When I was 9 years old, I joined the Girl Scouts because I thought the other girls at my school looked totally bitch’in in their green uniforms and I wanted to know what all those patches were for. It didn’t last long for me because dancing was my first love and taking classes took up a lot of my time, but I was a Girl Scout long enough to earn my needlework badge (which I still have to this day) and some other badge that has a BBQ grill on it. Maybe it was a badge for eating wings or something…I can’t remember. But I remember how much fun it was to be a stitcher, even if I was a bad one.
After I left Girl Scouts so that I could become a tap dancing astronaut (shut up, don’t crush my dreams!), I put the embroidery hoop down for years. Dance classes and performances consumed all my free time. When I was old enough to work, I got a job as a dancing character in the parades at Disneyland. Just for the record, being a hippo, a bear, a pig and a snowman looks AWESOME on a resume. Still no time for needlework. It wasn’t until my life turned to total shit that I had time to pick it up again.
I quit dance. Years and years of emotional abuse at the hands of my dance teacher/father figure had taken its toll. I’d just suffered my first real broken heart. I had a crap job in retail and I was eating my way through feelings of grief and loss. I was forced to begin shopping at plus sized specialty stores. It wasn’t a good time.
I remember one night while working my crap retail job I walked to the craft store next door during my break and just started wandering the aisles. I wandered into the needlework section. As I flipped through all the needlepoint and cross stitch kits, I smiled. Smiles didn’t come easy back then, and before I knew it I left with a giant bag of crap. A few different kits, several hoops, and assorted needlework gadgets.
I don’t even remember what the patterns were, but I know I never finished them. I’d start one and things would be going well…then I’d get distracted by a new book or a guy who was totally wrong for me. Eventually, I’d misplace the threads for whatever project I was working on and then I’d just toss the project. And the cycle would start over. Still, when I would allow myself to have some calm in my life, the act of stitching was a joy.
It would be years before I would realize it, but stitching was a great form of therapy for me. Counting the stitches necessary and executing them with skill required focus. It took me out of my head and away from the troubles that seemed so mountainous to me. I needed that, especially after trips to the therapist and trying to figure out why I was so angry…why I hated myself…and why I couldn’t stop eating away my feelings.
Through the years, I’d pick up a project or two, but I was never too serious about it. There never seemed to be time. I had decided to leave retail and got a job in a professional office environment. I was becoming a proper career girl with responsibilities and medical benefits and everything. Things were getting much more “adult-y” in my life. Therapy was easier. I was less angry, but more lonely…so I spent a lot of time out with my girlfriends.
There has always been something about needlework, though. Something about pulling a needle and thread through fabric calms me down. It makes me happy. Friends have joked that perhaps I’m an old soul, reincarnated into a modern creature but still haunted by the memories of a past life. Knowing me, I was probably something like Lady Mary from Downton Abbey: a bitchy, entitled whiner who beat herself into sense from all the drama she was causing herself. But I’m sure if that’s true, I was much less whore-ish.
When I had gastric sleeve surgery almost three years ago, I knew that I needed to find a healthy behavior to substitute for all the emotional eating I was doing. Needlework was the natural choice. Some folks still blow off surgery like it’s the easy way out, but the truth is…it’s not BRAIN surgery. My stomach is smaller, yes. My brain doesn’t know that. My spirit doesn’t know that. And the same ghosts that I’ve been dealing with my whole life still trigger the urge to overeat. I still fight those feelings and urges.
I’ve watched many friends go through weight loss surgery. The ones who gained it all back are the ones that didn’t have a plan for replacing their unhealthy behavior when they suddenly couldn’t do it anymore. They reacted by turning to other unhealthy behaviors until they could go back to eating…and I wasn’t going to let that happen to me. And so my home is filling up with beautiful needlework…and I’ve lost 116 pounds, 8 sizes, and tons of inches. I’ve maintained that loss for two years.
If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know that I’m not to goal weight yet. I’ve made all the nutritional changes I can and now it’s time to work the rest of it off with exercise. This latest needlework project, which I had to cram for by burning vacation days and staying up late night after night, has required me to sit for too long…and too often. I’m so ready to head back to the gym and start working again.
Even so, I’ll always have time for stitching. Today I dropped this year’s project off at the State Fair of Texas. It’ll be judging in their Creative Arts competition next week and I’ll find out whether it won a ribbon within the next two weeks or so.
To make sure my hands are always gripping needle and thread and never Oreos, I’ve already started next year’s project. Thanks to my fans and friends who voted on Facebook, I put the first stitch in this gorgeous peacock today (click it to order from Amazon).
As always, I’ll keep you posted on how it’s going…but I’ll also be excited to keep you posted on my workout progress. I got tired of sitting still!
Oh and one last thing: I’ve decided to dabble in designing needlework patterns as well. They won’t be anything as grand as some of the projects I’ve worked on before. They’ll be simple, sassy, and really smart assy. A lot like me, actually.
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