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My First Work of 2016: Mending

For a long time, I thought that I should be more serious when I write these blogs—that they should be work-specific, devoid of my personal musings and life. But I’ve come to realize, over time, that I just can’t do that. Why? Because for me, so much of my work and life ebb and flow together and much of the learning I’ve experienced seems to arise out of the moments between that ebb and flow. So, I’m starting my 2016 blogging with the first work I did this year: mending something very personal.

It’s odd to think about mending in a throw-away world and culture. In college, a dorm-mate from a very rich family was upset one evening because what she had to wear needed a button and some mending, and she didn’t know how to do it. I just took the jacket and fixed it. By no means was it beautifully tailored work, but I wonder, why is that so many of us don’t know how to mend? And what does that say about us as a community?

Back to the present moment: I didn’t plan to spend so much time on mending today, but after avoiding it for so long, I just had to do it. I was fixing a rip across the width of a queen size blanket my mom gave me before I left for college. (Or, at least I think she did. I may have just taken it.) It is (to me) a beautiful hand-woven cotton reversible cover from India. I have had this blanket on every bed in every home I’ve lived in since I was 17; it has traveled with me from Aurora, IL to Boston, Ecuador, Michigan, Chicago, and Cleveland. It has covered me, visiting friends & family, lovers, and my children over the last 25 years.

When I was finished, I was thrilled to have it “whole” again. This is the first thing I did this year: I mended this blanket and made my bed. And considering the rip was about 42 inches long, it took a lot of time: laying the blanket flat on the bed, matching the pattern, then bringing together as many of the frayed pieces together I could before stitching them together. And over the time I was pulling the needle in and out, over and under, the last year past just over, the new year just 9 hours old, I begin to understand why we don’t mend any more: it’s hard.

The thing about mending something hand-woven is that you can never mend it perfectly. There are holes and threads missing that don’t go across any more. Even when you use the most closely matched thread, you have to mend the blanket in multiple directions to make sure you don’t make the rip worse. And, you can never really replace the threads that are gone.

We have to mend things because, often, we’ve neglected them too long, and we need to tend to them, less the repair becomes too difficult to fix. Our communities are just a collection of threads, woven together. It’s a place we create, together. If we think about our individual lives, our work places, the communities we live in, there is something to which we can contribute and help mend. Here in Cleveland, with the Tamir Rice verdict, people (including me) are struggling with what happened, what to say, what to do. Is this how our community delivers justice? What do I do to help find my place and fix how we identify with being Muslim? How do we contribute to the dialogue about race and ethnicity and religion? How do we mend the built environment so that the holes in our communities—vacant lots, lack of jobs, and unequal education—are repaired? We need both new things, such as ideas, systems, and visions, and we also need to mend.

And that takes time, and patience, and commitment.

Are we up for it?

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