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Digging Out From Under


My grandmother’s spider lilies. They come up like red fireworks in the fall, year after year; she gave them to me not long before she died.


I started drafting this back in February; I have run into it a couple of times in my drafts, and I look at it, and put it away. So, today, I decided to post it… see if that helps me work through.

I’m trying to dig myself out. I’ve gotten lost, buried under layers of emotional debris. It’s been a rough few years.

This is one of those things where there wasn’t any single definitive moment when things collapsed, but more like the erosion of a steep hillside after a roadway cut, with periods of settling and equilibrium between rock slides. Things got buried, crushed under boulders, damaged and dented. I’m hoping that most of the important things, I’ll be able to dust off and glue back together. My creative soul has been lying in many pieces; I’m trying to grow another one, or breathe some life into the one I have.

I’ve always felt a nagging insecurity when I’m writing articles or teaching classes. When I read descriptions of impostor syndrome, it was like it was based on me, like somebody was describing my personal case. I’ve done huge amounts of reading and study, and I know my stuff… but sometimes I feel like I’m bluffing, just faking it, and everybody’s going to find out. I think part of this is that all my training is informal; I don’t have any degrees or anything official, nothing I can point to as a source of authority, no certificate on the wall that justifies what I say. I have always gotten good reviews on classes and I feel like my writing is sound, but the insidious nagging inner voice can shake my confidence. I can usually hush it up, with good self-talk and inner cheerleading, and I can usually get back to a comfortable, confident place.

When someone external echoes those internal thoughts, it’s harder to refute. If you were to tell me that my parents never loved me and I can’t spell, those would bounce right off, because I’m rock solid certain about those things, but if you tell me that my article was tedious and nobody really respects my weaving work, it would hit me hard, because they’re things I worry about, in the small hours of the night. They’re tender spots.

I had this happen twice within a couple of weeks, back in 2013. First, in the course of one long fight, I heard that nobody likes me, I’m a pathetic loser writing articles that will only matter to other sad weirdos like me, and the whole stupid yarn thing doesn’t matter in the real world, and on and on. They’re the kind of words that you know your loved ones would never say when in their right frame of mind… but they have to be at least a little true, or they wouldn’t hurt so much. They can hit all the spots that are the most vulnerable. I haven’t woven since then, not a stitch. I haven’t made silk. I taught a couple of classes that I had committed to before the emotional train went off the rails, but my creative energy just felt like it had been kicked hard in the gut. Then, I had another person, someone in a position of respect and authority, make a snide remark on an Internet forum – basically implying that I stole my class material from another teacher without giving credit. I was off kilter enough that I just let it stand; later, I finally went through and dug into my sources, and proved to myself that I knew the genealogy of my information and the development of my classes. The one class on that material that I taught between then and now, felt like I was just going through the motions – not anything that felt like fun, or enjoyable, or even pleasant. Talking about my process, and about learning to do these things, was like telling another person’s story – it felt distant, without emotion, detached. I have taught a couple of classes in those years; it felt like I was a substitute teacher, like I was presenting another person’s information.

I’ve loved being a creative person. I’ve learned to dance, and draw, and sing, and weave, and sculpt, and dye – they’re all ways of using that same energy, that creative wellspring. I feel like my spring has just kind of dried and stagnated, like my creative juices have gone bad and just stopped flowing. My dreams have been sad and gray. I’ve had some rough, bad times between then and now, and I’m finally feeling like I’m recovering and might get back out from under. I’m having some brilliant and colorful dreams, I’m getting glimpses of the unicorn disappearing around the corner in the woods. Sometimes I can hear the birds singing.

Along with this, threaded through and around the same emotional and creative crash, a lot of other things happened. I lost two grandparents; neither was a surprise, but it still bit hard. I’ve hit some serious relationship rocks. We’ve been up and down, and things have been amazing and horrible, kind of in turns. We solemnized our fifteen-year relationship with a courthouse wedding, and everything was amazing; we had some screaming fights, and there were some weeks where we didn’t sleep in the same bed. I’ve been everywhere from crying with happiness, to suicidal depression. I had that downward-spiraling emotional cycle where you start out with “I don’t want to get out of bed today,” and you go on to “and then I’d lose my job” and you end up at “I might as well just kill myself and get it over with.” I never injured myself, but I had gotten to the point of ideation and planning, figuring out how much charcoal would be needed to fill a small closet with carbon monoxide, which pills would be nice to help me relax while I waited, and keep me from being revived if somebody found me. Those things are still handy, where I can get to them if I need them. From here, it seems like a long distance from that dark place… but it’s still closer than I’d like. I’ve developed anxiety issues severe enough for four Xanax a day, and there were plenty of days when I needed all four of them to get through. Now, I haven’t taken one in months, but just the knowledge that they’re there helps me feel like I can deal with it if it gets out of hand.

