Monday, September 12, 2011

Giving Up Something You Love

Courtesy Google Images

There are many things that I enjoy doing, but the top two would be reading and cross stitch. I will never give up reading unless I can no longer see the print and even then I may learn Braille or use that text voice thingie that translates words into something you can hear and follow along with. Reading was my first love from the time my mother could hold me on her lap and read my favorite Dr. Seuss book. It was The Cat In the Hat II, by the way. And apparently, I threw up all over it when I got sick and it had to be trashed.

The point is that as far as reading goes, they will have to pry my Kindle or iPad with Kindle app or whatever they come up with that's even better by the time I die out of my cold, stiff hand. I will go to heaven reading a book about it.

Right behind reading comes my love of cross stitch. I have been cross stitching since I was a teenager (so over 30 years) and I have always used it as a means of having something to do so I don't look lazy while watching television. It also has meant that I have created beautiful things over the years and that I have had a hobby that calms me down but doesn't require rehab.

The piece that I am most proud of was a treble clef made up of flowers, with two little butterflies and it was made in about a month.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of the finished piece, but this was after I finished the cross stitch part of it.

If I am onto a project I love, I will work on it non-stop and this one I absolutely loved. I decided in a fit of generosity to give it to my brother's live-in girlfriend and had my mother quilt a frame for it. I didn't take a picture of the finished piece (why????) before I wrapped it up and sent it out to California. I never got an acknowledgment and last year, my brother and his girlfriend broke up and she moved out.

I had asked my mom to look around discreetly when she and my dad went out there a couple of Thanksgivings ago to see if they had displayed it anywhere, but she said she didn't see it. Then again, she said there wasn't much on the walls, so it could have been in a closet. The point is that the one piece I did that was my all time favorite may be lost to posterity. It either went with her when she moved or has been lost in clutter somewhere. What I make generally means more to me than it does to anyone I give it to who does not do some kind of craft making as a gift.

When Justin and I first got married, I was working on one of those old fashioned samplers with the alphabets and all the numbers. It was a replica of the samplers that girls used to work on as their first sewing projects back when sewing was how you made clothes and bedding and all things the family needed. You know, before you could buy something online for your home or your body with the click of a mouse. I had it framed and gave it to my in-laws, who were nice enough to display it for years in their kitchen. After they moved, it kind of got lost in the shuffle, but I am positive my mother-in-law has it in a box somewhere that never got unpacked. She appreciated the time and effort put into the gift, leading me to believe there was some kind of sewing in her background.

Another favorite project was this one I did for my mother:

This project took many months and quite a bit of research. I was able to trace my grandmother's genealogy back to 1742 with a little work. I discovered that John Musselman was one of 17 children (kids tended to die young back then and there was no birth control - not to state the obvious). In the Civil War generation, there was one son who enlisted as a private for the Confederacy. Unfortunately, I was unable to ascertain what happened to him. My youngest son is named after my great-grandfather, which is so cool. I think there were also Josephs and James and Benjamins on my husband's side of the family, but I found out when I was doing this research that every single one of my kids has a family name from my mom's side.

It was  interesting working in different shades of the same color for several months and I can remember getting kind of sick of green, but in the end, it was beautiful and my mom hung it where everyone who comes into her house can see it. She still gets compliments on it.

I don't want to bore you too much, so I will just put one more up with its story.

This Celtic princess is one of four in a set. I do not have any idea why I chose to do Winter first, but it might have been because I love the colors of the other three so much that I wanted to get this more drab one out of the way. I have the other three patterns and fabric, thanks to my mom who gave them to me for Christmas several years ago, and I ordered the beads and thread to complete each season. I had begun on Spring and then set it aside to work on a couple of other projects, which are still sitting unfinished.

Quite awhile ago, I went to my doctor and told him I thought I needed occupational therapy on my hand because I had strained something while cross stitching. It took two visits for him to take me seriously, but he did end up sending me to a person who helps you figure out how to limit the pain and get your mobility back. I had several kinds of interesting sculpted hand braces that were custom made so that I could stitch with as little pain as possible. Back then, I was stitching up to 8 or 9 hours a day, maybe more. It made me feel useful and I was creating things that made lovely gifts or that would leave a legacy behind for my grandchildren (since I figure boys have no interest in this type of thing).

Cross stitch was not ever something I considered that I might have to give up because of my fibromyalgia. It just wasn't a possibility. I gave up working. I gave up being active. I gave up sleeping only 7-8 hours a night. I gave up being able to attend my kids' events on occasions when I was in a bad flare. I gave up a lot for fibromyalgia. But I never thought that sewing was going to be something I would even consider giving up. I thought I had mourned for the things I had lost. I was wrong.

The day before yesterday, I decided that I really needed to finish the projects I have sitting around so that I can order some more projects. I got Spring out and started working on her, since that was the one I had decided to do second and had made some inroads on it back a couple of years ago. I figured it was good to finish something I had already started. And then the pain came back.

I remember this pain.

It's in my hand.

It's in my arm.

It's in my neck.

It's in my shoulder.

It's made worse by sewing. I had forgotten or never admitted to the fact that when I cross stitch, it causes a fibro flare. Because if I admitted to that, I would be considering giving up something that I had looked forward to a lifetime of being able to do.

I set the piece down after an hour or two and realized that I was in more pain than I usually am. I put it out of my mind and refused to deal with it. I have enough going on that I can't even being to consider that I might have to give up a hobby that helps me get through rough times in my life, calms me down when I am manic, makes me feel productive even when I don't go anywhere, and produces things that other people think are beautiful.

