', come to think of it, so bonus. You don't have to be training for a marathon, just don those kicks and take off!