Blinking back hot tears, I put my foot on the accelerator and pulled into afternoon traffic. The curt attitude of a Joann’s cashier reverberated through my spirit. I felt stupid for having been confused and belittled for trying to sort the confusion out.
It was a simple thing. Stupid really. A misundertanding on my part, but when I returned to the store trying to find the discrepancy, the cashier ran out of patience with me, annoyed that I would dare challenge the computer’s final answer.
My hands were shaking as I showed her my calculator screen trying to explain what I didn’t understand. Do you know how hard it is to explain a problem when you don’t understand what the problem is? Why did my calculator give me a different answer than her computer and the receipt?
I had been sitting in the car, fighting a headache and stress-induced nausea while frantically recalculating my purchases three times. I knew something was off, but I couldn’t find it, and they hadn’t believed me when I pointed it out during the transaction.
All I wanted was to know where I was going wrong.
After fighting back tears and going round and round for fifteen minutes, simply asking her to add it up on a calculator so I could see what she was doing (Oh, but did you know it’s “not as simple as that”? Since when is adding something up on a calculator a difficult feat?), I finally caught sight of a figure on the computer screen and asked, “Is that the fabric amount? That’s not what my cutting receipt says.” Of course I didn’t have the cutting receipt anymore as that is confiscated when you check out.
“Oh, the cutting slip doesn’t have the total on it.”
Problem solved. The figure I had seen on the cutting slip was not the total, but the original price of the last piece of fabric. I had glanced down at the yellow slip of paper, seen that last number, assumed it was the total and based all of my addition on that number. Now it made sense, which was all I wanted; for it to make sense.
She turned away and rang everything up again, ordered me to swipe my card, then yanked the receipt out of the machine and handed it to me. I apologized for the tenth time, knowing that her curt “It’s OK, Ma’am” was probably the biggest lie she would tell that day.
I now held two receipts in my hand and glanced down at the totals on them.
“And now it’s even more than the total was the first time!” I was ready to fall over at that point and wouldn’t have minded screaming right then and there in the middle of a crowded store.
“I’m sorry, Ma’am. That’s what the computer says.”
“I hate shopping here.” I sighed as I stuffed my wallet into my purse.
Much as I wanted to scream for all to hear, “I hate this store!” I bit my tongue, shook my head, and responded with “nothing.”
I snatched my bags, apologized yet again and hurried out of the store. I would pay the extra dollar fifty just to get away from her coldness.
Now I was driving home in a blur of tears thinking how ironic it is that every time I go to this store that claims to “inspire creativity,” I leave with a frantic feeling that I need to do anything but sew. I now wanted nothing to do with the fabric I’d just procured to make a costume for my son.
I braked for a red light as a realization washed over me. I don’t love sewing as much as I thought.
If I truly loved it, shouldn’t that be the one thing I wanted to do to unwind after a stressful day? Shouldn’t that be what I want to do when I’m bored? Shouldn’t that be what I turn to when I’m sad? Shouldn’t that be the activity I can’t wait to drown myself in when I have a free day?
But I don’t.
Admitting that to myself was something of a slight shock, enough to dry up my tears as I pondered the idea the rest of the drive home. Why do I sew?
Sewing is something that should bring joy to my life.
I want to love sewing without the need for it to define who I am.
I want to love fabric without feeling pressure to make something out of every new print I find.
I want to luxuriate in the colors and textures of beautiful bolts of fabric knowing that that is pleasure enough.
And when it does bring me happiness, I want to sew for the pure pleasure of the project, like making a summer dress out of this stunning pink cotton lawn for my bitty girl.
Along with quite a few other things I’m reevaluating in my life, I am reevaluating where fabric and sewing machines fit in. I will always sew, but maybe I will not always sew as regularly or as devotedly. Or with as much guilt and pressure. And maybe one day I won’t even have a vast fabric stash or designated sewing room. Can I love sewing without letting it control me?
(Epilogue: this incident happened six months ago. I wrote about it, then saved it as a draft, debating whether to post it to the world. I rediscovered it today and hit “publish” because my goal with this blog is to be real. To be me. To keep a record of the joyful and frustrating parts of my life.)