So now, I’m feeling my sap rising. I’m feeling better in a lot of ways… but so much of my spirit is still in mothballs. My studio, which was always cluttered and full of junk, is literally so crammed with hoarder-style miserable crap, that I can’t get to where my loom is, or approach the desk, or open the closet where the beads and threads are. There are so many beautiful things there that I can’t even touch. I cleaned it out twice in the past few years, but I wasn’t using any of it, so there was no reason not to just put a box of stuff on top of the desk, and then one behind the chair, and slowly the room filled up again. In addition, the garden that brings me so much joy is full of weeds, and the plants are so overgrown that I’ll need to do a lot of work with pruners, and in some spots possibly a machete, before I can even get in to hoe up the weeds to plant.

Originally published at WormSpit. You can comment here or there.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 21st, 2016 06:23 pm (UTC)
I hope the sap keeps rising. I have always enjoyed your posts on sericulture ... but had assumed you had gone on to work on other projects. After all, my journal has gone mostly quiet ...
Oct. 21st, 2016 06:27 pm (UTC)
You don't really know me - I followed your LJ years ago for the weaving and other stuff, but I want to say that I'm delighted to hear you're working your way back to being (centered? okay? creative? awake?). That pit of darkness is compelling, but it's great out in the sun as well.

So, really just - internet hugs from a stranger who's glad to see increased wellness. I'm looking forward to what you create and show and make!

Oct. 21st, 2016 09:37 pm (UTC)
What part of town is that? My sister lives in old Richardson and has those spider lilies. Glad to see you back on LJ.
Oct. 22nd, 2016 10:42 pm (UTC)
MAJOR ouch! I now wish I was physically near to help you with the garden or whatever (never mind that I've been struggling with decluttering and tidying this room I live and work in for maybe three months now, LOL).

Have you had any therapy other than the Xanax for those issues? *big big hugs*
Oct. 23rd, 2016 08:44 pm (UTC)
I had noticed your absence, and I am so sorry to hear that you've been having such a rough time. I dunno if it will be helpful in keeping the self-doubts at bay, but when I want to show someone tablet-weaving porn for inspiration purposes, when I want to show them just how stunning tablet-woven items can be, I always point them at your work, as the "gold standard" for "gorgeous tablet weaving". And I've lost count of the number of folk I've recommended your web pages on sericulture and silkwork to.

You do *stunning* work. I very much hope to see more of it when you're ready and inclined to share it.
Oct. 24th, 2016 08:42 pm (UTC)
thank you!
I really appreciate you writing this. We've never met, but I follow you because I find your work with the moths and weaving inspiring. I've been in a really similar place with my art for a few years. My studio is a graveyard. I quit my job a few weeks ago to take a sabbatical and I'm in the process of digging out my own mountain now. My very best wishes for the re-blossoming of your creative forest.
Oct. 24th, 2016 09:04 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry you've been having a hard time and glad it's getting better. This seems like a good time for me to share a story...

A month or so ago, I signed into the Donors Choose fundraising site for teachers to raise money for specific projects. The first project they suggested was a project to help low income children understand practical uses for math and learn about sustainability by raising silkworms.

Because of the work of you and one of your students, I'd tried silk reeling, and it felt like the project was perfectly targeted to be something I couldn't resist helping make happen. Plus the project was short just about exactly what I was looking to donate. So I submitted the money to get the project fully funded and in my note to the class I told them about how amazing I think working with silk is, and sent them a link to wormspit.com to give them ideas about things they can do with the silk when their husbandry project is done. So thank you for both doing the groundwork that got me started with silk reeling myself, and for giving me a connection to those kids. I'm hoping they think the project is as awesome as I do and maybe even try some silk work too.

The people who told you that your work doesn't matter are wrong. Just so you know.
Oct. 24th, 2016 09:11 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
This is awesome to hear. Silk has taken me to some amazing places.

The person who told me my work doesn't matter, was drunk and angry... it was a lashing out type thing, saying things to hurt me. That's part of why I'm frustrated with working on getting over it. I know it wasn't really "meant" - but if it didn't have enough real feeling behind it, it wouldn't have hurt.
Oct. 25th, 2016 03:48 am (UTC)
Wishing you the very, very best.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )