Tuesday, July 02, 2013

25 a year

I had one of THOSE conversations with my mother a couple of Sundays ago.
It started badly "How are you?" I asked. "I'm fed up!" she said. Nee naw nee naw nee naw - flashing lights, beware beware, danger danger!
It would have been better if I had hung up on her right there and then, because there is only one way a conversation with my mother can go from there... downhill.  With me squashed underneath the steamroller.  Because that is how it works.
She was bored.  It was raining.  She couldn't get to church because the person who gives her a lift was away on holiday.  She was knitting acrylic jumpers in lurid colours for unfortunate children overseas.  She was listening to audio books.  What could she do now?  The usual - attack her daughter.
I will spare you the details.  But we got onto what I was doing that day - sewing a dress.  "Oh Ruth!"  She gave a huge disappointed sigh.  "But what do you do with all these things you make?"  Wear them.  "But where do you keep them all?"  In the wardrobe.  They are all that I have, remember?   "But you must make, what, 50 items a year?"  More like 25. "Twenty five?!  Nobody needs that many new things a year!"  I am quite sure that people who shop buy more than that number of items a year.  "Of course not!  Things must have changed!  People don't need that many things!  What do you do with them all?  Throw them away?"
An aside:  my mother has two double wardrobes and a chest of drawers in her own room plus a double wardrobe in the guest room - all are full of shop-bought clothes.  I have one wardrobe.  Full stop.  It is not full.
I can't quite recall how I ended this conversation.  Badly, probably.  FL was looking at me out of one eye, pretending to be asleep.  So I woke him up and ranted.  He wisely refrained from offering any pearls of wisdom on the subject, because he is a man who owns perhaps 4 pairs of trousers, 5 shirts and 2 thermal vests.  His sock collection is somewhat larger, but we all know why that is...
The roots of my rant were along the lines of "Well! How else am I going to spend my time, if it is not doing something I enjoy?  And my 25 items a year probably cost a lot less than what she spends on polyester slacks and Hotter shoes!  And and and..."
In my heart I know she was just pissed off that it was raining, and I know I am an eternal disappointment to her, no matter what I do.  But still it shakes me every time she questions my identity.
25 items a year.  Is that excessive?

36 comments:

christinelaennec said...

Poor you, Roobeedoo!

You do know that the heart of the matter has nothing whatsoever to do with the amount of clothes it is appropriate to make, buy or own. It is so hard when the very people one ought to count on to be supportive, turn on us. Maybe we all do it at times, but I try very hard not to, because I've been on the receiving end of a lot of it myself.

I think 25 acts of creation a year is a perfectly reasonable amount. Good for you to have stepped off the consumer merry-go-round.

clippedcurves said...

25? Not unreasonable at all. That's like 2 items a month and an extra one at Christmas.
Mum's eh? They're the only ones that can make us feel so rubbish as adults but when we were little we thought they were the only ones that could fix everything.

Maeve said...

Mothers & Daughters!!! I'm the daughter and my mother is the one who never lives up to my expectations!!!
I know I should hold back and I don't rant as much as I used to (that'd be old age & resignation about teaching old dogs new tricks)
but I worry about her health etc, does that excuse me?? She eats too much, has an intolerance to alcohol and is in denial
and doesn't exercise enough but she still has twice as much energy as me and had 7 kids (I've 2 boys).
So I'm learning to hold back (except about the alcohol as that could end very badly). Anyway I think what I'm trying to say is give her a chance,
let it go, water off a ducks back but do rant now and again, we all have to do it, your mum was
probably using you to let off steam.

Tanit-Isis said...

Oh, yikes. At least when I have that conversation with my mom she doesn't try to tear ME down. I still have to take deep breaths and consciously disengage because I can't handle her being upset very well (and everything in her life is always either wonderful or terrible)... And it still sucks.

You deserve your twenty-five things. You work hard for them, you think hard about them, and they make you happy. And you write about them, which makes US happy. Lots of happiness---which is the important part, I think. :)

mumasu said...

