Mandalas for Marinke

A guest post by The Animator's Wife.

Last week was the first time my chosen craft has ever brought me sadness. We spent the week in Wisconsin visiting my mom and sisters, and since I never travel without a crochet project in tow, I chose Kathryn Vercillo's #MandalasforMarinke to keep myself occupied. I had just heard about it a few days before our trip, and as Kathryn has been ever supportive in my crochet endeavors, I wished to return the favor.

Madalas for Marinke

Kathryn, author of the book Crochet Saved My Life, once struggled deeply with depression and thoughts of suicide until she discovered the therapeutic benefits of crocheting, and today she is a successful writer and the internet's most ardent advocate of crocheting. In her book she discusses the myriad of ways crochet can help with mental and physical illnesses. One of the first people she interviewed for the book was Marinke Slump, better known in the crochet world as Wink from A Creative Being. Even though Wink had found healing through crochet, in June of this year she succumbed to her depression and took her own life. To honor her and to raise awareness of depression, Kathryn has organized the #MandalasforMarinke project, which will become an informative art exhibit featuring mandalas crocheted from Wink's patterns (read more about the project here).

I went into this project thinking that I would just crochet a few mandalas to fulfill my duty as a friend and be done with it. But as Kathryn is quick to point out, crochet can be quite meditative, especially when working on a repetitive project such as a mandala, and as I was working on Wink's mandalas, I had a growing feeling of sadness. And disappointment. And frustration. The woman who designed the mandalas I was crocheting was once someone who lived, smiled, and dreamed--things she would never do again, and I couldn't help feeling that we failed her. We, as a society, failed her. We should've been there for her sooner.

Now I know that Marinke had a sister and other family who cared deeply for her, and I'm not trying to say that they failed her. I'm sure they did everything they could to make sure she knew she was loved. But there's something about the way we live life these days... We wake up, go to work, come home, relax for an hour or two in front of the TV, and go to bed. Our lives have simultaneously become busier and more introverted, and while the majority of us are caring people, we seldom think we have time to care about anything more than what's next on the agenda.

How many of us take the time to get to know our neighbors anymore? Or the barista who serves our coffee every single morning? Or the other moms at the park? Many of us, in an effort to just get through our day, live our lives as though we don't have time for any more friends, and we neglect to see others in their struggles: the veteran tormented by PTSD; the Latina woman who left her children in another country to provide a better life for them; the black father just trying to make ends meet; the gay man estranged from his family. When we're not paying attention, we call them crazy. We call them illegal. We call them criminals. We call them sinners. But when we get to know them, we realize they are not so different from us. Once they, too, were young dreamers who laughed, loved, and had a whole life ahead of them. The only difference is for them, often through no fault of their own, life didn't turn out the way they expected.

The reason I say that we as a society fail these people every day is because those who struggle with thoughts of suicide (or mass homocide) have one thing in common: the feeling of isolation. Can you imagine going your whole life without feeling like you have someone to confide in, or to tell you everything's going to be okay? Could you go even a year without anyone to share your heartaches and celebrations with you? Could you go a month?

As humans, we have a responsibility to fellow humans to look out for one another. Perhaps your grumpy neighbor is jaded because he feels no one cares about him anymore. What difference could you make in his life by simply smiling and waving every morning? To him, it could be all the difference in the world. Whether we realize it or not, our actions can have a huge impact on those around us. We must be kind to others and care for them as though their well-being is our responsibility. You never know when one mean action may push someone over the edge. And you never know when one kind word may bring someone back from the brink (case in point: Antoinette Tuff, as school receptionist who prevented a mass shooting by letting the gunman know she cared).

If you already have someone in your life who is suffering from depression, my advice to you is this: Don't give up. And listen with a nonjudgmental ear. You don't know what you would do if you were in their situation.

If you would like to participate in the #MandalasforMarinke project, you may find all the details at Crochet Concupiscence. Submissions must be postmarked no later than August 31, 2015.