RETELLING A STORY: How to Get Your Mind to a Better Place

Find a different way to tell your tired, sad old story, and watch your heart grow.

There’s a sad story I catch myself telling over and over. And I’m sick of it.

When we moved into our current home, I did a major de-stash of my fabric collection. I actually reduced my inventory by almost 75%. It was a glorious horde of vintage fabrics and used clothing (from my vintage looking traditional quilting days), home decorating fabrics (from my make-my-own curtains, duvet covers and pillow phase), silk ties and antique velvets (from my crazy quilt days).

It was really really hard. I had to use all kinds of strategies to overcome my hoarder mode brain. I was determined to keep only the materials I would use in my art quilts, and the fabrics I truly loved. For example, pink isn’t really on my Lascaux Cave color wheel. So I told myself if I ever made another baby quilt for a girl, I could go out and buy NEW pink fabric. (Don’t worry, I kept most of the vintage pink fabrics.)

Another strategy was to find the perfect home for my stash. For years I’d donated fabrics, books and supplies to a little sewing group at a women’s prison in northern New Hampshire. They accepted almost anything gratefully. They made quilts for various causes. It felt wonderful to help a group of people who, in such sad circumstances themselves, made things for other people who were even less fortunate. It made the ‘letting go’ easier.

I bagged up almost twenty giant bags of fabrics. Someone from one of the causes found out about my donation, and offered to meet me at a town halfway between us to get the stash. I was grateful, for it saved me hours of driving time.

We met, the bags were transferred to her van, and I went home to wait for the donation receipt.

A long time later, I emailed to ask her where the receipt was.

Her answer struck me speechless.

She said her organization only accepted donations of new, 100% cotton fabrics. Because so much of my fabrics were old, blends, vintage or specialty fabrics, the entire lot (except for some picking by the staff) was…..dumped.

I called her immediately to remind her that the donation was not to her organization, but to the sewing circle that donated some of their projects to her organization. There was a long silence and then a quavering, heartfelt apology for the misunderstanding. I received the receipt for the donation anyway.

But I still cringed at the thought of all those fabrics sitting in a landfill somewhere.

For many years, that affected my ability to de-stash. Because one of my main motivations is to feel that my cast-offs are going to a new and better place, to people who will truly love and use what I’ve given them.

And it made for a good story, too. When I was feeling small and vindictive, I could tell that story with a sad little face, and with relish. See how awful that was?? All that good fabric gone to waste! It was a guaranteed sympathy-grabber and aren’t-other-people-awful moment.

Yes, no good deed goes unpunished, as my husband always says.

But lately I’m embarrassed to tell that story. And ashamed I’ve kept it going so long. It feels…wrong.

Because the truth is, many good things came out of that incident. Things that served me far, far better than a small truckload of fabrics I was happy to move on.

1) I discovered the light heart you get when you finally let go of things you don’t really need nor even really want anymore. If it took a ‘good cause’ to get me going on that, so be it. But when you really let go of something, demanding that it still serve you somehow is unproductive.

2) Remembering how quickly my stash of not-really-useful fabrics grew, it makes me think twice before letting just ‘any old fabric’ into my studio. Oh, I still succumb now and then. And those of you who have seen my fabric stash and are snickering, “Really, Luann? You actually restrain yourself from buying more fabric?! Yeah, right….snort!”, just cut it out.

3) Someone I respected admitted they’d made a mistake. And apologized with a full heart. (I am a complete sucker for a sincere apology.)

4) This same woman taught me a simple technique for prayer. And though I am quite the agnostic (meaning I don’t feel we can KNOW there is a higher power, and I know there probably isn’t, but I like to believe there could be), I believe the act of prayer is human and healing and good for the soul.

To pray for what you want and need, you don’t fall to the ground and hunch over with closed hands.