About 25 years ago my sister and I became friends. That was the day I realised she hadn't done or said anything and wasn't any more perfect than me. It was the day WE decided our mother would not be able to hurt me any more. She still constantly tells me how perfect my sister is and all the ways I am not but I have carefully constructed a box around my emotions which means I can hold it off and be polite to her. I still rant about the stuff she says though!!!

shivani said...

Oh dear - this all sounds very familiar - it's like half of the conversations I have with my mum. i used to get terribly worked up about it, but I'm better at dealing with it now. I basically don't engage with the conversation much after I hear the dreaded "I'm fed up" or "I suppose I'm fine" - at that point I suddenly remember something in the oven. I'd rather do that than be a sport, only to end up 15 minutes later feeling inferior and a failure. Mums eh?!

ps. 25 items handmade is hardly anything! Don't worry about it, and make some more!

LinB said...

Ahh, dearie, sometimes the "poison people" in our lives are unavoidable, because they are our near relatives! Be glad that you no longer live in her household, and that you are an adult and can control (to some extent) your exposure to her. Remember, also, that the best response to a person who likes to stir up trouble is a non-response. You can be civil, but you don't have to join in the fight. You can't control what your mother says or does, but you do have some control of your response to her.

Prawn said...

It is nothing to do with you and what you are doing! It just feels like an easier thing to say than coming up with any other conversation, and there are people (I have fears I may end up being one of them, if genes define this trait) who will almost always find it easier to disagree or offer an alternative perspective than to just agree and move the conversation forward..... and anyway, the making isn't just about the end result, it's about enjoying and getting satisfaction out of the creative process. Every time I look at something you've knitted I think it looks like a work of art - I can't believe you make those beautiful pieces just for functionality! Take a deep breath, have a cup of tea and forget about it!

verykerryberry said...

Making things is has pleasure, purpose and peace (most of the time) plus they have function. The total is entirely moderate compared to ready to wear consumption. Breathe easy. Its all fine

Ruth Wilson said...

I have been lurking and reading your blog for a while and love it.

I spend time being creative because it keeps me sane and happy. It's not always about the result, but about the process.

It sounds like your mother is jealous of the fulfilment you get from your creativity. Maybe she could do with an absorbing hobby - think about what you could suggest to her!

Jodie said...

OK - have to respond. I'm a regular reader (you're in my Feedly) and I love the quirky stuff you make and your process.
You know - it's okay to be hurt when someone you love (who love you) totally DOESN"T GET YOU. You deserve your 25 things and more. It's not too much and it wouldn't be too much if it were 50. You are a very understanding daughter. Try to move past it (sew something ;))but I tend to hang on to those kind of things too.
Raise a glass to 25 things!

Amanda said...

Please keep making at least 25 things a year, because the way you blog about them is such a joy.
Thanks for a wonderful blog!

Emma said...

Some of us will always be a disappointment to our Mothers, no matter what we do!
I decided, one day, that I wasn't going to give my mother the power to hurt me. It really was that simple! If the conversation veers in that direction I just carry on as if she hasn't said anything. Ignore the nastiness, basically. It works very well!
Please know that you are a wonderful woman. Intelligent, caring, beautiful and talented. Don't ever stop making things. You are so good at it and it gives you such joy.
Knit and sew on!
In sisterhood. Signed, a fellow 'disappointment'.

Tabatha Tweedie said...

25 things a year is not at all excessive! But anyway the number doesn't matter: this is your hobby, and it's a creative process that you enjoy and we all enjoy reading about! As others have said, you DESERVE your 25 things. Take what your mother says with a pinch of salt, and do what feels right to you x

Carol S said...

A friend shared a new phrase with me recently. "You spot it, you got it" I'd never heard the it before but had long recognized how easliy so many people do it.

Donna Hensley said...

Try to let that roll off your back. Easier said than done, but you'll get there. :)

Susan_in_Peckham said...

Oh, I feel for you ;) my family also know just how to wind me up too. Most of the time they aren't doing it intentionally, but they do it very effectively just the same. And yet I love them to bits and almost certainly do the same to them.
You've found something that makes you happy and simultaneously produces lovely useful results! Your mum may not understand and neither do the loads of people buying only shop-bought...oh well. Who cares? It makes you happy (and all of us followers) so that's what matters.

