Home » Progress » Tailoring a Skill Set With Needles, No Thread

Tailoring a Skill Set With Needles, No Thread

Last Thursday, as a favor to a young acquaintance, I attended an AIDS Awareness Rally and Expo at Harry S Truman College in Chicago. She said it was important to her that I come if I could, and the pride she had of being a part of the group that had put the event together, made me determined not to let her down.

A friend here in the WordPress blogosphere helped me focus on that task in ways that seemed so simple at their core, that they made me wonder why they didn’t cross my mind without her help. As I got ready for the event, I worked hard to set that kind of thinking aside. I won’t be the one to definitively answer the question about seeing the forest despite the trees, so it’s best that I don’t hurt myself trying.

The neighborhood surrounding the el stop and neighborhood of the college, gives me the willies. Though I’ve only been there three times that I can remember, I’ve been propositioned there once and verbally accosted more than once. That may be about my unluckiness as a female human being more than the neighborhood, but these things did happen. There are a handful of other el stops in the city that I avoid, but on Thursday, in bright afternoon sun with so many people out and about, I wasn’t going to use that as an excuse.

I reached the college without incident, greeted my friend and found a seat in the section of chairs placed before a dais and a podium with a microphone set up for the event’s speakers. Behind those was a long bank of floor to ceiling windows that gave the audience a framed view of neighborhood folks going to and fro, some walking dogs, some trudging with difficulty perhaps to the neighborhood health clinic, others turning into the school’s main entrance on their way to class or the event I was attending.

AIDS Awareness

AIDS Awareness (Photo credit: sassy mom)

The writer in me watched those windows until a speaker opened the proceedings and introduced a young man who lectures widely on having HIV, how he’s come to terms with it, and the path he’s chosen for his life in the years since his diagnosis. He’s a powerful speaker, focused but not on a rigid script, speaking from the point of view of an artist who’s life has been forever changed — but more by what he’s chosen to expose himself to than by what he had previously thought would limit his life. He spoke of having tried to kill himself and how he had failed. He spoke of feelings of despair that I understood so well. Then he spoke of waking up to the fact that life wasn’t all about him.

He challenged everyone in attendance to not only get an AIDS test, but to get a passport and travel past the confines of this country, a virtuous thought but one that made me wonder where he thought the money to do it would come from. (I think he was mainly referring to students who get financial aid and a big check at the end of the school year that I know next to nothing about.) But it was what he said about Haiti that pressed down hard on me.

Right before my finances went south, I sent what I could to the Red Cross after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Any time I mention people who are suffering so much — people who make me want to shut up about myself — the people of Haiti are a part of the world’s community that come to my mind. I tried not to cry as the speaker told us of volunteering at a Haitian clinic and teaching a young mother to wash the ringworm on her child’s head before applying the cream to clear it up, and watching her walk down to a nearby stream, dirty with all the things people without plumbing do with water, and wash her child’s head there with the corner of her skirt. I’m not proud to say that I began to surreptitiously text my daughter to see if she was busy. I wasn’t not listening, I just needed to find another part of my day, one that would keep me from embarrassing my friend or myself, something to look forward to and get me home. That felt selfish, but it’s what I did.

Last Thursday I wasn’t just lucky enough to live in the US, despite its faults, but I was lucky that my daughter was off from work and able to spend the rest of the afternoon with me after her class at another city college. I spent another couple of hours at the event listening to other speakers and visiting booths, and said a warm goodbye to my friend knowing I could spend the rest of a sunny, cool day with someone who for the most part, understands my life and my setbacks and dreams. My daughter and I had a good time, and for a while I wasn’t worried about who I was and who I “should” be. But I don’t always know to keep those guilty thoughts at bay. I just try to say kind things to myself as if I’m my own best friend. I know they’re the right things to say because I’ve heard that from so many people — from therapists to kind friends.

It’s the believing deep down in my senses that feels so hard. It feels like sewing important seams without thread, like I have to sew myself up now, no matter what, and just have faith that I will hold together. That kind of belief takes an enormous amount of distraction. I’m not distracted by religion, and the things I used to fall back on have been eroded by economic concerns and the increasing uncertainties of life. But having the presence of mind to text my daughter makes me think my imaginary seams can hold longer with just the minute displacement of the pinpricks to keep the skin together. I want to surprise myself. So far I am, little by little, moment to moment.


12 thoughts on “Tailoring a Skill Set With Needles, No Thread

  1. You describe yourself well when you talk about being sewn together. We all are. We are patchwork quilts like something out of The Wizard of Oz. And all of us are constantly stitching, trying not to come apart at the seams.

  2. Life is so uncertain. Of course it’s nice to have various forms of insurance and safety nets and supports, and as many as we can so that if one of them falls, another might come through. But ultimately, we all can only live moment to moment — basically, as long as we are still living, that is the only guarantee there is. There is this moment, and after that, if we make it that far, there is the next moment, and after that, perhaps a next. This sometimes makes me feel better when it seems like all the countless future moments are too many and I fear they’ll all come crashing down.

    I also wish there were easier ways to travel on less money. I’m always scandalized when I read about volunteer trips to places like Haiti that require a $3,000 outlay — if I had that kind of money shouldn’t I just donate it entirely instead of transporting my hands and feet and muscle power?! What Erik and I are currently doing isn’t expensive compared to most people’s travel style (since our schedules are open, we can look for deals), but still, it does take funds. I think people have managed to travel without money but that takes a certain kind of courage (one might say foolhardiness) and a certain kind of personality, and I suspect both you and I are made of different stuff than that. Sigh.

    Glad you got the chance to go out to this talk, though. ❤

    • And I’m glad I got to see my daughter. I’m trying to get out more on days with pleasant weather. I’m realizing that it’s like a tonic. Goodness knows I need one of those.

  3. One thing that stands out for me is that you knew you needed support, and who you needed to be with. Don’t under-value the strength there; that took a lot. Plus the courage to walk out the door in the first place. I’d say you are sewn together with strength rather than thread. Even if it doesn’t feel like it right now, it’s there.

  4. I’m glad that you got out, LadySparks, and that you are aware of the need to embrace moment by moment, without having to figure it all out for good. This is probably one of my biggest Life challenges, apart from embracing the outcomes of the more difficult decisions, regardless of what they are. Sometimes, relief in the moment is all we can ask. Time spent in the sunshine is always helpful…clears our heads in small ways and refreshes us temporarily, giving us fuel for the next moment. The fact that you can harness your voice to express and/or sort through your thoughts and feelings is an indicator that you are indeed well-sewn together…more so than most! 🙂

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