Tuesday, February 16, 2016

I don't recall the "aha" moment, but it has been a helpful insight in my life and those I've shared it with through the years. I am not sure why it even came to me, since I've never done embroidery or needlepoint. No matter, the illustration that came to me was of a beautiful, serene scene, cross-stitched and framed, hanging on the wall. The scene is of a hillside covered in green grass and flowers. The colors are pastel giving the eyes a pleasant and peaceful image. Perhaps there's even a brief scripture verse, "The Lord is my Shepherd" or "I can do all things through Him Who strengthens me." With closer examination the orderliness of the threads can be seen and though there is a uniformity to the grid, this gives the impression of control and contentment, that life is exactly as it should be.
The actual scene isn't important because the insight of this inspiration isn't in the seen, but in the contrast with what is unseen, even hidden.  Behind the orderly, cooperative threads on the front which produce a scene of all being well, the unseen backside offers a different message. By looking on the backside one sees a tangle of threads, knots, loose ends, and chaos. The scene on the front is still discernible, but it doesn't give the same impression of order, control, and serenity.
We all have our public personas and our private lives, our scenes of order and competence and happiness and strength and fulfillment we display in our attractive frames for all to see, as well as the underlying craziness of loose and frayed feelings, knots of abrupt disappointments and mistakes, tangles of relationships that we shudder anyone will discover.
In our competition for everyone's approval we overlook that others have their backside too. And in the midst of it all we forget about ours, or deny that it's there.  The problem is, it's more real than what everyone is seeing. It is exhausting and even violent to ignore and deny it.  When we do so, we tend to pounce on the opportunity to revel in the exposure of another's dangling and tangled threads, mostly out shame in our own.
I'm not sure where we each conceive or receive our idea of what the front of our needlepoint is supposed to show, but I've discovered that becoming familiar and comfortable with the backside of mine has been more of a blessing than I would have ever guessed it would be. As I have accepted my own tangled threads, I've found I am okay about others knowing they're there, but I've also realized that it has given others permission to be okay about theirs too.  I've also learned that because I am aware of the backside, and even okay about it, that the scene on the front continues to be restitched into a scene of grace far more beautiful than I could have ever imagined.

© 2016 Stephen Carl

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