You stand. You take a deep, cleansing breath, and let air fill your lungs. As you gently exhale, let your arms drop, hands open and facing outwards. Raise your face to the sky, and close your eyes. Get quiet. And ASK the universe for what is in your heart.

I have a story about how dramatically this worked for me the first time I tried it. It was so powerful, I’m actually a little scared to use it much. But somehow, simply going through these motions is often enough to lift a weight from my heart, and soothes my savage, yapping little brain.

It restores me to my true self. I find I rephrase my wish into a better request. And the sole act of asking fills me with a feeling that’s even more healing than getting the wish. (Which, perhaps, is what I’m always actually yearning for.)

5) And, hey, I got my tax deduction.

So I’m telling that sad, self-righteous little story for the last time (I hope!) I think the process I’m describing is called ‘reframing’ in psychological terms. Whatever. It works.

And from now on, I will strive to ONLY tell it in this shiny, wonderful new context.

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8 Comments

Filed under art, choices, cleaning the studio, craft, gratitude, inspiration, telling your story, world peace

8 responses to “RETELLING A STORY: How to Get Your Mind to a Better Place

  1. RK

    Luann,

    You know the wolf story… I KNOW you know the wolf story. By continuing to tell the story about what a bad thing those people did, and nurturing your anger and resentment over it, you were feeding the wrong wolf. Glad to hear you’ve stopped feeding him, and started feeding the kind, generous, loving wolf instead.

  2. You are so right! I cringed when you said they were dumped, but wanting them to serve you even in their absence is so profound. I’ll think about that next time I want to destash.

  3. Hi Luann, I really understand this post. Sometimes bad things turn out in rally good things, but you need to grow and change your mind to undertand this.

    On my side I had a bad car accident 3 years ago. I broke several bones and my jaw. I was depressed expecially since I cannot move or go out of my home. I lost an exam session at university and I was really sad.
    But then staying at home I realized what I wanted to be and do, I had the time to rethink my life and priorities.
    And all went well, and now I’m much more satisfied than before my accident.
    Now I define that accident as “the better thing happened to me”. People smiles and think I’m stupid :)
    Their problem not mine, I’m happy :)

  4. RK

    If anyone doesn’t know ‘the wolf story’, here’s one copy of it — http://geekhabitat.com/1515/which-wolf-wins/

  5. Ouch! That is painful! And I think you’re one who selects carefully the new homes for things. Wonderful that you’re able to reframe it.

  6. wow can I relate!…my hoarding is for all kinds of things- craft supplies, fabric, household things as well…and I can’t stand to throw away soemthing that is ‘perfectly good’ (and has been sitting in a closet for 6 years untouched, but hey…it is perfectly good). Then I found Freecycle.org. This wonderful online site has changed me…as I have NO PROBLEM giving it away, I happily found out…and what’s so great- the people taking my stuff want it enough to drive here and get it, so I believe that it really is wanted. Freecycle has allowed me to finally really de-stash in a way that my closets are now useful! Yay freecycle.org!!!

  7. Sometimes it takes a while before we can face a situation in a brand new light, and see things differently. That has been the case for me lately in several instances. I feel lighter when I am able to forgive or try on someone else’s point of view, I love the new idea of a posture for prayer, and plan to try this out. Thanks for the fresh idea!

  8. Hi Luann, I have admired the writings you share on the Fine Art Studio newsletter. I wanted to know more about you, to see your art and check out your blog. I look forward to using your advice…So I was led here, and I need to say, I believe the power of prayer that you felt may have scared you, you agnostic :) , because you started to feel how real and powerful God is! You’re right, in this life we can’t prove it, but that’s the whole idea! That’s faith- believing “knowing” …the ultimate artist/creator wants you to know Him so He can bless you…ask Him to show you that He is real…I am excited for you!
    If you ever have a minute….about my website, I would really appreciate your advice, as I admire what you have done and I could use some constructive criticism… from someone I respect. I know…I love those ellipses (…) too much!!!

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