Saffi said...

25 things a year is not something to feel bad about. 25 things a year is amazing!

Saffi said...

25 things a year is not something to feel bad about. 25 things a year is amazing!

Rosesred said...

Wow, your mom was way out of line here. So she doesn't like that you make x number of clothes, or the way you do you housekeeping, or the color of your car. Why would she tell you that she doesn't like your choices unless you asked directly for her opinion? That is unkind and rude, she clearly places her opinion before yours, even on matters that are yours to decide. .

Her opinion is not the one that matters, yours is, and from your blog it seems that the actual numbers of clothes you own is unimportant to you. You do care that clothing is ethically sourced, so you make sure of that.

to answer your question: I deeply admire people who can craft 25 or more pieces of clothing in a year. it is amazing to make something beautiful out of fabric. (useful is also nice, but not a requirement ;) ) I wish I could make 50 dresses per year!

Annie @ knitsofacto said...

I am reeling from the discovery that my mother has a secret other family, because surely there can't be two mothers who fit your description so well!

And no, 25 is not excessive!

Judith said...

Mums! Guess we have all been licked by the wickedness of their tongues at some stage and totally understand your frustrations. Keep sewing and creating for 'you', and no one else. Maybe, just maybe you might be able to whip her up a lovely little 'something' so she can see exactly just how clever you are...

Ruth said...

Twenty-five things a year is not anywhere near enough. Keep going. Speed up. Sew more small things. Phone your mother less so you have more time to knit, sew and blog..... Only phone her after every five makes.... Hehehe.

jessica said...

Oh, Roo! These conversations are so difficult! Arg, mothers. Who knew it as possible to hold so many conflicting emotions in one relationship, all at the same time? And yet. And YET. Even if we don't want them to, they can still have so much power over us, know exactly which buttons to push and strings to tug. Totally understandable that she would shake you every time you question your identity, even if on a rational leve, you might not think that she should (emotions! Wiggly things, those.) Personally, I don't think 25 items/year is excessive at all!

I've been watching how other people non-engage with difficult people (who tend to like to glom onto me, since I'm too polite to NOT engage them ... and it always ends horribly), and lots of what people have said is great advice. But as somebody who tends to block off negative emotions and reactions, as my way of dealing with them, I'm finding its perfectly fine to say: OUCH, that definitely hurt --- and that's OK. BUT, remember Self, you are perfectly lovely and worthy of good things in life - including the gift to yourself of hobbies you enjoy and a wardrobe you love. For me, letting in the emotions is the fastest way for them to pass, rather than trying to brush them off. That's my age-29 revelation ;-).

Clearly, opinion here weighs in 24 for Roo, 0 for Mom. I think that says something! ;-).

Roobeedoo said...

You are all qualified psychotherapists, right?!
Thank you SO MUCH for the vote of confidence.
:)

Myrna said...

After years of "you know what the problem with you is" conversations similar to what you're describing, I put down the phone and stopped communicating. That was almost twenty years ago and a FABULOUS decision.

MaryinTN said...

Wow, sounds like conversations between my Mom and her mother, who at age 100, feels she can comment on anything my Mom does. Good for you for not going overboard in response and for recognizing her need to vent. I kind of feel sorry for the recipients of the lurid acrylic sweaters, and I am most definitely envious of the 25 new items in your wonderful wardrobe.
Funny that you would make a comment about this subject---last night while visiting with my Mom, she made a critical comment to me, with my response being "You sound like your mother!" Thankfully she immediately responded that she was sorry and hoped she did not sound like her mother. We both were then able to laugh at the comparison. I sure hope that my stepdaughter and grandkids will not one day say to me "Gee, you sound like your mother!" Ahh, the passage of time.

Valerie said...

