In Tuition

“When you reach the end of what you should know, you will be at the beginning of what you should sense.” Kahlil Gibrán

Greetings Dear Ones!

Prudence Thimbleton is cranky. For one thing, the recent heat wave (all two days of it) is hard on her—she hates the sensation of sweat gluing her toes together inside of the thickly-seamed dark brown pantyhose that she wears everywhere, even in shorts. (Gasp! Prudence Thimbleton would NEVER wear shorts!)  Having spent the past ten months grumbling about the cold, we must make good use of this precious and fleeting opportunity to crab about the heat. “It’s not the heat; it’s the humidity,” say the locals, looking like drippy candles after a short walk from the parking area. “The air is so thick and you have to chew it thoroughly before you can swallow it,” observes my visiting Scottish nephew.  I am doing that old New England trick of opening all the windows in the house at night and running box fans in the windows until dawn. Then I seal up the house and pull dark curtains closed against the solar heat and the house has to hold its cool breath until I get home at 5:30 before it can exhale again.

In times like this, nothing makes Prudence’s deodorant expire faster than answering the phone to hear a caller say “Yeah.... Um…” in place of a salutation, before launching into the business at hand: “Yeah…um…I’… a bridesmaid in a um…wedding. Um…How long will it take you to fix a dress for me and um…how much do you charge?”  

“Who ARE you? (With whom do I have the pleasure of speaking?) When is the wedding? (Cause if it’s this weekend, I’m afraid you don’t have a paddle for that creek full of excrement you are up) What is the dress like? How many layers? What, exactly, would you like us to do to it? (Is it a tad big? A teeny tinch small? Or does it have enough slack in it to smuggle wombats? And while you’re at it, how long is a piece of string?)

 Poor Prudence is instantly hijacked by one of her “Um” tallies and by the time the customer has hung up (twenty-seven ums later) I cannot remember a word the girl said.  It doesn’t matter. Nothing can be known until we actually see the dress anyway.  Hopefully I told her to just come in as soon as possible for an estimate. I sit back down at my table and listen to Prudence rant about how “People Today” know how to do everything on a cell phone from private banking to global navigation but they have completely forgotten how to use it for its original purpose—which was to communicate politely, profficiently and Properly!

It takes her a while to stop steaming. To tell you the truth, she’s been pretty frazzled since the men moved in with her. Men, you ask? Yes. Men.  I found out we can call on our Spirit Guides for help with problems and these two showed up instantly, took a shine to Prudence and haven’t left yet. Now she can’t leave her dark brown panty-hose to drip dry on the radiator anymore and she is always fretting that one of them might pinch her bottom. They haven’t yet. But they might.

 I like them. They are great fun and jolly useful since they know a lot about the work I am trying to do. They are my blood ancestors: Cesare Zambarano, my great grandfather, a tailor born in Italy who moved to America as a teenage apprentice at the turn of the last century, and a chap called Michael Barton, also a tailor, who was born in Co. Tipperary 1778 and died in Rochdale, Massachusetts in 1872, according to Cousin Mary, our family historian. I’ve sensed their presence for some time now but just not had names for them.  They are the ones who provide the answers to problems I could never solve without In-tuition—the teaching that comes from Within. They have all sorts of useful ideas and guide me with impulses and insights that work beautifully when I am open to receiving them. No doubt there are a number of wisely Silent women helping me too—but they are not as flamboyant as these two characters. I’ve learned that they help when I ask, only when I ask—and sometimes the asking is actually begging.  This is the thing with Spirit Guides.  They don’t seem to help if they are not invited.  They just sit around laughing, swallowing pints of Guinness and Chianti and pestering Prudence.  Like the tailors featured in most fairytales, they are incredibly resourceful, imaginative, and unbelievably cheeky.  But they work fast.  Their insights come at blinding speed—though never exactly in the moment I want them to.

“You cannot solve the problem you just got yourself into while you are still looking at the problem,” they seem to say. “Play us a tune on your fiddle! Take a nap! We’ll sort you out…”

“But I can’t take a nap or play the fiddle!! I’m at WORK!  I need to get this done! There is a lady here with two giant gaps on the sides of her backless dress who expects those gaps to go away by tomorrow.  The dress has got rhinestones that have to be moved, all sorts of ruching over the top layer and the lining is that cheap knit shit that runs faster than Usain Bolt when you poke it the wrong way with a needle. My sewing machine just pooped out a lump of black bobbin grease on a white pair of pants and what about that guy whose head is half-way down the hill on the other side of his shoulders—we need to get his suit collar to lie down on his neck instead of resembling an open grain scoop sticking out of his back. What about that?”

I look down at the table below me.  I have pulled too hard on the fabric rushing under the needle—it’s stretch fabric—and now the crotch I have been repairing has an undesirable “wave” to it.  One of the tailors in my head begins to sing “Wavy…wavy…crotch it” to the tune of “Davy, Davy Crocket, King of the Wild Frontier.” This is NOT helpful! Though I cannot help giggling. Then I feel familiar panic and decide that the best thing I can do right now is shave my head, grow a beard (my chin is trying to anyway…) and move to Bora Bora and never tell anyone ever again that I know how to thread a needle.

