The Things We Do For Love

GEThis is Rose. She’s been with me now for six years. I adopted her from the Humane Society in Pueblo, CO in January 2009. Having mourned the loss of my beloved cat, Jade, and my precious dog, Ricky, for nearly two years (they died within six months of one another), it was time for me to get another house pet.

I didn’t intend to adopt a cat the day I got Rose. I was simply making a routine shopping trip to Pueblo, and I offered to run errands for my friend, Jenn. She asked me to pick up a few feeder gold fish for her water troughs, so I made Petco my last stop before heading home that afternoon. I’m an animal lover, and I enjoy visiting the pets available for adoption whenever I’m in a pet store. That day was no exception.

I’ve always admired calico cats, and there was a calico kitten there that immediately caught my eye. She wasn’t very friendly or engaging however, so I wandered down the row of cages to say hello to the other two cats there that day. The second one—a big grey tom cat sleeping soundly—opened one big green eye to see if I was interesting enough to justify cutting short his nap. He clearly decided I wasn’t as he dismissively twitched his tail, and resumed his slumber.

The third cat was Rose. According to the record on her cage, her name was “Daphne” at the time. She was about two years old and had been recently surrendered by her owner. She had a bad upper respiratory infection and clearly didn’t feel well, but she greeted me like a long lost friend. She practically jumped into my arms as soon as I asked an attendant to let me get a closer look at her. I knew instantly that she belonged with me.

My relationships with animals and humans alike nearly always begin with an intuitive nudge that I feel in my gut. I respect and appreciate all life forms, but I’m extremely selective when it comes to those I invite into my life. To the extent possible, I limit my relationships to those that begin with that gut feeling. Although I wasn’t looking for a cat that day, and despite the fact that it was a calico kitten that first captured my attention, my gut told me that Rose was my cat. I’ve learned not to question my instincts when it comes to this sort of thing, so I adopted her on the spot. She’s been my constant companion ever since, and I love her dearly.

The reason I’m telling this story is because I’ve been thinking a great deal lately about the ways that people emotionally manipulate one another. I read something on Facebook recently about emotional violence. That article was an eye-opener for me because I’d never really thought of emotions as weapons before (I wish I could relocate the source so I could link to it). Since then, I’ve sifted through my past and looked for signs of emotional violence in my relationships. Unfortunately, I found a lot of it. One relationship in particular involves Rose.

I got a phone call from an old friend in Alaska on my birthday in August 2012. He’d been going through a difficult time and needed a friend, so he offered me an all-expense paid trip to Juneau. The history I shared with this guy was complicated. We’d been coworkers for nearly a decade, and we’d dabbled at a romantic relationship a couple of times through those years. It never took because we have completely incompatible lifestyles. We both knew this, yet here we were, trying again to force something that was never meant to be merely because we both happened to be single and unattached at the time.

Trying to force pretty much any human relationship is futile, but attempting to force me into a situation that I know in my gut to be wrong for me is something akin to trying to push a chain. Countless people have tried and failed through the years. Bosses, coworkers, friends, relatives… interview anyone from my past, and they’ll tell you how stubborn and immovable I can be. Nonetheless, this guy, who should have known better given his prior experience with me, was determined to “make” us work this time around. He had a pretty good sales pitch going for a while. Our relationship really did work on some levels, so I suppose it wasn’t inconceivable that it could have worked if I was willing to make certain concessions.

WP_20141226_002The thing is, I don’t believe in making certain concessions when it comes to relationships. For instance, I refuse to change who I am in order to make someone else feel more comfortable with who they are.

I refuse to diminish my light in order to make someone else’s light appear to shine brighter.

I refuse to exchange one relationship that I value for another.

I refuse to leave some truth unspoken or unacknowledged simply because it might make someone else uncomfortable.

Most importantly, I refuse to engage in a relationship with anyone who expects me to make any of the above concessions. And this is where that relationship came to an abrupt end. This guy claims he’s allergic to anything with fur or feathers, but I definitely have allergies. I’m allergic to both cats and horses, as a matter of fact (two of my favorite animals), so I’m acutely aware of the signs and symptoms of allergies. I choose to live with a cat, and I spend as much time around horses as I possibly can despite my allergies because the unconditional love these animals bring into my life far outweighs whatever physical discomfort I might experience as a result of my interactions with them.

During his one and only visit to my place in Colorado, this guy proceeded to insist that he’s allergic to my cat, Rose, yet he showed no physical symptoms. He went on to suggest that I would have to get rid of her—for his sake. That was the end of that. I was unwilling to exchange my relationship with Rose for a relationship with someone who demanded that I discard my cat (as if she was merely an inanimate object rather than a sentient being) for his personal comfort or convenience.

The point of this story isn’t to say, “love me; love my cat.” The point is this: if anyone—no matter how important you think they are to you—asks you to give up something you genuinely love for their sake, that’s not love talking. It’s selfishness. It may also be a sign that you’re involved with a narcissist. At a bare minimum, it’s a misguided act of emotional violence upon you; and your gut will tell you so, if you’re paying attention. The fact of the matter is that anyone who truly loves you will accept the things that are precious to you as part of the package.

Where Rosie is concerned, she and I are now living our “happily ever after.” My husband absolutely adores her. This fact is plainly evident by the number of photos of her that he’s published on his blog. Here’s one of his latest posts. I can’t help but love my husband all the more because of the way he so graciously accepted Rose into his life. In fact, it was Rose who helped me realize how perfect my husband is for me. Just like she greeted me all those years ago in Petco, she greeted Matt like a long lost friend the first time they met in the summer of 2013. And now she cheerfully greets him at the door every day when he comes home from work.

