Ring Theory

A few weeks ago, a dear friend’s mother died. I went to the memorial services to provide support for her – and unexpectedly found myself supporting another friend.  Friend #2 was struggling with her own sorrow and with providing an ear for friend #1 at the same time. We had both read Susan Silk’s ring theory about sickness and grief a few years ago. She was feeling a huge amount of both sympathy and empathy for the woman who had lost her mother, but did not want to burden her. We sat and talked for a long time.

I drove home, after visiting my own parents, thinking about mortality of course. But also thinking about how I process grief and loss, and about the ways I see my friends processing the same things. And about stress, and busyness, and the rest of being a parent of children who are living at home as well. And how lucky I am to know my friends. 

The first thing I did when I got home was to clean up my studio space.  I found and then vacuumed (!) the floor for the first time in ages.  The second thing I did was pull out some drawing supplies, with embroidery in mind.  It was the first time I had made something in a while. The things I make tend not to be portable - I have a pair of mittens midstream that i should get cracking on but I am not really much of a knitter. I hadn’t taken anything with me when I headed out in the car.

For me, making things is a way to meditate. It’s my visual brain that needs distraction so I can listen in on what I’m really thinking about. There are quilts I’ve sold that would probably surprise the owners if they had a mental transcript.  Good thing I don’t include it.

What bubbled up as I doodled was Silk’s ring theory, and the community of makers I was a part of before kids. This flowed into the chaos of going back to school, and the massively scheduled carpool life that many of us live.

For a while, I have thrown together evenings with a group of friends. We get together and do something messy – dye porcupine quills from a roadkill and make jewelry, or get glue all over everything in the name of lanterns, or try block printing with thickened plant dyes and get sloppier and sloppier as more and more of the wine disappears. Effectively Craftstitute at home.  But of course these evenings were never really about the thing we were making. They were about talking and listening and empathy and filling one another back up.

One of my favorite evenings, a friend who had been very timid with her projects completely let loose and created a thing of such beauty – and so much pride for her. She is an admirably fierce environmental activist and has a job as well.  She had been feeling sad and drained, very drained, and had been working very hard to take care of herself.  It shone through.

Of course, I think that taking a class and finding some new friends who enjoy making things is a great way to do this. I am still connected to my people from many years ago, people I saw class after class as we learned together. We stopped going for just the learning; we started going for the people as well. We’re here for that: come and make something, step outside your track, and find another circle to link into.

Backing out to carpool season, and loss: Please make sure you pay attention to yourself too. We can’t take care of other people unless we stop and refuel ourselves. 

X Erika