If I Can Do It In Knitting, I Can Do It In Life

This time of year is always such a rush of activity. When you live anywhere where winter is more lion than lamb, it kind of has to be. Here in Wisconsin, winter is usually frigid & snowy, so all the chores that need to happen outside really need to happen before the snow flies. The furnace needs to be tested (and in our case repaired). The gutters need to be cleaned. The leaves need to be raked (or blown down the street by the freakish winds). The garden beds need to have that last weeding & sometimes, I put them to bed under a blanket of leaves. The lawn needs to be mowed that one or two last times and the sidewalks need a good edging to make shoveling snow easier. Firewood needs to be moved into the boathouse. And the centipedes and spiders in the basement are finally hiding enough (and slow enough) that they mostly don’t send me retreating for the bug-free main floor when I try to clean. The list sometimes feels long. And yet, it always gets done… eventually usually in a rush once the temps noticeably drop.

This last week & weekend were comprised largely of this rush. I rediscovered that a kiddie pool is the very best way to haul leaves from the backyard to the curb. And that vacuuming the cobwebs in the basement really doesn’t take all that long if I just suck it up (did you see what I did there? LOL) and get it done. And weeding the West flowerbed that wound up full of horribly prickly weeds wasn’t that bad with my deerskin gloves on. I even managed to clean the bird feeders — a long overdue task — and got the kids to help as part of the first lesson of their bird/Project Feederwatch unit for school.

For some reason, doing these seasonal tasks always makes me reminisce about years past. In the same house, doing these same chores, just as a younger version of me with fewer grey hairs and wrinkles. I think of my kids as little ones. Our first dog together whom we lost this time of year, a few years ago already. I think of a fitter version of me and what it was like to live without chronic pain in my bum hip. I also remember how possible everything seemed. Every job was a challenge, not a chore. Every adventure was exhilarating, not terrifying. And things just always worked out.

I’m not quite sure why, but over the years I feel as thought I’ve gotten exceptionally good at seeing everything that could possibly go wrong in every endeavor. Sometimes, I am not my best self. I am not everything I could, or should, be. I get cranky and unreasonable when out of my comfort zone and far too often, I see obstacles when I should see opportunities. I think it’s easy to do as we get older, that desire to be safe and hold tight to the people & things dear to us. I want to be careful not to hike too far lest I render myself unable to walk. I avoid canoeing in spring and fall because once in late September I fell in and was really cold. I know my family & I do a lot of great adventures, but there are times when I have a sinking in my heart that tells me I could and should be doing better by them.

Just this week, we were talking about taking the kids camping for a night. It would be cold, but we know of some shelters in the area that would make it do-able and somehow I managed to rain on those plans, too. We are short one cold weather sleeping bag and my husband would have to improvise, with my walking options limited I worried I’d be frozen if I had to sit still, I wanted to be sure to squeeze in a kids’ math lesson before going, our washing machine is dying a slow and painful death (we’ll be adopting my parents’ old washer, but we are waiting for the timing to work out to make the move) so in the meantime it requires very small loads and the idea of getting behind on this chore is awful, and the East side of the eaves needs to be painted before it gets seriously cold. I don’t mean to, but this has kind of become what I do. Not always, but often when it comes to any adventure longer than a day trip, all I see is my to-do list and I just leech the life out of some really awesome potential.  It. is. awful.

Through some emotional tears after officially abandoning the camping plans this morning, I was trying to compose myself enough to get school going for the kids. What has changed that makes it so easy to let all the things that could go wrong eclipse all the great things that will probably go right?