Life is too short to waste on relationships with people who need to manipulate you into being someone you’re not or mold you into some sort of fantastic ideal. Choose your relationships carefully, cultivate them with love and respect, and notice how your life begins to flourish as you limit your relationships only to those who are capable of reciprocating love and respect.

Itching to Stitch – Part II

WP_20141215_002It took months to locate the materials for our wedding tapestry. During that period between the completion of the final design and the day that my specially ordered wool arrived, it never really occurred to me just how monumental a project this really is. The finished pattern is 239 stitches wide by 310 stitches long. That’s 74, 090 individual stitches, not including the finishing hem and tapestry loops, which I haven’t figured out yet. By my estimation, I’ve completed less than a quarter of that project so far, but I am enjoying every minute and every stitch.

I’m the sort of person who likes to take on large projects. As a kid, I always gravitated to the most complicated jigsaw puzzles with the largest number of pieces. I’ve single-handedly tackled two full house remodels. Well, three actually, but I abandoned the third project when I moved to Denver and married my husband last year. As I understand it, the couple who bought that house from me successfully completed the work I started and have since settled in comfortably.

During my corporate drone period, I was the person who inevitably ended up taking on the big, messy projects that everyone agreed were necessary, but no one wanted to own because the effort to accolade ratio wasn’t high enough. These were huge projects that took years to complete. I once developed a routine network maintenance program for a massive satellite communications network that covered the entire state of Alaska. While working for that same company, I later spent over two years rebuilding an entire database of thousands of circuit layout records that were lost due to a poorly planned migration from one database system to another. I suppose you can say I have a high tolerance for tedious work.

I remember a conversation I had once with a man I dated briefly in 2010. I was working on a different stitching project at the time, and he made sort of a snide remark about how much time I “wasted” stitching. I pointed out to him that the time I spent stitching was essentially the same amount of time that he spent sitting at a bar, drinking beer and talking about nothing in particular with whomever happened to sit on the stool next to him. At the end of the day, I was creating something lasting and concrete in my spare time while he was merely killing time and brain cells. To his credit, he acknowledged that I was right. He even curbed his drinking and started a fitness program for a while after that, but it wasn’t long before he returned to his comfort zone and we parted ways.

The point I suppose I’m trying to make is this: how you choose to spend your time is important. Are your chosen pastimes creative or destructive?

Do you have something positive and concrete to show for your efforts at the end of the day?

Are you spinning wool with which you can knit a sweater, or are you just spinning in drama by picking fights with your spouse or kids?

Are you cooking wholesome and healthy meals from fresh ingredients for your family, or are you mindlessly shoveling commercially processed junk food into your mouth while staring blankly at your TV?

How you choose to spend your time is important. I can’t stress that point enough.

I’ve always instinctively appreciated processes more than the outcomes. The moment I finish one large project, I find myself immediately seeking out the next one because it’s in the midst of the work—whatever sort of work it might be—where I find peace and contentment. Whether I’m stitching, making jewelry, or untangling a massive snarl of digital data records, I’ve noticed that I tend to settle into a steady, meditative rhythm as I work. And it’s there in that rhythm that I feel most connected to my source.

I believe that we’re all designed to be creative. The idea that some people are creative and others are not is utter nonsense. We’re all creative at our core. When creative energy isn’t allowed to flow naturally, however, it can easily turn destructive. And that destructive energy manifests in ways that beget more destruction. Substance abuse, violence, drama… these are all cycles of destructive energy that are completely unnecessary, and they can be eliminated merely by redirecting that energy into some sort of creative channel.

Life is short. Find a creative outlet for your spare time. Spin wool instead of drama. Sculpt clay instead of shaping political discourse. Carve wood instead of driving wedges between yourself and your loved ones. Take up competitive archery instead of shooting barbed insults at those with whom you don’t agree.

There’s an infinite well of peace and joy to be found in the creative process. It’ll change your life. I guarantee it.

Taking the Plunge

Earrings 037I’ve been talking about this since 2010 when I found myself suddenly, if not unexpectedly, free of the soul sucking Twin Vortices of Evil. Back then, making jewelry was my particular brand of therapy. Hammering wire was a safe and welcome release for the pent up frustration that comes from working within a spiritually draining organization while weaving chain and wrapping wire gave me the sense of achievement that my day job failed to provide.

Since then, my path from hobbyist to professional jeweler has proceeded in a two steps forward; three steps back fashion of fits and starts. I realized recently, after reading a wonderful post from Charrette Metal Crafts, that the one thing that has been keeping me from taking the plunge into entrepreneurship is fear—not the fear of failure, which would actually make sense, but a completely irrational fear of success. As 2015 approaches, however, I’m finding my stride. I’m finally ready to move beyond the fear and take the plunge into self-employment.

Door 44 Designs is beginning to take shape, and my jewelry will soon be available for sale online. In the meantime, I’ve renamed my blog to more accurately reflect what I’ve always intended it to be: a behind-the-scenes glimpse into my creative process along with my thoughts about life, art, and the myriad connections I find between the two.

I’m excited to unveil my re-branded blog, BeyondDoor44.com, and I look forward to connecting with you there. Thank you so much for reading, following, liking, and sharing my posts. I’ve met some wonderful people here—some truly amazing artists—and I learn something new every day from your insightful posts and comments. So, thank you, too, for sharing your own unique perspectives.

Life is short. Don’t let the fear of success stop you from doing what you love.