On Monday night last week, I had worked up the courage to bring my blouse prototype to Nighisti Selby my tailoring and spiritual mentor. Nighisti is an Italian trained tailor with more than 50 years worth of passion and experience fitting garments to bodies. I try on the blouse. She looks it over, complements the details, the sewing technique. Then she says to me as she often does. “Look at it in the mirror. What do you notice?” So I start to say something about a wrinkle I notice that goes from the bust up to the shoulder.
She says “we need to take the shoulder apart so I can show you what is happening, so the fabric has room to tell you what needs to change.” I look at her, here with me late after her shop has closed. I look down at my blouse, the first blouse I’ve ever sewn up with the full details, and finished seems, from the pattern that I made at my pattern making workshop, representing countless hours of work and deep emotional growth. I look back at her. I hesitate. My mind looks for a way out: I could come back, I could sew up another, just like this and come back and seem ripper it up.
But the answer comes to me through the emotion. My teacher is here to share her wisdom with me, to help me become better at my craft. The time is now for this lesson. My blouse may be precious to me, but nothing is too precious to forgo learning with my mentor.
So I sit in her chair, with the seam ripper and undo the shoulders, the top of the armholes. I sit with all the emotions: anger, frustration, fear and just a hint of excitement at the quiet part of me that knows that I’m on the path, however fear inducing it may be. In the washing machine of emotions, I also notice that I am not pushing these emotions away. I am allowing them to be. I am letting them take up the space they need in this tailoring workshop.
I put the blouse on and I do indeed see the fabric move away from the seams I had sewn, trying to free itself from the top of the shoulder. Nighisti says: the fabric doesn’t lie. She shows me how to make modifications so that the fabric lays comfortably against the body.
That night I left her workshop exhausted, but knowing that I had learned an important lesson. When it comes to your work, your special path where you build something from love and faith and devotion, the work itself is the precious thing with its own life. We may create things that seem to embody this preciousness, like our first finished blouse from a cherished life experience, but they are just symbols of the WORK. It is the work itself that is precious. On this path, part of our growth is to have the courage to face our emotions around what we have built, acknowledge them, while continuing to form and reform this work with a tireless fidelity to our WORK and not this one artifact.
Reflecting on this experience now, I realize this is yet again another faith building exercise. It is so much easier to believe in something that is tangible–a blouse, than to have faith in the obscure path into the unknown that is our big WORK. But that is what will lead us to the most expansive version of our WORK possible in this world.
Go, fight, win. I am with you.