I've always been very empathetic. One of my earliest memories of this was watching Robbie MacDonald get picked on so horrendously bad in elementary school for his unaltered cleft lip that I would feel sick to my stomach. I remember several times not being able to watch it anymore and walking over to his oppressors and shutting it down. I don't remember what I said. I know I didn't launch a campaign to protect him but I did what I could and I went out of my way to acknowledge him. I'm certain that he gifted me the ability to see the vulnerability in people.
That gift is something I have always been able to switch on like a light. Even when I can catch myself going to a place of judgement, I can reach in and flip that switch and boom, a person's tenderness will almost glow before me. For a time in my twenties, I worked for a photographer who shot scantily clad women, for lack of a better description, and we were at this beautiful spot on a Jamaican beach that also happened to be a clothing-optional resort. The photographer scouted a potential model, and while she was flattered to be asked, she had reservations about taking off her top. After some conversations, some convincing and promises of Photoshop, she finally conceded and reasons for her hesitancy became instantly obvious. While she had the enhanced breasts that are quite perfect for this genre of photography, her plastic surgeon had really butchered her. The scars around her areola looked exactly like a child would draw on his face to play Frankenstein on Halloween. For about three seconds before the big reveal, my head was, "Seriously, you have a boob job, you're at a topless resort, a photographer wants to shoot you for a calendar...if you want to do this, just cut the demur act." But then, I immediately felt every vulnerable bone in her body. I just wanted to cry and hug her and tell her I was so sorry that had happened to her. After she eased into it, she looked like she was having fun, hopping the waves for the shoot. I hope she felt pretty. I will never forget that day.
One of the downsides of being highly empathetic is that it puts you in a position of an observer. This could be why I was ever attracted to photography, sewing, dressing people, making them feel beautiful, is that I could stay on the outside looking in. Participating only as an observer, a spectator, I could feel all the feels but not ever have to be in the middle, one of many. This all changed when I got sober. It had to. I had to identify with people not only as someone who empathized but as someone who shared the same experiences, not just someone who intellectually understood but who also walked the same path.
I'm happy to say I have a few of these tribes of people I now call home. All are flesh and blood, however some are close in proximity, some are thousands of miles away. Although my virtual and literal groups carry the same weight for me, they are only as effective as the extent I am willing to engage. When I find myself sitting on the outside again, watching, observing, I have to walk back into the middle. The middle is dynamic. I never thought I would say that, but it has been the key that has unlocked the door to my recovery. And I'm creating more groups with the creative workshops I'm hosting. This is the part I hope continues to evolve. My new addiction.
I made a flag to remind me that I'm just an internet click, a phone call, a meeting away from anyone who is walking this path with me.
Welcome Home, seemed appropriate enough.
After I drew out a pattern I liked, I cut that out of some hearty vintage fabric I had. I used an upholstery fabric, but I would recommend any fabric that has a little weight to it. I didn't get too precious about it though.
I chose another weighty fabric for the background of the flag. You don't want it to be too flimsy. Then I laid out the lace as I liked, machine stitched that on and pinned my applique piece on after all of my flag stripes were stitched. If you don't have lace, different strips of varying patterns of fabric would work as well.
Then I went to work hand-stitching the applique, using a simple running stitch. Grab some coffee and a podcast, this takes some time.
I didn't do anything about the frayed edges because I kind of like them, but you could always use a blanket stitch to enclose the fabric a bit.
This took a couple of blissful, meditative hours. Seriously, enjoy!
When I finished, I sewed on a piece of felt backing, just to give it even more weight. I included a couple of lace loops on either side before I stitched it up, so to hang.
If you are just starting out on your recovery journey and you haven't found your people yet, please message me. Don't do this alone. Not only is it not fun, it's not necessary and I would venture to say, impossible. It requires an action that is not our first reflex, but once we flex it, every next time becomes a little easier.
*This is dedicated to Laura McKowen and Holly Glenn Whitaker who bravely put out a podcast called Home every week. They started one of my favorite tribes of which I feel so lucky to be a member, straight up in the middle.*