I picked the piece back up again yesterday when Justin was watching the football game because I felt like I had been playing words with friends on Facebook way too much lately and I needed to turn my dazed mind to something else. Something in the real world.

And that's when it hit me. Sewing hurts. It really, really hurts. I'm still sore from the first day I tried it - three days ago. I have stabbing, shooting pains in my shoulder and neck. My hand is sore and I am having trouble bending my fingers. My arm feels like I strained something.

Sewing makes my pain worse. Cross stitch makes my pain worse. Something I love and that I've been doing longer than marriage hurts.

How is this even possible? In a year when I've lost so much, when so many things are falling down around me, when things have happened that I never thought were even remotely possible are here and making themselves known in terribly awful ways, I am going to have to consider giving up this hobby that I love so much.

Is it that big a deal in the grand scheme of things? No. But to me, this is something that I had never even considered and am still in a lot of denial about. I keep thinking well, if I limit the amount of time that I spend; if I take days off; if I hold the needle more loosely...

Was there ever anything you were forced to give up that you loved? Something that made you feel as if you were contributing but you could no longer do physically? How did you handle it?




  1. Chelle - That treble clef is really stunning. I had to give up a lot of crafts -- drawing, working in clay, painting silk -- because the "set up" and "clean-up" took all my energy.

    I'm able to crochet but not knit. For some reason, knitting brings on the pain but crocheting doesn't. I'm quite certain I couldn't cross stitch.

    But I am doing silk ribbon embroidery. It's not as detailed and so my fingers, hand, and arms don't have to be as "concentrated" if that makes sense.

    I hope you can find something to replace the cross-stitching -- some craft/art that isn't painful.

    Love to you, Toni

  2. Toni,

    That silk ribbon embroidery is beautiful. I had totally forgotten about it. Can you PM me on FB with a link to where ever you are getting your supplies? Do the instructions come with the kits?

    Thanks for the comment and the compliment. This is something I really LOVE to do and it never occurred to me that I wouldn't be able to do it. I've given up so many things to the fibro. This is something I can't even imagine giving up.

    I did an indian chief with head dress that is 2' X 3' framed and it took me five years to make. I gave it to my husband and he has it in his office. He is half native american, so it means a lot to both of us. I also did the Apache Wedding Blessing for an anniversary gift and it's framed and hanging in our foyer.

    I am so sad I didn't keep the treble clef. I see the kit in my cross stitch magazines from time and time and think about ordering it to make again. I really loved that one. The colors are so beautiful.


  3. I absolutely love cross-stitching. In the past I had short affairs with it but now it is one of the most important things in my life. I can't ever imagine giving it up. I can only stitch for about an hour but after reading this I will be appreciating that hour so much more.

    What I did have to give up though, was dancing. I used to be in a baton-twirling and dance troupe and always dreamed of being the coach of a group like that. I haven't been able to dance for years now and it is still the thing I miss the most. I have tried watching it (go YouTube) but if I'm in the wrong mood it can depress me more than enthrall me.

    I hope one day you will be able to stitch again, or perhaps find another hobby that won't cause you so much pain, but can still lead to creation.

  4. Thank you for your comment, Tamara. I would love to see some of your work sometime. I find sewing to be SO relaxing.

    I am creating through writing, which is WAY cool, but I still want to do the sewing and it's very painful to think that I might not be able to do it. (In a mental sense.) I go for long periods of time when I don't do it, but then when I pick it up, I remember how much I love it. When the pain hit the other day and I realized what was causing it, I had a mental anguish moment.

    Hopefully, I will be able to find a way to do it in some limited sense at least.


  5. Hi Chelle,

    I have Fibromyalgia too and one thing I've found is that it's consistently inconsistent. What causes pain today, may not next week, but will be replaced my something else. Have you experienced that?

    Your cross stitch work is gorgeous! I really hope you don't have to give it up. :(


  6. Hi Elle,

    Yes, the only thing we can count on with fibro is that it is completely inconsistent. I'm so sorry to hear that you have it too!

    I've given a few days healing time to my hand, arm, and shoulder and hope to be back doing it at least a little bit by the weekend.


  7. Some random thoughts...

    LOVE your cross stitch projects. You are amazingly talented.

    I use a Boppy as an arm rest, in the car and at home. When I attempt crocheting I use it to rest my arms on and as a work space. It seems to help with my neck-shoulder-arm-hand pain.

    I just had carpal tunnel surgery, which I avoided for years, and I have found it has really helped with my hand pain. Wondering if that is part of your pain profile.

    I have also found that a recliner is a must have, supplemented with a cervical neck pillow and lumbar support.

    I've also just accepted that I have to pace myself and some things I can only do for a little bit at a time.

    Thanks for sharing this post with us.

  8. I would NEVER have thought of the boppy idea! What a great idea. I need to get one of those immediately. We have a couch and two recliners. Maybe I need to rearrange the family room so that the recliners are the main focus of the room and I can take one. Right now I'm on the couch.

    I'm not sure about the carpal tunnel. The hand pain is in the middle of my palm. Do you think that could be carpal tunnel?

    Thank you so much for the compliment. I have a million pictures of work that I've done (well, not a million, but lots) but I was afraid I would bore people.

    It seems like I hit a nerve with this post, which is good. It's so good to know that I'm not the only one feeling sad that I might not be able to do something that I love so much to the extent I want to do it. I may try to severely limit my time and see if that helps. It's also getting to be close to the time when I can get my heating pad back out and that will probably help as well.

    Thanks so much for reading.



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