On March 15, 2010, when I began this blog with a post about my sewing machine, it was a bold move to make a beginning. It was a tiny speck of dust, a squeak, a throat-clearing, spoken into the immensity of the internet. I didn't know where it would take me, but it was a start. At its conception, it was just like what blogger, Herriott Grace calls, "a savings account for things I like." Pretty simple—just my favorite stuff from the web and the things I was sewing. I was a beginner at both sewing and blogging, and I was healing some stuff so I was following my bliss.
In the spring of 2011, I began my tiny company, SUCH Designs, and this blog became a vehicle for marketing and branding—telling a different story. Then, last August I attended the women's blogging convention, BlogHer, in San Diego, and learned about the ledes, nutgraphs, and kickers used in journalistic writing, about the importance of a point of view, about brevity (something I am not particularly good at). And so the blog changed again.
But all the while, my blog was still a place to put my favorite stuff. Therefor, there are omissions in the story I have told here. Favorite means favorite. Favorite includes the things that inspire and interest me, but excludes the hard parts of my life: the pain, sadness, fear, and anxieties of a human life, of my life. My blog was anathema to that stuff—not a fantasy or a lie or a glossed-over version of my life, just a space with boundaries—a place to share certain things, but not everything.
I did not include the story of my son's rare illness, the egg-sized tumor in his hipbone, diagnosed four and a half years ago when he was not quite two years old, the port they put in his chest for injecting his vinblastine, the year of chemotherapy and how it perfectly healed his beautiful body, but unraveled me emotionally. And yet made me stronger. While at the same time, it sent my husband running behind a smokescreen so nothing could get in. I didn't tell the story of how my husband's father had a port in his chest at the same exact time as our son—and how he was receiving chemo also but for something else, and how he succumbed so quickly to his fierce disease. I didn't then share that the next year, our blue Weimaraner died in my husband's arms, after his body gave out, how our 16-year business collapsed with the economy, and how my husband fell into the bottle—many, many bottles of craft beer and Rhône-style wine and single-malt Scotch—to "drown the sparrow in his chest." I didn't tell you that when he did that, he nearly drowned the songbird that lives in mine.
I would have never believed in love and marriage again if we weren't blessed with the resources to get help. So he went to rehab at the Meadows in 2009 when our baby girl was just three months old. And he healed his traumas, new and old, in a flurry of Kleenex and letting go.
And I have learned things and changed. I know new things—mainly that I am not in control and am much happier not trying to be. Writer, Sue Monk Kidd wrote that women who have faced obstacles become a sheltering umbrella for others. I know exactly what she means. When one has walked through fire, one is much more able to unflinchingly hear with one's whole heart the stories of the lives of others. One is a better friend and listener because there is a foundation for knowing things—the things that can't be taught, but which inevitably come to us during the course of our lives and change us forever. Those things age us in an instant in visible and invisible ways. Frankly, there are many worse things than what we went through, and I know that.
I returned this past weekend to the International Quilt Festival in Long Beach, California, to sell my sewing patterns. I recognized at least 50 women who visited my booth last year. It was so nice to see them again and hear about their lives. Three times, women walked into my booth whom I had seen last year, and for those three women and only those three, I asked, "how has your year been?" And they all said, unblinkingly, looking into my eyes, "Hard. Very hard." And I understood just what they meant, with no further explanation. And I didn't feel uncomfortable because of their pain, I just felt sadness from that understanding. Each time, I said, "I am so sorry. I understand." And each time a beautiful flower of conversation blossomed from that connection. And each time my heart grew. Each time the love in me poured out and surrounded us, and I did whatever I could to be right there, full of love, and listening.
That is all we can do really. Listen and love. And be honest, genuine, and authentic about our lives.
So I didn't write much about all of this, but this story is the backbone of my blog, my life, my business, and the radiant joy and gratitude that fills my blessed life with my beautiful family.
Something about turning forty makes me feel that it can't be hidden from this blog anymore and that I can reveal these truths to the few readers here who don't already know this story. I thank you for your time and for reading.
In many ways, turning forty feels just right.
(After you have read all this, click here to read a funny/sad story from that hard time.)