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July 15, 2012

It’s Too Easy to Judge Yourself Harshly

by Prue Miller

The Singer in situ

It is the most desirable skill of all – to be computer savvy. To be able to interpret and decipher technology’s demands, and then adapt to them again and again, is an admirable trait.  For those of us between 45 and death, it is a never-ending game of catch-up, and the cause of patronizing looks each time you call the IT help desk reports Prue Miller.

After another week (and yet another system to learn) I spent this past weekend working with my hands, something I prefer to do most weekends and absolutely have to do after weeks of tapping tiny buttons and toying with micros.

I decided to strip an old, treddle style, Singer sewing machine stand. Once, not that many years ago it was a popular, if not trendy thing to do. However now, this 1800’s wrought iron stand fails even that most superficial test, and people have tossed them out believing they are no longer worthy of the work.

A trend follower myself, I did a double take when the sewing machine came into my garage, after emptying my Dad’s place.

To keep? To toss?

In a rare decision arrived at by heart rather than head I kept it and this was the weekend to bring its rusty form back to a state some might see as glamorous.

As I set about the work, I marveled, not for the first time, at the pretty design of the iron work, created to keep full skirts and tiny hands out of the whirring wheel that spun furiously during long seam runs. And then I realized how much I remembered about this antique. I learned to sew on a treddle machine, and as I sanded around its many bends I recalled exactly how to thread its bobbin, apply the hand brake, what speed was required for each type of stitch – and laughed out loud as I remembered the convoluted technique required to fold it away after use, with trapping your fingers under the terrifying weight of it’s black enameled torso.  A lesson hard learned let me assure you.

 I know all that.

Yet my knowledge is seen as worthless. Who cares if you know how to treddle, when all the world values computer processors.

The more I sanded and then painted the sewing machine the more I considered how I had begun to view my own value. How I had decided, I don’t know when, to consider all my earlier experiences as null and void. That only the skills I learned this week are worthwhile. For some reason I had forgotten to allow myself the right to admire the sum of what I know, and to perhaps allow myself the opportunity to see the beauty in what has been.

The sewing machine stand has turned out beautifully, and topped with a piece of marble will sit well among the stainless steel and polyurethane of my new kitchen. I have decided to acknowledge more than skills learned just this week, and I feel a better person for it.

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