I spent most of my growing up years in the projects of a medium sized town. There were some rough moments, it had some good moments, mostly it’s just life. Smack in the middle of the development sits a playground complete with merry-go-round, climbing bars, swing set, slide, basketball court, and space for us to run around. We made, and lost friends. We fell down, got hurt, got back up. As we got older the playground stayed, while we moved on to towels on the lawn to tan our skin, soap operas, and the high drama of teenage relationships.
People who know me now often find it unusual that very early on I would sit on the swings, and make up songs, or sing. Karen Carpenter still remains a favorite with her range, and the harmony with her brother. A vivid imagination is a constant companion and I didn’t often mind being by myself to think.
The playground at school gave us time to expend energy from sitting in a classroom trying to learn. There were times I longed for the playground and other times I would have been more comfortable under my desk for so many reason. While it’s the tough moments that are flitting to the forefront of my memory at this moment, and for some very specific reasons, I do love playgrounds. Some of the memories really involve us trying to figure out who we are, assert ourselves, and learn how to talk to, and with each other. Some of it though was just bad behavior. Yeah. Me too. Sometimes the words popped out of my mouth before I knew what was happening.
Early on in my marriage my sweetie knew I needed something creative in my life. And when quilting came up not only was he on-board, he stops at quilt shops along the way. Quilting has become that adult playground in so many good, healthy, and creative ways. Instead of singing and thinking on the swings, I get lost in free-motion machine stitching, or in the inspiration of the moon as seen from my studio window. The studio, for me, is my classroom where I learn, experiment, discover, and grow.
Quilt guilds, teaching experiences, writing experiences, quilt shows (big or small) are part of the bigger “playground” of our experience. This is where we as a community grow, become more, are influenced by other quilters, or not, as we choose. I know there are times when I’ve written or said something that I later regret. While I want to hope that I’m not being mean, the possibility exists. To quote St. Paul, “What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.” (Romans 7:15)
Sometime back I wrote about an experience of a group of us ganging up and verbally bullying another student who was something of a strong personality, and a bully herself. In that moment I remember experience this feeling of power, because in numbers how could she ever single any one of us out? The thing is as an adult I’m not particularly proud of this. In this moment I see things differently and recognize that none of us knew what was going on in her life, what may have caused her to behave in this way. My own inquisitive nature often had me speaking before thinking. Life circumstances changed my own reactions, becoming protective of my self. Longing so much to be part of a group, to be accepted, and liked.
Now in the quilting community I see this “power in numbers” playing out in some really icky ways. And yes I’ve participated. And yes, as I look back I regret saying some things to people without getting to know them better. As I get to know them I see the brokenness that needs healing. I see hurts that need acknowledgement. I see that there is a need for encouragement. I see the need to go to the source before making public, accusatory statements and gathering the tribe to join in on those statements. A little kindness is like the “balm in Gilead that soothes the wounded soul.”
There are people in the quilting community I’d love nothing more than to use this space to call out. But I won’t. There are people I find so incredibly challenging. I’m sure there are people who can’t to call me out and who find me challenging. My best option is to listen, be kind, trust my intuition, start out by believing the best about people and doing my level best to treat them with respect, and latitude.
I’m going back to my playground, my studio, to quilt, to write, and to grow.