Stories from a life in progress.


Earlier this week I spent some time digging through my yarn cupboards, wanting a new and easy knitting project to work on.  Being such a gloomy week, my creativity was too squished to find much inspiration.  But I did pull out an old project which needs a bit of no-creativity-required attention.

I enjoy winging knitted projects more than I enjoy following detailed patterns.  That means my finished knitting doesn't always match my initial ideas.  The old project in question combined a heartbreakingly beautiful yarn with a simple, pretty lace pattern to make a scarf -- a scarf which, in the final analysis, hangs down to my knees.  I like long scarves, but this one takes it too far.  (Knitting people will understand this part: it's an unblocked lace scarf that hangs to my knees.  Can you imagine?)

The yarn is too pretty not to wear, even if the first scarf iteration didn't work.  I knew at some point I'd have to unravel the thing and make it into something else.  But I couldn't bear to undo all of my work right after I finished it, with the memory of all the hours I spent knitting still fresh.  So I tucked it away until some future time when I wouldn't mind pulling it out, and that time is apparently now.

Not everyone who will read this story knits, so please allow me to pause in the telling to explain two things which are going to matter in a minute:

Knitting is very easy to unravel.  All you need to do is pull on a loose end of yarn and all of the stitches will come right apart.  In the general case, you can unravel a patch of knitting and reclaim the yarn to knit into something else, no problem.

While knitting is unravel-friendly, not all yarns are unravel-friendly.  Fuzzy yarns are especially hostile to the process.  The extra fuzz wants to catch on itself, which makes the stitches bind together instead of come apart.  The yarn tends to get raggedy looking, too.  Unraveling a piece of knitting made out of really fuzzy yarn is a good way to frustrate yourself, ruin a good hank of yarn, or both.

The heartstopping yarn which my scarf is made out of?  Is fuzzy.  Not a lot fuzzy, a little bit fuzzy.  Just-fuzzy-enough-to-cause-trouble, fuzzy.

This yarn is too nice to ruin.  I really, really don't want to mess it up.   Fortunately there's an answer, and it's not even a difficult answer.  As I unravel this scarf, I have to treat my yarn gently.

Where most knitting can be yanked on and unraveled fast, I'm pulling this apart slowly.  I'm watching every stitch to make sure the fuzziness doesn't cause problems.  I'm judiciously applying scissors, not to cut the yarn but to snip any tangled bits of fuzz so the stitches can separate.  It's going to take time, but in this case I consider the process to be worth it.

It's absurd, really: I can choose to be this patient with my yarn, when I am so impatient with myself.  I am treating my yarn gently because I think it is worth preserving in good shape, but I treat my heart so harshly.  One would almost think it's not worth anything.

This February has been such a hard month for me, and I have to say I've created a lot of the pain of it myself.  I've responded to harsh circumstances by beating on myself in multiple ways.  My inner voice has been so full of recrimination:  Why aren't you working harder?  Why aren't you working more?  Why don't you have a strategy?  Why are you so distracted?  Why aren't you reaching out to people?  Why aren't you making money?  Why are you wasting time?  What's wrong with you?

What's wrong with you, writer?  What's wrong with you, human?

All of these questions rise up directly out of the perfectionist's deep fear:  only perfect things are worthy.  Until I make myself perfect, love is suspect and everything I have is at risk of being taken away.  Fortunately it's a lie.  But it's one that takes a lot of killing.

Apparently this really is the right day on which to unravel my scarf, the day on which my mind and spirit are in the right place to take this lesson from a fuzzy yarn and the patient, gentle whispers of a loving God.  My heart is more valuable than a pretty yarn, more beautiful, more worthy of kind nurture and care.  It is not in all respects the way I wish it was.  But where it is broken, weak, or ugly, my heart is worth the gentle work it will take to heal what is hurt and fashion the whole into something delightful and new.