|a peek at Road to California 2014|
When I started blogging at the end of 2011, all of my connection with the quilting community was online. It really wasn't until I attended last year's Road to California Quilt Show that I got to see some of these people in person, and it was a powerful thing. Whether these people were into traditional quilting, modern quilting, or something in between, it didn't really matter. All of us found joy in using a needle and thread to make beautiful things, and this gave us something in common.
|Cindy, me, Deborah -- love these ladies...|
I returned to Road to CA last month, and the feeling was back only stronger. This time I got to meet up with some blogging friends in person, enjoying a precious half hour with Cindy and Deborah to chat face to face. It was also wonderful to meet the incredible ladies behind Fabricworm and Birch Fabrics in person after communicating with them by email for months -- in fact I had so much fun talking, that I didn't take time for a decent photo. I left that day with sore feet and a light heart, feeling so happy to be a part of this community of quilters.
|Mary, Gayle, Michelle & Pat -- just a few members of the group|
Then this past Sunday I was looking over Keri's e-newsletter from The Quilt Loft fabric shop in Upland, and I was thrilled to see that Friends of the Modern Quilt Guild was starting an Inland Empire chapter and holding their first meeting at her shop on Monday night. What a joy it was to spend some time with other ladies who love to sew! We have come with different life backgrounds and sewing experiences, but in essentials, we were all the same: a desire to grow in our craft and a willingness to share with and encourage each other. I have great hopes for this group and am so grateful to Michelle for getting it started. If any of you live nearby, please come! We'll be meeting up on the second Monday of every month at 6pm. The website is still under construction, but you can find it here.
|no makeup, no jewelry, no stylist, and not much sleep...just me as I type this blog post|
The events of the past month have made me think a lot about community. We all say that we want to be part of one, but the reality of this can be so different from what we imagine. To have a community, you have to have people, and people are not always what we want them to be. That seems so obvious, but it can be a hard reality to deal with at times. Many bloggers have written about the importance of getting beyond the "perfect" image of our blogs and sewing room photos, but I think we also struggle with getting beyond the glossy image we have of each other as people. As much as we know that our friends aren't perfect, we kind of want them to be sometimes. In fact, we sort of want to be that way ourselves. Once we get past those first impressions and start seeing the flaws, the annoying habits, the issues where we disagree (sometimes strongly), it's so easy to drift away from each other and into those cliques that we all despise. What started out as a great adventure in sisterhood once again ends up being little more than another version of the high school lunch room.
I don't have any grand solutions to the problem, but I've decided to adopt two new rules of thumb when dealing with people in my community (sewing or otherwise) this year:
1. Let people be who they are. I always think of that scene from Pride & Prejudice (the Colin Firth version, of course) when Lizzie is angry with her friend Charlotte for marrying the ridiculous Mr. Collins just to secure a home for herself, insisting that she and her sister Jane would never do such a thing. "But, Lizzie," Jane insists, "not everyone is the same!" How often I have had to remind myself this. Give people space to be themselves, even if it's not exactly what you would prefer them to be. It's okay to disagree on some things. It's okay to like different things. We can be ourselves and still be friends.
2. Give people grace when they need it. There are days when I'm grouchy or depressed or feeling like a flop in one area of my life or another. In those moments I need someone who cares enough to put up with me and love me anyway. The members of our community need that same grace. Everyone says something they regret from time to time. All of us want to feel like we belong -- even when we sometimes secretly don't feel like we really do. In those moments, we need to be ready to give each other the grace that says, "We care about you. You matter to us." And yes, this means not only having a heart that's willing to embrace our friends on their bad days. It means having the courage to be kind to the difficult person in our community (you know who I mean -- yes, that person) who, truth be told, may need your kindness more than anyone else in the room, even if they don't seem to deserve or appreciate it. While there are definitely a few people out there who enjoy being a pain, most people are doing the best they can...just like you.
It's not going to create utopia overnight, but I really believe that practicing (not just preaching) these two standards will go a long way toward bringing a little more love into our sewing communities -- both online and in person. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this subject. How do we make our communities stronger? How do we make them a place where people truly feel like they belong?