When we are young, our mothers teach us how to put ourselves together. In charge of how the world sees us, we’re taught that florals and plaids might not match. We learn the art of putting things together so they stay put: we fasten bows, learn to tie our shoes in neat intersecting loops, pull a button through its proper station, connect and lift zippers so they’re secure and neat. We’re taught how to match colors, maybe even given expectations of what’s appropriate to wear for different situations. We appear in public with our families or separately as a representation of our mother’s skills in raising us properly. We look eternally put together.
As the years go by, we’re given more instruction while we gain more experience. Our bows get messy when the boys push us on the playground. We’re told to stop crying, that he’s only torturing us because he likes us. We’re taught how to appear and navigate circles of other girls to make our way through the social hierarchy. Some of us are bullied, some unleash our influence on the girl beneath us; all of us are tested. Our grades are ranked, our social standing constantly shifts, the imposed need for male attention creates heartache. We ask questions, but not too many. We raise our hands but don’t get called on. Boys make mistakes and move up the ranks; girls make mistakes get labeled and cast aside. We learn how to hide our flaws or spend entirely too much time in the shadows. But from the outside? We look put together.
Into adulthood, things come undone; life’s journey takes bits of us here and there. We’re attacked, pushed, assaulted, placed in positions where our bodies are used against us. We’re shamed, tried in the court of public opinion. We lose love, gain weight, lose weight, fall in love, lose love, dress to impress. We’re abandoned, discovered, forgotten, mistreated, embraced, loved, and betrayed. We have too much, but not enough. We have nothing and search for something. Somewhere, deep inside, as our skin starts to show the passage of time, we fear abandonment. We’re told over and over that if we just try this cream or learn to contour or follow this diet plan that the dreams we’ve held for ourselves can begin. We delay satisfaction because we’re not even sure what that even means. We allow needles to invade our faces so the things that we’ve worked our entire lives to fasten will stay secure. On the outside, we appear put together. On the inside, we know something is missing.
Until, one day, we stop. We sit still and allow the pain to catch up. We sit quietly and wait for the wailing to start, for the anger to rise, for the venom to pour through; we fear this process but do it anyway. We search ourselves for where we are whole and where we are not. We find where we have come apart. We touch it, unsure of what will happen. We experience the pain, and then we instinctively start to repair what is broken. We grab our mental and emotional needle and thread, and carefully patch the damaged pieces. Here are the holes in my broken heart. This part of my soul has a gaping wound. My belly is covered in an extra layer of protection; I don’t want anyone touching me without my permission. Here are the aches of my breaking back; I have worked myself to nothing. Slowly but surely, we accept what is broken, then lovingly repair it all. We leave situations that cause us pain. We accept that love is sometimes not enough. But we persevere and mend ourselves. Without caring what it looks like to the outside world, we put ourselves together.
As we heal, we take charge where we previously abdicated. Slowly, we rise and demand what is rightfully ours. The wounds of the past grow a lovely pink scar, and we learn to love these places that we so carefully mended, landmarks of we loved ourselves enough to give ourselves what we needed. As we realize where we still need help, we find other women who have discovered this mending process. We mend together, forming a sewing circle. We heal together. We build each other up. We find other women who need mending and hold them close as they finally have permission to fall apart. We show them where the needle and thread lie within, and we hold space for them as they put themselves together. We sit in our circle, and everyone heals in their own time. Some leave, some come back; we welcome everyone to come, release, and put themselves together again.
Today is the day you start your mending, my darling. Sit quietly with the pain, realize where your pretty bow is untied or what buttons have been broken about yourself. Accept what is. Feel the disappointment, seethe with the rage. And very soon, we will show you where the needle and thread lies, and together we will mend those broken places. You will heal. You will grow stronger. You will love yourself so much more than you thought possible.
You will put yourself together.