Slowly, has the process trundled along; slowly has it gathered pace; slowly have the pieces slotted into the bedspread that will, ultimately, be me.
I think because, for so many years, I have become what others wanted – and, because the individual pieces of that patchwork quilt of the soul contained so many alien colours and designs, when I spread it upon the bed of the personality, it neither fit nor was, in the full sense, recognisable.
Slowly, slowly, I have had to unpick whole sections. In some cases, a wash and a dye, or a wash and a touch of embroidery with my preferred colours (green, turquoise and purple) was enough; in others, the whole piece had to be removed and replaced from scratch. It all depended upon the quality of the material, the messages its designs sent out and its influence upon the rest of the quilt.
I no longer have to ask permission to be myself; no longer feel obliged to apologise if my colours are too bright, my laugh too loud, my habits too unconventional – and, in celebration of that, today I wore a bright orange (patterned with black leaves) batwing top over a long black skirt and put orange earrings in my ears!
This would probably have caused outrage, ridicule or embarrassment a year ago – and so I confess I was a little bit worried as I set off to pick up a friend on a car-related matter. The ability to believe that I look good in clothes is developing very slowly – but at least it is on its way!
My friend was delighted with my look, took two photographs; I felt, briefly, pretty, a bit of a star and then, oddly, shy and unwilling and all churned up by the positive attention! How silly, eh? I felt I should say I was sorry for being such a show-off, for capturing eyes with bright colours, for being a bit of a shameful liability.
But, as my friend and I drove to a local town, it dawned on me – slowly, of course! – that such thinking has, for just over a month, been, in the strict sense, irrelevant, no longer a part of my life…
Slowly, I shall come to believe it; I shall come to realise that the rules – concerning stitch size, shade of cotton, design upon material, types of material used, where each square should be placed – are no longer RULES (with consequences), but suggestions which can be acted upon in a spirit of compromise.
It does not matter if some parts are bigger than others, or odd shapes; it does not matter if some of the colours clash or are deemed overly bright by others; it does not matter if I am not the world’s best wielder of needle and thread, or if my seams are a tad wonky; it does not matter if, once clad in the finished product, I look like someone who took a left turn at the end of the sixties!
All too often I have hurried to please, rushed to ameliorate or placate, dashed with a sense of urgency not borne out by concrete reality.
‘Slowly’ has, for too many years, been a word forbidden in my vocabulary, derided when seen in action, turned into the twenty-four hour panicked rush which has characterised so much of the past.
Now? Slowly. Gently. Knowing that my visionary quilt cannot be created in a day, a week, a month. Knowing that, by going slowly, I can see and appreciate the world around me; that I can savour all of the senses; that I can listen fully to loved ones and enjoy their company without the compulsion to rush away.
Slowly, I am returning to myself…