Thursday, February 13, 2014

Jewelry Class

My family was a difficult family. It was not a healthy place to grow up in for the most part. That is not to say that I did not take good lessons away from it. I am a hard worker because of them. I suppose that there are other things. It strikes me as a little sad that I can't think of them right this moment.

Last night at my jewelry making class, I was not happy with the results. I kept studying the work of others, and trying to figure out what it was. Their earrings seemed gracefully shaped, and mine just seemed...well...not graceful. I couldn't put it into words, but what popped into my head is that I was working too hard on my pieces. The others just gave theirs a simple bend or twist, and there was grace. Me? I was using multiple tools to try achieve symetry and the perfect arch. The metal seemed tense and overworked, as ridiculous as this sounds.

Someone said, "You judge yourself too harshly," and patted my arm.

I looked at my earrings and said, "Sometimes I do, maybe, but this time, it's simply a matter of finding the beauty in the work of others. You all have a good eye. "

The masseuse looked at me and said, "You know, once when I was in school, we were given a few minutes to list the attributes of the person sitting on our left and then to our right. Nobody knew what the teacher was going to make us do with those words, whether we would have to read them aloud in front of everyone, or give them to our neighbors, or what. When the teacher called 'Time!' she told us to read the words on the paper and realize that we had described ourselves.

Yes. I have heard this before. The sound of my mother's voice popped into my head: "If there is something that you hate about someone, you need to take a good look at yourself, because it's something you don't like about yourself." Which translated to this: It was not possible to work anything out, because no matter what you said, it was not her were describing yourself and your problems.

On the school bus, we said it another way. "I know I am, but what are you?" repeated over and over and over again." No way to stop it except to fall silent, to let it alone.

I looked around the table at the women. I realize that during the course of the class, I'd complimented them all, sincerely, about one thing or another. 'I know you are, but what am I?'. It had never dawned on me that these words could be applied positively.

After they left, I slid the table back behind the sofa and took the chairs back to the kitchen. I worked slowly, wondering.


jeanie said...

I fell over when I was in my early 20s because nothing was perfect - and I aimed to be perfect.

I went to therapy. The counsellor asked what this perfect would look like - and do you know what? The perfect cannot be described, it is only defined by being unable to be attained - there is ALWAYS something better.

One thing that woman did teach me was to look at where I am at and learn to be happy - sure, that doesn't mean change nothing, but to find happiness in what you have, no matter how far short of perfect that it is, is a true blessing in life.

I still need to remember that sometimes.

nancy gerber said...

I give you kudos for being self reflective. I worry more about people who do not question themselves. And at our age, many are completely settled. You are not. That is admirable. BTW, I can think of many good things to say about you!

Lori said...

I was a very painfully bashful child, and I did not have a good opinion of myself. It wasn't until I was 14 that I began to see some type of talent or skill that I could take pride in. I spent my childhood "knowing" that I was "no good," and this despite a very loving mother whom I adored, the fact that no one had ever told me I was "go good," and, in fact, compliments from teachers and others on things like my reading ability. I really just never felt worthy of anything good. When I was about 10 or 11 a friend of mine whom I'd known since I was 4 told me that her mother told her she should be more like me. I actually stopped dead in my tracks as we were walking. "Really?" I demanded. She said, "yeah, my parents say you're the sweetest girl they know and so smart." I didn't say anything else, but that exchange stayed with me all these years, and, just like you, I walked around the rest of the day pondering that. I think I may also have held onto it, coddling it like a bit of hot coal, coaxing it into a flame of self esteem.