Crafting as a form of self care

Elizabeth Esther wrote a great blog post about the importance of “impractical” creative expression. For her, that involved learning to sew Victorian-style dresses, allowing her to indulge her childhood dream of becoming an actress – something she was forbidden to pursue (if I had that kind of sewing talent, I might invent excuses to wear them, like having friends over for high tea or something).

For me, crafting is also a form of self-care. Reading and journaling are great, but every writer faces the difficulty of putting words to certain images or emotions. That’s where art comes in handy, since pictures, they say, are worth a thousand words.

For this reason, I don’t mind when magazines have a ton of advertisements. They come in handy for making collages.

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Working with my hands helps me accomplish what my counselor calls “staying present.” I wonder if this is part of the reason that Orthodox Jews pray with tefillin and Catholics pray with rosaries: having something tangible to look at and hold helps keep the focus on the task.

“Staying present” is exactly as it sounds. It’s the opposite of mentally slinking back into the past, where trauma lives. There are times when writing becomes mentally exhausting and emotionally draining. While collages get hung up on my wall or put in the Future House box in a closet, I’ve come up with another way to craft positivity. A craft small enough to take with me anywhere.

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But not all of it is inspirational. Some of it is just fun.

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I learned how to make jewelry when I worked at the YMCA of the Rockies for a summer a few years ago, and kept teaching myself after the season ended. My husband bought me a bead book for my last birthday, so I’ve been extremely busy since the fall semester ended – so much that I made enough earrings for every woman in my church’s young adult group (about thirty). My fingernails are frayed and the skin on my fingertips is torn up, but I get joy out of making things for other people (heads up if you’re female and know me in real life: you’ll be getting jewelry from me for every birthday and Christmas for at least the next five years).

Eventually I started running out of space for finished projects, even small ones like earrings and necklaces (yes, believe it or not, a woman CAN have too much jewelry). Since we’re hoping to buy a house at the end of this year, I’ve told Josh I can hold off buying more bead stuff for a while. I said I could try to find a less expensive and space-occupying hobby, but I’ve relayed the whole “being present” message to him many times, and he knows that crafting helps with that. Plus I enjoy doing it. Well, that, and I got an order for $80 worth of merchandise on my Etsy shop just before Christmas, so there’s another incentive.

Sometimes, the things that give us joy don’t have to be practical. At some point, mine may no longer be affordable, but luckily I’m not at that point yet.

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