One weekend, I found myself doing some major revisiting. Old issues, old passions. Let me explain:
I was having a clear out, and I opened a box to find a large stash of fat quarters. Patchwork and quilting enthusiasts amongst you will know what I’m talking about. Fabric shops sell specialist, high quality cotton patchwork fabrics in small amounts, as well as by the metre – by the quarter yard or metre, in fact, or, in the trade, ‘fat quarters’. (Don’t ask me why ‘fat’ ones, I have no idea.) They are much cheaper and allow you to build up a big selection of colours and designs for patchwork projects with a lower investment, because you usually need fairly small quantities for such projects. Every quilter will have such a treasured stash.
I haven’t done any patchwork in quite a large number of years, and I don’t see myself doing any again for a while, if at all, so I decided to hand my stash on to someone who would use it. Going through the wads of cloth reminded me of the time in my life when quilting was my main creative outlet, of the colours and patterns I was into then, of William Morris, the Pre-Raphaelites, of earthy reds and browns, and sage greens.
I’m a different person now.
I’m all grey and blue and white and Modernism these days.
It is not that these old perferences have dated. Its just that I have moved on.
Later that same weekend, I found myself discussing an old trauma with dear friends, something that happened long ago, but that is an underlying influence on my life even now. I have processed so much of the pain and damage of it that it has become part of the landscape of my life, as much as the tree outside my gate, and like that tree, I acknowledge its structuring presence, but I rather take it for granted, and essentially ignore it unless it specifically comes up.
And when it came up, it raised with it new issues. I realised I would have to revisit my past, and look at old hurts with new eyes. As I do so, I realise that I am a different person now, that I have come a long way. On our journey through life, we bump up against some issues repeatedly, and its easy to get frustrated when this happens over and over again.
Our lives are not circles in which we come up against the same old stuff every time. Each time we encounter them, we are further along in our healing process. Life is like a spiral. Each time we encounter our pain, we can see it through a new perspective. It re-emerges for a reason, because more healing is needed, more work must be done.
It took me a long time to understand that I was not a bad person because my tastes changed over time. There is nothing wrong with leaving old interests behind and developing new ones.
Going back over old hurts doesn’t make me a bad person either. When there are new things I need to explore about them, it is okay to do that. Writing helps. I am now able to engage with my old wounds through my writing. Last time I did so, the result was one of my most popular stories, ‘The Case of the Cuddle’. Now I find myself finally working with commitment on its long-anticipated sequel.
I wasn’t ready to do it before. I did not have the impetus. Now I need to speak the truth that its plot entails. If I cannot do it in my own life, then I can do it through my story worlds. I thought I had left the ‘CuddleVerse’ irrevocably behind. I thought I was healed. Now I understand, that healing, just like creativity, is a process.
I can’t tell you when the final installment will be ready to read. I can’t even tell you if it is the final installment. I may still have more healing to do. Like the half-finished patchwork in the picture above, it has sat in a digital drawer for two years, waiting for me to be ready to handle it.
Some things we leave behind, and some things we need to come back to, time and again.
And that is part of Life – The Process.
Excellent article, I love how you describe our past trauma as becoming part of the landscape of our life. I like to think of these recurring memories as teachers that are meant to lead us onward and strengthen our resolve. The more intense the event and lengthy the process of coming to terms with the results the greater our incentive to strive toward reconciliation and transcendence. Beautiful work on that quilt by the way, it suits the title of this post wonderfully.