The following are stories, excerpted from an article by Richard Merrill titled "Mending is Handwork", published in Voices, the Journal of the American Academy of Psychotherapy, in spring 2009. The stories describe transformations in the lives of those who have shared with us their experiences of the Weaving a Life process through weaving keyforms. They participated in Weaving a Life Leadership Training or in a Weaving Circle, or wove on their own. The names have been changed to protect anonymity. The stories follow the sequence of the Weaving a Life keyforms.
When I first read your book, I was attracted to two of the keyforms: the Amulet and the Mask. These were the two projects that appealed to me. First I wove the Amulet, about my shared life with my partner: a pure honoring of that relationship. I enjoyed the weaving because I could weave so freely, and I love the piece. They're our colors, and it means a lot to me.
Bernice was in charge of a workshop facility and was obviously an able manager. She found herself intolerant of minor disarrangements or "unauthorized" actions of others at the facility. Bernice described herself as bossy. In sharing thoughts about the vessel of self-acceptance, Bernice told the group she was bossy because she felt stupid. Asked how she might change that message, she was contemplating her response when someone said "You're f*ing brilliant!"
The group dissolved in laughter, and the saying became a kind of watchword for the entire workshop. Bernice began to tell herself this phrase at various times, and over the course of the week began to exhibit a different outlook and demeanor. She became enthusiastic about others' contributions to the facility, and told the group she felt much happier in her work.
With the weaving of the bowl, Mizuki addressed how she felt about her body, which she had always felt was too fat. Others found her a lovely and energetic person, very popular among the participants. The weaving of the bowl occasioned her first realization that she could accept and love herself as she was. While still struggling with this sense of herself, she describes the bowl as an anchor for her, reminding her often to see herself in a new light.
One of Emily's children, Alice, with whom her relationship was difficult, had a guard dog which was large and more than a little frightening. Alice was scheduled to come for the holidays, and insisted she needed to bring the dog. Emily related that she felt so threatened and fearful that she was at the point of cutting off already strained communications with her daughter over the issue.
The doll Emily wove became very important to her; she thought of it as a mentor and teacher, and she carried it with her often. The Doll keyform is woven after a visualization of a wise future self. In her distress over her daughter, she related that she had a vision of her wise woman, and asked her wise woman what she should do in this situation. Her wise woman answered her: become kinder and gentler with yourself and your family.
Emily related that her anger at Alice began to fall away. She said that her conversation with her wise woman had opened her heart to the possibility of repairing her relationship with her daughter.
As a result of her advice to herself, Emily invited Alice to bring the dog on her visit. When they arrived, this trained attack dog rushed to Emily and began to nuzzle her, and stayed affectionately with her during the entire visit. Did the dog sense the change in Emily's feelings?
Carmen’s son Angelo married a woman who would not let the Carmen see her grandchildren, and was occasionally verbally abusive to Angelo.
Carmen felt anger and grief: her own son allowed the situation to continue, she couldn’t see her grandchildren, and she felt badly for her son, whom she saw as a victim of abuse by his wife.
Carmen realized she could not change anyone in her family, so she allowed herself to make a safe place within her circle from which she could change her point of view. She felt her power was in her point of view, and she decided she felt better exercising the power of compassion than that of anger. Carmen changed her focus from seeing herself and her son as victims of the daughter-in-law to creating for herself a catalog of what she loved about each of her family members. It didn’t change the family conditions, or their responses to Carmen, but it changed how she felt about herself, and so about them.
I wove the mask about my mother. I have never had an easy relationship with my mother, but when I read the book, the part about the mask, I saw I could use it to come to terms with myself, to gain self-acceptance.
I wanted the mask about my mother not to be unkind, but also not to be untrue. I named her FiberOma, because Oma is what we all call my mother, and fibroma is also a tumor. She has a pout. I wanted colors that related to her. I used pink and lichen, and a beautiful variegated yarn that I painted: les couleurs de printemps.
I exaggerated the pout and the droopy eyes, I added eyelashes. They were for my fun. I gave her hair, then I felted her. During the felting, her hair became electric, and I renamed her Fibrillady, because now she has her electric energy in the mask. I put it in there, so now there's less of it in me.
Louise’s mother Anne became unable to care for herself, so they sold Anne’s house. Louise brought her mother to live with her and her husband. Louise soon began to regret the move. She had always believed she was supposed to take care of her mother no matter what, but now her relationship with her mother was much more difficult than she had imagined.
When her mother became ill and was hospitalized, Louise was faced with a choice: bring her mother back to the house or find another location for her?
Louise had always had a sense of humor. She placed in her bundle, among other things, a white handkerchief as a white flag of total surrender to God, and a tea bag as a reminder to take time for herself and relax. She allowed herself to let go of her belief that she “was supposed” to take care of her mother, and moved her into a residential facility nearby. Now she can visit often, and her mother is happy with the companionship of others.
My own shawl has been imbued with experience and memory from wearing it in meditation. The shawl has become my container of peace. When I wrap it around me and tuck the corners in, I feel troubles fade; what is left is calm. The power of the shawl to calm me is a response to my own experience with it.
We have all felt the experience incipient in an old object, a tool or an old jacket. An old pair of shoes carries much of the wearer. A hammer we find in a flea market may have a handle smoothed with long touch, the wood polished and darkened with the oils of the craftsman’s hand. To use such a tool is a delight for me as a craftsman, giving a sense of shared tradition and history. To recognize the love and care in the people who used it before me helps me to use it also with love and care.
Recognizing the love and care with which the shawl was made and with which I have used it makes it a reminder of the peace that is available if I work to become still.