I Hate Sewing and That's OK: making peace with my preferences
There was a time in my life where I hand-sewed things a lot. I was in my early twenties, living in a Christian commune in downtown New Orleans, and trying my damndest to trade in every last vestige of my suburban upbringing in exchange for the minimalist primitivism I found so intellectually sexy. I sewed my ripped shirts. I sewed political patches on my thrifted jean vest. I sewed pockets on my skirts and repaired the broken straps on my backpack. I was punk rock Laura Ingalls Wilder and I loved it. Or at least, I thought I did.
After a while, I noticed that my stack of sewing projects sat on my table for longer and longer periods of time. I found a plethora of excuses to have Marc finish them rather than me--he's faster, after all, and his stitches are neater. One day, as I was finishing sewing the velvet lining onto my trapeze lines and having frequent fantasies of chucking the entire thing in the trash, I had an epiphany: I fucking hate sewing. Hate it, hate it, hate it.
I love the product of sewing--the look of handmade items and the sense of accomplishment I get upon completing a project--but the actual act of stitching fabric and threading needles holds no enjoyment for me. I had been forcing myself to engage in this activity for so long based on my belief that I should like it. I desperately wanted to be the type of person who loves sewing, and when I wasn't it must be because I didn't have enough practice, or I was too stressed out from other things, or I needed to develop my patience. The thought that I may just not like it never occurred to me.
I've had the Sewing Realization many time in my life since then. It's become kind of a thing. I'm afraid to admit my own preferences because I'm scared that they won't line up with my supposed values--that they won't mesh with the carefully constructed character of Me. Jamie and I must be on the same wavelength, because she wrote about the power of stories this week, and that's precisely what drives me to chase pursuits for years that I have no genuine interest in: I am telling the story of Nikki, and in Nikki's story she sews gorgeous hand-dyed clothes for her children and listens to NPR and does yoga at 6:00 AM every morning and relishes every second of it. That's a nice story, isn't it?
But nice stories will drain you rather than serve you if they're fantasy novels. In the real story of Nikki--the unabridged exclusive autobiography, if you will--she buys a few gorgeous hand-dyed clothes for her children from Etsy sellers and gets the rest from Goodwill and hand-me-downs and yes, sometimes Walmart. She mostly listens to the same five neo-folk albums on repeat and the occasional Stuff You Should Know podcast. She'd much rather slam weights around the gym than breathe through an asana. And she does as little sewing as possible. That story isn't nearly as appealing to me. The cover art isn't as pretty. But there's a spiritual tax to pay for muscling my way through the life I "should" want instead of embracing the one that I actually do.
There's a caveat here, of course, that my life should be passing through many more sieves than just my preferences...because I'm pretty sure that's what sociopaths do. Not ALL of the things I genuinely like are compassionate (re-runs of My Strange Addiction), good for me (giant stacks of double-stuf Oreos), or ethical (sweatshop made $10 floral robes from Forever 21). In those cases the "shoulds" make sense. I have no problem dragging myself kicking and screaming into being a better, healthier human being. Building character isn't a painless process, and that's all the more reason to not sweat the small stuff.
I hate sewing, and there's nothing cosmically wrong with that.