Yesterday was my birthday.
The plan was to take a day off and do something fun. I’m in my happy place in San Francisco right now, and since I made the trip all the way from England, you’d think that doing a little touristing would be a no-brainer, right? But no.
I’ve been emotionally barricaded into my Airbnb for almost two weeks now, beavering away on my laptop because Work Is Important. On Birthday Eve, I went into hand-wringing mode. Can I really justify taking a day off?
I didn’t want to do it. I wanted to be Responsible. I wanted to Be There for the people who need me – my team, my Members, my accountant. Multiple things are pressing for my attention right now. It just wasn’t practical to flounce off and have fun.
But I did it anyway.
For the first hour or so on Thursday morning, I felt like I was bunking off school. I hunkered down in the window of the Hummingbird Cafe as if hoping that none of the teachers would walk by and find me. My breakfast took a year and a day to show up. (Don’t these people know I’ve got places to be?) I got it on the house – with free donuts – because it was my birthday. My inner five-year-old woke up, and I beamed like Daddy had just bought me a double scoop chocolate sundae. My heart lifted a little.
I had half a plan to just sit in a coffee shop and read a book all day (so that I could go home and work if the weight of unfettered indulgence got to be too much), but I threw caution to the wind. By mid-afternoon I was STILL at the Lacis lace and textiles museum in Berkeley (my favourite place to spend far too much money), asking the poor assistant to measure and cut me another mile of delicious vintage lace. I was bouncing back and forth to the book section, remembering projects that have been on the shelf for months or years, looking for yardages in Patterns of Fashion and getting that trim I need at last. I felt like a kid in a candy store.
Do you see where this is going? I know you do.
Finally, as darkness fell I took a table by the window at the Trident restaurant in Sausalito, which sits on stilts in the water and looks across to the lights of San Francisco. As a teen I dreamt of sailing on that water; it gives me goosebumps to actually be there, looking at it, thirty years later. The sight of the waves soothed me after my phone died, leaving me alone in the darkness with my little birthday cake and myself. My real self. Not the business owner, not the responsible colleague, not the perfectly organised professional, but myself. I was alone at the table, but it felt like I was with a long lost friend.
This is why you can justify sewing: because you’re a human, not a machine. Because even a machine needs to switch off, and get a little oiling (or Irish coffee and chocolate, in my case.) No matter who needs you – family, workmates, dependent friends – they need you to be at your best, and not a zombie who’s going through the motions, day after day, as your mental health slowly crumbles.
Here’s the tricky part: when you get to that zombie stage, you won’t realise it. You’ll have been spinning your wheels or carrying on valiantly for so long that you will have become totally consumed by the Things That Must Be Done. You will have been lulled into a false sense of importance – the tempting illusion that these are the things that make you important. They’re not. They’re just the background tasks that keep the practicalities of life taken care of. But life is more than a to-do list of practical tasks.
If sewing is your escape, then escape. Be brave. Break free. For ten minutes, an hour, a day. Trust that the monkey mind is wrong. You need this. And the more you think you can’t do it, the more you need it.
Why did it have to be my birthday for me to take time out for myself? Nineteenth century domestic servants got more time off than that!
Do as I say, not as I do. Live a little. Be creative. Be a child. Be an explorer, an artist, a lover, a creative human. We need that side of you more.