I’m often scrambling just outside myself to figure out what to do, what to feel, what to say or think – my noisy, competing thoughts critically surveying the land, the situation, deciding my next move so I can stay in control, which I know isn’t a real thing, but my brain is committed to trying. Recently I stood in the middle of the Costume Institute exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and fell quiet. Standing there, with my brain not scrambling around, was unusual – here I am, inside my skin, quiet, okay alone, more than okay. This is me, peacefully surrounded by hours and hours and hours of work, detail adding up to the thing, the vision, the desire -- all of it, an expression of love.
Running right under the surface of my relentless critic, lies an escape from her that I have employed since I was a kid, my own weird and wonderous internal life filled with secrets and possibility, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve wondered if it’s an unhealthy escape, a measuring stick the real world can never match up to, that I really need to learn to let go of, spend less time with. Or maybe not.
Standing in those exhibition rooms, with my vigilance momentarily silenced, I felt my internal world reflected, blooming all around me. I floated from garment to garment, read about them, examined them, stood near them, they existed outside of me, so this vibrating resonance within calling my attention is not some old, neurotic effort to avoid, it’s where I’m heading.
I just finished sewing a dress for myself. When I first saw a photo of it in a pattern magazine it rattled me. I could see myself in it. I knew the fabric and color. It was challenging sewing and I didn’t construct it all beautifully, there are seams that did not come together perfectly and places where I had to rip and re-do, and details I know are not quite right. But when I put it on I felt the imagined dress and the reflection in the mirror make contact for a moment - it’s very close. I’ll make the next one and the next one and the next one.
I realized while standing in my internal quiet at The Met that sewing was a way in and a way out. That is why I keep doing it. Every time I finish a project, I start a new one. It’s not my vocation. I don’t want to make it into an income stream (gross, people always ask). I just want to do it, so I can be with myself.
Speaking about “finding myself”, “in search of the self”, all those self-help-esque sentiments have always felt a little precious and simultaneously inadequate to me. The shitty truth is I got deeply alienated from myself as a young kid and I'm still moving mountains to not to be scared of being with myself, to stop running -- and stand in the quiet.