“Please, guys!” I wimper. “You’ve GOT to help me.  What about ‘ask and thou shall receive,’ eh? I’m ASKING!!!!”

“Ah,” says one cheeky devil, crossing his legs and lighting a pipe, “but you are not ready to Receive. The energy difference between a Problem and a Solution is huge.  We’re old men with nothing to do.  Time doesn’t exist for us. We’ll wait.”

I’m flabbergasted.  I want to scream. These problems are so huge and I have no idea what to do and people are counting on me. I’ll have to go on Youtube during my lunchbreak to see if they say anything about how to bring the collar of a man’s jacket down to where it will actually take a passing interest in his neck. It’s probably the first thing they teach you in Sewing School, but I didn’t go to that.  I’m making this up as I go along, as I do everything.

“Drop the problem,” say the jolly Tailors again. “You cannot see the solutions while you are obsessing over the problems. Stop arguing for your limitations. Stop explaining why you cannot do this. Stop feeling like a victim.  We have a slew of fabulous suggestions for you as soon as you stop wimpering like…well, a thing that wimpers a lot.”

“Wimpering is what she does best,” says Prudence, who cannot help herself. “If she had tried harder in Math, she could have a REAL job and not be in this mess in the first place.”

The tailors glare at her. This IS a real job. The Best Job. A Useful gift to the world and to people who might otherwise have to roam the earth with their ankles hidden for all time. The Irish one draws his sword, ready to duel. The Italian one just grins at her and mimes a “pinching” motion with his hand. She flees.

“Prudence doesn’t know the first thing about sewing,” I explain, “but had she ever learned, she should have been a great proficient!”

“Aye,” says the Irish guy, “like most armchair Experts.”

A customer in the early stages of Alzheimer’s comes in to the shop to collect his clothes. “Have I been here already?” he wants to know. “Yes, we say.  This is your third time today. You already got everything when you picked up the first time.”  He smiles in a fragile, concerned way that contains no joy.  He is confused. The voices in his head are not saying the right things to him these days.  Some are going silent.  He is floundering, cut off from his inner “knowing.”  He shouldn’t be out driving alone. We make plans to notify his daughter as soon as he leaves the shop. There is a sobering chill that penetrates the heat in the shop.

 “Tuition” can mean many things. Parents of undergraduates know it to be the thing that means “no discretionary income until graduation” that shackles them to a form of modern indentured servitude. Actually, it comes from the Latin root tueri, which means “to watch or guard.” I assumed the word “intuition” would be related, since it seems to have a similar root. My best guess would have been “inner teacher or inner guardian.” Instead, intuition comes from the Latin verb intueri translated as "consider" or from the late Middle English word intuit, "to contemplate". Plato is the first philosopher to discuss intuition, which he defines in The Republic as “a fundamental capacity of human reason to comprehend the true nature of  reality” Jung defines intuition as "perception via the unconscious": using sense-perception only as a starting point, to bring forth ideas, images, possibilities, ways out of a blocked situation, by a process that is mostly unconscious.  In more-recent psychology, intuition can encompass the ability to know valid solutions to problems and decision making.  Yep, that sounds like Mick and Cesare, alright. When those wise guys get around to it…

Eventually, when I am in a calmer state, looking only for Solutions, they help instantly.  Suddenly, I can see that by treating the inner lining of the backless dress separately from the outer layer, I can put a big dart in it to take up the excess fabric, and reconfigure the fashion fabric over it to conceal it, trimming where necessary.  I remake both sides, taking a total of four inches out of the back, and no one is the wiser. The man’s collar I can lower by removing the felted bit under the collar and putting a similar dart in the very top of the coat.  When he comes back to try it on, he is in raptures. “I never had a coat fit me this good in a long time!” he crows. “This body ain’t an easy fit.  Look at me! This is as good as the old-world tailors of when I was a boy.” (Upstairs, Mick Barton and Cesare are slapping each other on the back and beginning to snuffle around for their tobacco pouches and whisky.)  “Yes Sir,” I say to the man. “It is indeed. Those old boys teach me a lot.”

There is incredible power in our inner minds, when we stop to listen, when we seek Solutions, instead of focusing on problems, when we open to Suggestions. I am incredibly excited about this discovery.  I think it is at the heart of any Creative Process—or problem solving. Have you ever noticed how often you wake up with new innovations after a break or a nap? I think the Unconscious Mind is something like our modern cell phones in that they are tools that can do SO MUCH MORE—with so much capacity it boggles the mind—than just the basics.  Though, at the heart of it all, it is a Listening Device for the purposes of Communication.

“Yes…” says Prudence, “AND…I would like to remind you that your Unconscious Mind also ate half a paper towel wrapped around your breakfast sandwich on your way to work this morning, while you weren’t looking!”

Be Well, my darlings!  May you hear Helpful Things from Within.  And no matter where it comes from, Let there be Learning!  Thank you for your Loving Work today and always.

Yours aye,