I made the first stitches on the pattern one morning in 2003, while myself & some of my family sat around my mother’s kitchen table in the sticky mid-morning heat. We had no power courtesy of Hurricane Isabel & we had not only gathered to keep one another company but to take advantage of the natural light streaming in. Some of us had books, some paper & pencil. I had the newest cross-stitch pattern I had bought: a peacock surrounded by blooming trees.
At the time, I knew it would take me awhile to complete the pattern. But I didn’t anticipate that it would be roughly 11 years between the first & last stitches. Don’t mistake the delay as an indication of the difficulty of the pattern. The length of time speaks more to my general distractedness & tendency to leave projects undone. I would pick up the canvas, work a section for a few weeks, & then put it back for months at a time. The calm & achievement I felt in getting a section done would often be spoiled by my impatience & frustration with myself. Why wasn’t I better, faster, more skilled, whatever-you-name-it?!
I know that this negative feeling is really just a bad habit I have, since I often have the same reaction to my writing, photography, & music practice. I’ll find a measure of joy just allowing myself the luxury of putting words on a piece of paper or repeatedly practicing a music phrase until my muscles memorize it. But I ruin it for myself. Not good enough. Not useful. Not a chance.
Spring has been arriving here in my little corner of the world. The longer hours & brighter days help me shake off my winter apathy & push me to finish projects like my stitched peacock. More & more I’ve been turning my attention to other things left undone—both practical (lining my curtains) & abstract (ideas & unspoken thoughts that could populate many essays). Finishing my cross-stitch peacock makes me think I’m ready to take on that negative voice & say, “Maybe not yet. But I’ll make it into something.”