Twenty years of working as a therapist and mental health consultant/trainer have taught me that wellness is a sequence of hardships and reparations. “A good life” is not full of joy and fortune; though we wish it would be, and the mass media leads us to believe so. Instead, any given person’s life is a beautiful weaving of stumbling and learning; joys and sorrows; sickness and health; fragility and resilience… all mixed in one same fabric.
I share here metaphors from two artists/thinkers, who have captured this essential message:
“Stitches” by writer Anne Lamott (Riverhead Books, 2013)
“Sawing is a finger-and-heart equivalent of putting one foot in front of the other… you can make a mistake, go back, take it out and patch it.”
“What might have been thrown out went from tattered scraps to something majestic and goofy and honest that holds together… You have to keep taking the necessary stitch, and the next one, and the next. Without stitches, we just have rags.”
“We live stitch by stitch, when we’re lucky. If you fixate on the big picture, the whole shebang, the overview, you miss the stitching.”
“Wow. You are weaving, in effect, starting with raggedy edges, going back a bit to the one spot that can still hold a new thread.” “Beauty is a miracle of things going together imperfectly.”
“Once They Were Red” by artist Erica Green
I experienced Erica Green’s fiber installations in the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (BMoCA, Spring, 2022). Erica Green depicts “the endless process of repairing and rebuilding oneself,” through a series of strips of fabric, intricately knotted and held together with sewing pins. See photos and details of Erica Green’s art work here.
In the words of BMoCA Curator Pamela Meadows:
“Green’s practice utilizes the knot as a symbolic gesture for mending and continuation. The artist’s work is shaped by hardship and by tensions between elements/forces that are both strong and fragile, messy and disciplined, heavy and light. Despite these dueling oppositions, each installation evokes comfort and pause amid the complexities of time and healing.”
Since human beings grow together, hardship occurs in the context of relationships. I have witnessed it between parents and children, siblings, partners, teachers and students… in every relationship that has a loving bod. I have had the privilege of facilitating the mending through healing experiences in family psychotherapy, parent coaching and mental health consulting for early childhood educators. The mending can only happen within the loving relationships as well. We may not be able to envision it in the moments of hardship, but these beautiful metaphors by Anne Lamott and Erica Green remind us to take the next stitch… to tie the next knot.