i spent a few years trying to be an artsy crafts girl. i ha/ve the imagination, but not the physical dexterity. i can come up with a unique presentation idea, but be sloppy in the details.
i started by scrapbooking–and i actually become rather good at it. as my daughter grew older and my job grew more intense, and as i slowly ran out of room for my very awesome supplies, i slowed down. no more all nighters with my friends at conventions. no more shopping for unique ideas or supplies. i still have all of the fantastic stuff. i keep telling myself that once i get a table, or a room or something that i can leave things out on/in, i’ll do it again. i actually know that’s true. the main reason i don’t scrapbook now is because getting out all the stuff is a pain, and well- not being able to leave an undone project is a pain. i’m not sure that people who have craft tables or even craft rooms have any idea how difficult it is to be a crafter without them.
one year, i decided to go with beads. beads were small, easily kept, and usually limited to a smaller area of space. i was really enjoying myself, making all kinds of necklaces and bracelets, but as i went inpatient to the psychiatric hospital more and more, the thrill of doing beads at home diminished a bit.
i saw my first mala online, and fell in love. a mala (a Sanskrit word meaning garland), put simply, is a set of beads, traditionally used to focus awareness during meditation.
they were tibetan prayer beads, something i had never seen before. i knew what a rosary looked like, though not specifically how to use it, and as i was experiencing a new sense of meditation, i thought it might help to have the tibetan beads as something to focus on.
i was drawn to the 108 bead models, but they were expensive. especially the ones i loved the most, with the prettiest beads and the proper tassels. i really, really wanted some, and so one afternoon i printed out a diagram of all of the beads and were different touchstones were, grabbed my box of beads, some wire, and began to make a mala.
i had a special stone i wanted to use as the head. most commonly, bead artists use a buddha, a tassle, or another meaningful symbol to mark the middle. but i had one bead (if you can call it that) in mind.
the counting seemed to be difficult. i kept losing track and starting over. i was building it on wire because my leather was not skinny enough to go through the tiny holes. the wire stung a few times, but the excitement of making my own mala kept me going.
i got the first one done, and as i was using it, i realised that i had missed a bead. the count was off. it had to be half-way redone.
quite a bit bummed, i carefully took off some of the beads and spent the next hour putting them back together, counting aloud. when i realised it was done, i was almost delirious with joy.
i proudly showed it off to my husband and daughter. i wore it around my neck; it just seemed to want to be there. i thought it was beautiful … but still in the back of my mind it didn’t feel “right.” i was worried i had somehow let all of tibet down.
to me, it didn’t look like other malas … it just didn’t.
i put it in a silky bag and carried it around with me. at meditation, i showed it to my little group, and there was lots of oohing and aahing, but still i was ashamed of it somehow. it felt large and over-stated and no matter what my meditation partners said, i found myself stuffing it back in the bag.
later that week, i took it to a therapy appointment (the old guy) and my therapist was suitably impressed. i was trying to tell him that i thought something was wrong. he just smiled at me and said, “whatever you do is going to be unique. its made by you. i like it.”
as i reached across the room to take the beads back from him, i grabbed too hard. the wire bent the wrong way, and beads, wire, creativity and intention went flying in all directions. i startled myself by bursting suddenly into tears. the old guy helped me gather them, and then looking in my eyes, gently suggested i put it together again.
with the difficulty i’d already had doing it twice, i didn’t like his idea very much. oh i don’t know, i muttered, it doesn’t even look like a real mala. i stuffed the wire and beads in my hoodie pocket, and decided i was done with my foolish endeavors. once again, the old guy encouraged me to put it back together again.
i left the session crying.
i ended up going to my local favorite beach and finding actual tibetan prayer beads already made. they looked like they should. i wrapped them around my wrist and felt somehow more genuine. my failure of bead and wires stayed crumpled at the top of my bead box.
one afternoon, for little reason and no fanfare, i pulled the bead box out, and put my mala back together again. when it was done, i was quite careful with it, but gently carried it back to therapy, and pulled it out at the last few moments.
i saw my therapists eyes fill with tears, and he quietly smiled and nodded. i realised a significant thing had just happened; that a significant thing was happening.
and i was the one who’d done it.