Well, I haven’t written in a while, but today inspired me. Technically, yesterday inspired me if we are going to be specific, but I didn’t realize it until today. Hindsight is funny that way.
One year ago yesterday, my body left my host community in Cambodia. I could never say that I left, because even to this day I am sure part of me still lives there. Not because of some weird horcrux thing, but because that is what I do when somewhere becomes special to me. That place intertwines itself within the very fibers of my being and so when I leave it, there are bound to be threads left behind.
This feeling is woven deep into my very core, so much so that my own body started something yesterday that it took my mind time to catch up on. About a month and a half ago I ordered a cross-stitch pattern from Amazon. I was considering a new project for the summer and this was exactly what I was looking for. It ended up coming from a different seller than Amazon, therefore prime was not an option. So I waited. Waited. Waited. And waited some more for this piece of fabric and threads that would once again remind me of waking up to the sweeping of steps and rooster crows, drinking iced coffee that is impossible to replicate, smelling hot rice being scooped from a rice cooker, sensations of sweat soaking my skin, and gazing around at a community of people that walked with me. This cross-stitch was about more than a mere craft that reminded me of my time in Cambodia, it was a chance to stitch my memories and experiences from there back into the very essence of who I have become in these past 365 days. But I didn’t know that yet.
I didn’t know that when the package arrived on Thursday and I felt as if someone took a seam ripper to the veins of my heart as I opened the package to find it soaking wet. In case you’ve never done a cross-stitch like this one, it is printed with water soluble ink so that you get rid of the guiding pattern once you have stitched it. Receiving the pattern wet meant it was impossible to do. It was useless.
Each part of my body was telling me that something was wrong. My mind scolded, “wait for the refund before buying again (from prime this time)” but my soul cried out, “No, you need it by Saturday.” Truly, I knew this would be something I could do with my hands during long nights on-call at the hospital, but I knew I could wait another week for it. Still, somewhere deep inside poked me like a small pin, telling me that next week wasn’t good enough. So, I ordered again, this time from prime.
As I went about my own business Saturday, I checked my tracking a few times, a small flutter in my chest each time it showed that the package had not yet arrived. Late afternoon I checked for a final time and raced to the mailroom to find what my screen said would be waiting for me. It was a level of exhilaration that I’m not sure I can explain except to say that, my body knew what day it was and my mind was on the seams of realizing that too. I started to stitch, and found joy in each small X that I made on the tapestry. Joy unspeakable, if only because my words had not caught up to my emotions yet.
Today, I looked at the date and sat in silence for a while as my fingers continued the already familiar strokes of the needle. My tears grieved the things I have lost in this past year that I didn’t think I would. My mouth smiled at the people that I have been able to keep in contact with, even through only a few shared messages. My nose yearned for the familiarity of rice. My ears rang with words and songs and memories all jumbled together in a symphony only my mind could conduct. And my fingers just kept stitching. Crissing and crossing until my wrists screamed for a break. It was renewing. It was healing. It still is. It will continue to be.
Now as I write this, it seems that much like strands of myself are still floating around somewhere in Phnom Penh, threads of my time in Cambodia will always be stitched into my soul. It seems that in the future, I must readily let my body take control when I am within a sacred moment. Rationality doesn’t always make sense when there are ripped seams and broken strings. But my body, my heart, my soul, knew. For today, I am grateful to know that my very core will always make sure I never forget where I have been. For the future, I hope my mind is brought along for the ride. For now, I’ll keep stitching and remembering the reasons I am writing this at all. Each deliberate X forming a picture that constantly changes. The fabric on my lap, the tapestry of my life, it doesn’t quite matter which, they both remind me of where I have been, and hint at where I am heading.