Dear Roo, Your wardrobe, sewn or otherwise, is nowhere near excessive. You know this and your mother probably does too. While we are not psychotherapists some of us have had counseling on how to deal with our mothers. Basically it's saying "When you say _____ it makes me fell like ____." Well that's what I had to do anyway. Tell the parent how I felt and then allow myself some emotional distance.

Elizabeth's quarters said...

25 items a year isn't excessive. Besides, handmade items are less likely to be impulse purchases, that end up on ebay, or stuffed in the back of a wardrobe to gather dust. When you make things yourself, you can also be sure that it's ethically made and not the result of sweatshop labour. So keep it up and be proud of your makes.

Linda C said...

Roo, are you like me in that I can't believe that someone actually realized what they said when something really critical or mean. You probably don't go around trying to hurt others - and it can be a shock when it is obvious someone has tried hard to hurt you. I have a family member like that and I have learned that
the best I can do is to just keep talking and act like I didn't even get the point of the dig. I just go on - or completely change the subject. At times when she has really gone too far, I just will not answer the phone when she call. She keeps calling and leaving worse and worse messages. Finally, when I get really ready, I call and leave a quick message saying I am very busy and will call when I can. I guess I am afraid that, if I called back or responded, I might completely destroy any relationship for ever. I have plenty of other interests and friends---but she cuts herself off by being mean.

Good luck and best wishes. We all love you. My mother would have loved all the knitting - it was my neighborhood involvement she was not thrilled about, "leaving those children alone" (with a babysitter, not really alone)

By the way I love Hotter shoes, , really. Don't hold it against me, ha.

LindaC

ElleC said...

I don't have anything to add to what all the incredible intelligent women before me have already said. I did however want to add my voice to the chorus of support. Consider this a hug.

Joy said...

25 seems minimalist, to me. And ethical (if you want to go that route!) since we're not talking 25 cents an hour in unsafe working conditions.

I'm pretty sure the sewing and knitting movement is making the world a better place....more thoughtful and creative.

m. said...

I am a regular reader, but hardly comment :) but on this one, I have to add my share. I also have a difficult mother...one that doesn't get me at all. In fact, I own less than you Roo...I think I must have less than 10, but that is not important.

What is important, is that you realize that she was bored and having this kind of conversation is her way to show you she loves you. Oh, I know that it is not what you see or feel, but to her, she will tell you, 'of course I love Ruth!' and go from there to explain the how she does. :)

Your 25 items are just perfect for you Roo. No need to try to explain yourself to anyone. Just go about continuing to be creative and sharing your creativity with us here in blogland :) In fact, it was your space that encourage me to return to sewing and open my own little space in blog land.

Thank you Roo! :) m.

tim's wife said...

It's a VERY common habit people have: that they try to "fix" everyone else's lives as a way to avoid dealing with, or thinking about, their own life/problems, etc. Sounds like a sure case of that to me. She had to "find" something about you to distract herself from her own unhappiness. Sad, unpleasant, yes but I'll bet you are not the disappointment to her that you think you are. The main reason my parents get along with us and have friends, etc. is their ability NOT to say anything. They are masters at minding their own business and not saying things. My out-laws? Just the opposite. We don't hang around them anymore. Most of their friends don't hang around them anymore either. Sometimes even better than knowing the right thing to say, is knowing when not to say anything.

the craftytraveller said...

Does 25 items seem excessive to you? If you don't feel that it is and you're not spending her money/using her time or any other resources does it really matter if your Mum thinks it's too much? I'd suggest not. Equally, it doesn't matter if we think it's excessive or minimal.
The other issue is how she makes you feel. I have someone in my life who used to treat me like this. That was until I stopped letting her. Have you told your Mum how she makes you feel? If so, move on and don't rise to it. If not, consider telling her - she may not realise what she's doing. Sorry,you didn't ask for advice on that point so please absorb/ignore as you see fit.

Janine said...

Sorry i am commenting so late. Do not allow your mother to make you feel guilty. Goodness knows you deserve to sew how much you want. Sewing is my stress buster as well. My good friend who is battling an aggressive lymphoma has also commented how much knitting has helped her. Btw 25 garments is nothing. Good wishes to you and fl.