As I gazed out the window through those tears of disappointment for what I’d done yet again, I noticed some yarn sitting nearby from my weekend projects.

plucky Having started the third and final hat for my Craftsy class — New Directions in Lace: Hats — yesterday, after a couple hours of work (and denial), it became readily apparent that the Sundara Aran Merino I thought was in my stash was actually Sundara Spot Merino Two. As an aside, try not to lose the tag for your yarn — having that information is handy – lol! Out came the ball winder and out came those stitches that weren’t meant to be.  I went to my stash and pulled a skein of Plucky Knitter Primo Aran and wound it into a center-pull ball.  My pretty emerald colored hat replaced with a squishy grey one, it came to my attention that my mystery emerald Sundara skein would be perfect for the Air Quotes Socks pattern I’ve been lusting after. I have a pretty amazing stash these days, but I’m short on solid colored sport weight yarn appropriate for socks. This… well, this might do just fine.

This whole episode — having the yarn not work out, having to frog all that work, and finding a new skein — didn’t phase me at all. I accept these things in knitting without hesitation. When I see a skein of yarn, I never see all the mistakes I might make. In fact, I couldn’t care less if I make a million mistakes. I can fix them, or frog them, or just leave them be. Yarn is just potential, possibilities, and I know it will always work out. So apparently, there’s still a little bit of that younger me in there somewhere. I still have the ability to to feel like anything is possible. Every job can still be a challenge, not a chore. Every adventure can still be exhilarating, not terrifying. And things will probably still tend to work out. If I can do it in my knitting, I can do it in my life, right? A little shift in perception and perspective, a little less worry, a lot more letting go, and much more of the seeing opportunities instead of obstacles.  A lot more of my best self for my sake as well as my family’s. If I can bring it to my knitting, I can certainly bring it to my life.

24 responses to “If I Can Do It In Knitting, I Can Do It In Life

  1. Thought provoking. There is so much to do in the fall and it is hard to be the responsible one and see to the chores instead of going on an adventure especially when you are short one proper sleeping bag. Remember this is Wisconsin and even though it is cold and we did have snow the other night the weather can surprise us and there may be one or two nice weekends left perhaps you can get another sleeping bag and get that overnight trip in. Or maybe a fun hiking trip minus the sleeping in the tent will have to do.
    As a sock knitter you are a conquering hero capable of anything after all the hardest knitting task are steeking and turning a heel and you can turn a heel in a blink of an eye. Those spider webs in the basement cower in fear of Sarah the knitting ninja.
    Ps as an old lady I finally had to admit to the aching bones and tent camping turned into camper adventures so my I could keep going. These days my hubby can’t go so the now camping is going to the cabin.

    • We are definitely not strangers to cold-weather camping and thankfully my husband is not one to push boundaries too far, especially when it comes to safety in the wild. My husband is now talking about a hiking trip just with my son this winter — we have plenty of gear for that and that takes our littlest out of the equation which makes things much easier.

      We ended up taking the kids on a super fun night hike last night. I will try to get some words up about that later this week. 🙂

  2. I loved this post Sarah. It reminded me of when my family ( and I ) were younger. We would do on adventures hauling a diaper pail! Couldn’t afford paper diapers……
    We had some challenging times alright, but we got thru it and now have the memories. The kids won’t mind if things aren’t perfect. They adapt so quickly and won’t remember the things that go slightly wrong. They just enjoy being out. I think it’s us that likes our comfort zone. Hard to leave it sometimes : )

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it! I truly believe we get more and more cautious as time goes by because we begin to really understand how much we have to lose. BUT we can’t let that totally avoid adventure. A little risk and a little unpredictability is good for us. 🙂

  3. So true, that knitting works out all the bumps in life. I find lace knitting particularly challenging and forgiving at the same time. As many messes as I make in the creation of a beautiful lace knit, I somehow can’t seem to find them once the piece is blocked.

  4. The direction you took this gave me some insight as well. I have developed food problems that I look at as limiting when I can go somewhere or what I can eat when eating out. Then I start to shoot down my own plans. When I was older I did not worry about such things because my family wouldn’t wait long enough for me to hem ‘n’ haw. My confidence in my knitting is getting to where I can go with the flow and know when to frog or just leave it and knit on. I love your blog posts. Hug your kids because all too soon they are grown and not around most of the time.

