Becoming a serious craftsperson is likely beyond me. Most of my creations have a few blemishes in their stitching. My hems have a tendency to come unraveled at inopportune times. The face masks I made at the height of the pandemic were not uniform in either size or shape. Still, I’ve gotten a good bit of satisfaction from sewing and quilting during the enforced semi-isolation brought on by covid and lingering a bit as we try to determine how best to live pandemic-susceptible lives. As our human numbers increase, as travel resumes, as more people live near preserves of “wild” land, our chances of having another pandemic are increasing. News outlets caution about “tridemics” this winter. Seasonal flu, covid, and a related respiratory virus know as RSV have begun to increase as colder weather sets in. Bummer!
Soon after covid lockdowns began easing in late 2020, I joined a small coterie of beginning quilters at a local shop near where I then lived in North Carolina. We masked and distanced and did our best to maintain good ventilation in our airy classroom. Before our first lesson, I went to the shop and bought some basic quilting supplies recommended in our course outline. First off, a “rotary cutter” (a very sharp, circular razor blade mounted in a retractable sleeve). I also got some clearly marked rulers in several sizes, plus an 18×24 inch “self-healing mat” on which I would use the cutter to fashion well-ruled squares, rectangles, and triangles of the fabrics I selected.
The mat has served me well through several small quilts and hundreds of fabric face masks. As I started my most recent project, though, I noticed that the rotary cutter didn’t seem to be as efficient as I’d remembered. Carefully, I swapped out the existing blade for a new one. When my fabric cuts still weren’t coming through as cleanly as I wanted, I took a closer look at the mat. In several places, there were telltale threads sticking out of noticeable cuts in the mat. Other places, less severe, still had visible small gashes. My self-healing mat had reached a partial breakdown in its ability to self-heal.
Now in my mid-70’s, I’ve noticed similar signs in myself. My digestive system no longer tolerates spicy, greasy, or sauce-rich foods as well as it once did. My circulatory system complains more quickly and more frequently on steep uphill slopes. My respiratory system is more sensitive to dust and smoke.
Eventually, both the mat and I will need to be replaced. However, there are a few tips that may help both the mat and me. First, go easiest on the places that are most damaged, or avoid them entirely. For me, cutting way back on milk and cheese would never have been a first choice, but it seems to be appropriate for my aging digestive system. Second, revel in the capacities that still exist. There are places on my mat that have been little used so far that still yield excellent results. My limbs will still take me places unassisted. Hurrah! Third, accept that everything, mat and myself included, will eventually wear out. Obsessing about when or how that might happen does little to help me live productively day to day.
For now, I can still function at a reasonable level most of the time. I need to be a little more careful. I need to take life somewhat more slowly. If I am injured or sick, I need to allow a bit longer to heal. I’m glad my mat has reminded me.