….so you sit down with a set of knitting needles, some gorgeous yarn, a pattern from Ravelry and you begin to knit. Maybe you have an audio book on, maybe just some Bob Dylan on Pandora. It’s an easy pattern, nothing too complicated or fancy and as the moments pass, your mind empties. You stop thinking about your work, the laundry you have yet to fold, the worrisome fib your child just told you, the argument you had with your spouse that morning. You just sit and knit, row after neat and tidy row. Your hands are working independently of your mind– you’ve done this pattern before. Knit, knit, purl..knit, knit, purl…A satisfying 4 rows are completed on your sock/blanket/sweater/scarf. It looks so pretty. You made that!
I’m not the only one who gets such a perversely satisfying pleasure out of the needle arts. Knitting and crocheting are my thing. (I’ve also dabbled in coloring, zentangling, scrapbooking (more than a dabble there), card-making and stamp making, so my bet is I’ll find a new passion eventually). For me, the repetitive, soothing nature of knitting and crocheting relaxes me so much, and puts me in “the zone”–peaceful, mindless, and endlessly relaxing.
Changing the Way Your Mind Works
Many of you have probably already heard of “flow” as discussed by Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi. According to his Wiki page:
In his seminal work, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Csíkszentmihályi outlines his theory that people are happiest when they are in a state of flow—a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation. It is a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter.
I truly believes this happens to me when I knit. I can tune the world out, and become completely absorbed in the project in front of me. This helps me reach a sort of zen-like state, where my thoughts are quiet and my breathing slows. Knitting, in essence, is therapeutic.
How Knitting Can Change You…and the World Itself
If you are a knitter or crocheter, you know the frustration of find a mistake a few rows back. Do you rip back? Do you continue on, and ignore the error? How bad is the error? Will it be noticeable? Does it affect the structure of the garment? When I knit and make a mistake (which, let’s face it-is every time I knit), I have to decide how bad the mistake is, and whether is fixable, and whether I even WANT to fix it.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say this could be a metaphor for life. When I first began knitting, I frogged so many projects that I rarely completed anything. I would frog them for minor mistakes, for gauge issues, for anything. And man, was it hard to make headway. I could never move onto the next project because the one I was working on. Just. Had. To. Be. Perfect. I’ve since learned that there is no perfect garment. (Or maybe there is, but I sure as hell haven’t made it). And most of the time, I need to let it go when I see an error. As others tell me, “nobody will even notice that but you.” But isn’t that like life? We criticise ourselves, beat ourselves up, over every little thing. And we revisit these mistakes in our head over and over again, as thought that will change anything. We wish we could go back and just say the right thing, do the right thing, make the right choice. But we can’t. We can only move forward. And NOBODY but us cares about our mistakes. I mean, HUGE mistakes–sure. But the minor, everyday things we beat ourselves up over? The messy house,the stain on your kids shirt, you chronic lateness? Trust me, most people are too wrapped up in their own shit to give a hoot about yours.
Such it is with knitting. If you don’t move forward, you will never get anywhere at all, and you’ll be working on the same damn sock for 9 months. And you will never have ANYTHING to show for it. You will never be able to look back and say “Man, I screwed up that first sock but look at my latest!! I’m getting better!” So let it go. Knitting has taught me that small mistakes, even medium mistakes, should be released.
Now, about those BIG mistakes. I am knitting a hat now as a Christmas gift, and I somehow made this ridiculous error. I thought I could just keep knitting and that somehow, the error would just “blend in” to the overall pattern. But I was wrong, and it actually affected the integrity of the hat. So I ripped back, and knit it again. It was annoying, but it wasn’t the end of the world.
This happens in life too. We can’t get do-overs, but we can recognize mistakes and do our best to rectify them. We can apologize, or we can forgive, if need be. Forgive ourselves, mostly. Forgiving is sort of a do-over, isn’t it? We forgive someone for the wrong they have done us, and we’re set free. Learning to let go of the past– of our past failures, our mistakes, our heartbreaks, or leave behind those missed opportunities–this can be a sort of do-over.
Knitting can also serve as a metaphor for how we treat the world and the people around us. Rush through it, act carelessly, and trust me— eventually you’ll look back and think “What the HECK was i thinking??” But pay attention, act deliberately and consciously and you will find it hard to have regret.
The Path Not Taken
Right now, i find myself thinking of the path not taken. The what-ifs of my life. As I enter mid-life, it’s not that I think my path is set in stone (it isn’t) but you begin to be able to see the arc of your life as it’s gone so far, and you also see the paths you didn’t take. This can be an interesting exercise, like when you wonder if knitting your gloves just slightly larger would have been a better idea–but in the end, you are where you are. You can’t go back and redo the past–not without relinquishing the opportunity to not only live in the present, but also move forward into the unknown future.
Knitting has allowed me to not only practice being present (because, trust me, if you’re not present when you’re knitting you will end up with a tangled mess of yarn), but it has also allowed me to forgive myself for mistakes I made along the way. The end result might not be perfect, but its’ mine, and I own it. Same with my life–I’ve fucked up, a lot. I’ve berated myself, endlessly. But in the end, I am right here. And it’s okay.