I laid on the brick patio like an alligator sunning herself on the edge of an Everglade swamp. The warm brick under my bare legs and shoulders, the sun making yellow and black patterns on the insides of my eyelids, my mind restful in a way that only happens when I’m away from home. Jon was napping in the guest cottage where we would be staying for the next couple of days. A four room, art filled house you might find on one of those TV shows or in a magazine. Outside the tall glass doors that opened onto the patio and pool, it had the same smell as when you walk out of the Florida airport escaping a long Upstate NY winter in the middle of February. Warm green leaves that never seem to die and flowers that bloom all year, it smelled like paradise.
I don’t know if it was being away and exhausted from everything that came before, or being in such a different environment, surrounded by wealth as exotic as the trees and flowers, but lying on the edge of that brick-lined pool, something shifted inside of me. I suddenly knew I needed to be able to talk about my work differently. I knew what I was about to encounter, I had been to these types of events before. Flown out to Florida or the West Coast, having dinners and cocktail parties with wealthy, well educated, smart, successful people. Me, with my thrift store clothes and state university education. I make things out of recycled clothes and fabric I would tell them, quilts, pillow, potholders. I draw with my sewing machine. What I really felt like I was saying each time these words came out of my mouth was,” I don’t do anything important, I’m not worth talking to.”
So I thought of my work and how I would describe. I came up with a great answer, describing how my work was influenced from the feminist idea of the personal being political. The role of dreams and affirmations and the traditional necessity of quilting. Naming my potholders Message Potholders and talking about the recycled materials I use. But then I realized it had less to do with the words I used to describe my work and more to do with how I felt about my work, and myself. This whole thing is really about self worth. And it’s true that what I put out there is what people will take in, but if I don’t believe it, if I don’t know it, then it doesn’t matter what I say or how I say it.
Understanding and knowing this made me feel different. So when I went to that fundraising dinner the first night, I may not have gotten all the words right, when someone asked me what I do, but I was able to have some meaningful conversations and actually enjoy myself. Because it’s not so much how I talk about what I do, but who I am and how I feel about myself and what I do.