    • I started to make the shift when my leg started to give me some big problems earlier this year. It’s painful to go on the hikes I love, but it’s actually a great teaching tool for the kids about choosing to see the good vs complaining: it hurts me, but I love it. I know it’s probably not going to get better and I don’t know for how long I’ll be able to continue hiking, so instead of being sad about what I’ve lost, I am going to love every minute of every hike I get to go on. Period.

  5. This is so thoughtful and well-written! I think everybody feels those feelings of hesitation, fear, and worry sometimes. There’s a lyric in a Jason Mraz song that has become a little mantra of mine lately: “But my thoughts are all I have, so I try to make them brave.” It helps!

  6. I feel like the older you get, the more your responsibilities weigh on you, especially when you’re responsible for other people as well! It’s good to stop and rethink sometimes to make sure that the joy and spontaneity isn’t sucked out of your life. I always know that once my to-do list gets long enough that I start fixating on it, it’s time to attack it and check some stuff off. I sometimes feel like I’m getting buried under obligations, and it totally makes me less likely to take the awesome opportunities that come my way!

    • For me, it’s especially hard for me to be comfortable taking chances with the kids. I am not a helicopter mom by any means and I work hard to help them be independent thinkers and doers, but because in the outdoors I am very limited in what I can do, it’s hard for me to feel responsible knowing I am not strong enough physically (just because of the bad hip & accompanying limitations) to help them in something bad happens. It’s a problem I need to find a way to deal with, but I am happy to say that as the kids get older and more independent, I definitely feel more comfortable with it!

  7. You are making a huge step forward just by recognizing this – if it works for knitting it can work for life. I think one (overwhelming) difference might be that you know that you have the capacity to fix something knit, and if frogged, something else will come of it. Do you feel the same confidence in your ability to do the same in life? I think you can, but you have to think you can.

    Keep working on it, and you will have more memories to treasure.

    And don’t underestimate the power of chronic pain. It can suck the life out of your life. I hope that a solution to that presents itself sometime soon.

    • In most situations, I feel pretty capable, but the hip issues are huge for me when it comes to doing things in the outdoors. It never was before my kids because I always felt I could manage myself, but it is hard to make the choice to forge ahead in the wilderness when I am not strong enough to help my kids if I would need to or — worse yet — if I would become a burden for my family in a survival situation. It recently took a turn for the worse and as yet there really aren’t any options. Let’s home medical technology finds a way soon!

  8. Thank you so much for this thoughtful post! I find myself doing the same things you discuss when it comes to life – getting frustrated about little inconveniences, wanting to stay in my comfort zone, focusing on the negative and letting all of this impact and steal the joy I should be having in my life. Thanks for the reminder that knitting is an excellent metaphor for life and that sometimes we just need to let go and see what happens.

    • Exactly, just let go. And I am trying to shift gears — when I start to be flooded with all the ‘what-if’s’ of what could go wrong, I am attempting to force myself to consider what could go right. It helps!

  9. Lovely post! You are right about all the winter chores. I, too, am busy getting ready for the lion to arrive. Car camping works this time if the year. I bought my Subaru Outback because I could fit lying down in the back (This requirement humored the salesman.) I hope you and your family will have a chance to get out one last time before the lion roars.

    • My husband tends to prefer a more wilderness approach to camping whenever possible, so we only car camp in specific hubby-approved spots that are quiet enough for him. I have gutters to clean and a basement to finish cleaning, but I am getting close to ready for winter! Hooray!

  10. OMG are you me? You describe exactly how I’ve been increasingly feeling this past couple of years. Knitting? Pah – whatever, rip rip rip – but everything else? Ditto to everything you’ve said. You’re not alone. Let’s hope it’s a phase that ends soon X

    • Well, my husband is planning a trip to Glacier National Park for next summer where I will be camping and puttering around in Grizzly Bear country — one of my bigger fears. Here goes nothing!

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