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Have you ever felt joy after having made a mistake? And if you knit, have you felt joy after almost having killed a project?
Almost is an important word–an important feeling. Almost means there’s hope and a lesson in there somewhere–something profound.
Back in the early 90′s, I fell in love with the book A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson. In it, Williamson writes, “Nervous breakdowns can be highly underrated methods of spiritual transformation.”
Williamson shows how she turned to faith as a last resort. “When you truly bottom out,” she says, “there comes an exhilarating release. You recognize there’s a power in the universe bigger than you are who can do for you what you can’t do for yourself. All of a sudden, your last resort sounds like a very good idea.”
In its own small way, knitting is like that. Just as with a person bent on finding peace of mind, a knitter puts her heart into creating something she hopes will be beautiful. Yet, sometimes a snag comes along to cause a project to “bottom out.”
For a moment, sometimes longer, it feels like hell and the knitter wants to scream. Yet “breakdowns can be highly underrated methods of spiritual transformation,” and you come to realize there is “a power in the universe bigger than you are who can do for you what you can’t do for yourself.”
It is then when your heart swells and guides your hands in the right direction.
I bet the artist Edvard Munch was a knitter, or at least he knew one:
This painting might also show how a person feels after being told not to eat gluten for life, but we’ll save that portrait for another time.
Regardless of the purpose behind The Scream, I want to know what happened to the subject after Munch’s painting was done. Did the person give up, or did the person almost give up before deciding to rip back and make things right?
It’s all about the almost. Almost is where genius lives. It’s all about not giving up so you can rise in the glory of knowing you’ve confronted a challenge and become a better person.
I know this feeling well because, now that I’m knitting almost nonstop since I reconnected with my love of it, I’ve made so many mistakes that I now knit faster when I’m tinking–knitting backwards to undo stitches–than when I’m thinking properly and knitting the right way.
There are countless times I’ve almost given up on rescuing a knitting project. Finding the resolve to fix a knitting mistake, or anything in life, isn’t always easy. It takes, as Williamson says, “a power” to figure out how to make things right.
For those who do not knit, I won’t bore you with the details knitters already know: Knitting projects have heart, and it can take the skills of a surgeon to operate on knitting gone wrong. If you keep going despite wanting to scream–if you trust your skills, hold your knitting close, hands steady and resolve strong, your knitting might survive.
So, here’s where joy comes in: My knitting lives!
It lives despite having screwed up my latest knitting project so horribly that–miracles of miracles–by the time I was done correcting things, I discovered (oh, joy) I was a genius.
Please don’t waste my time by telling me that a genius wouldn’t have screwed up her knitting project in the first place.
A genius is someone who is smart enough to talk herself into believing she’s a genius even after having made an imbecile of herself. A genius is someone who knows how to feel good no matter what.
This is not always an easy thing to do . . .
Last Sunday night, I was knitting and sitting next to hubby Howard on the sofa. I had just relaxed and become comfortable with my work when I realized I had knit a thumb onto the wrong side of a glove.
So, what else is new? For me, screwing things up is, more often than not, the story of my life.
I sighed and cursed a bit, then I concentrated on how to correct things. After way too many tries and far too many curses, I set out to completely remove the thumb, repair it and, with hope, save the glove’s life.
Except that, after taking a break and setting my knitting on the sofa, the yarn and needles disappeared. When I returned, I couldn’t find them until–after having no luck searching for them–I sat back down only to find them, most pointedly.
This sort of thing happens to me all the time. I will put something down and then, just when I need it, I won’t be able to find it again.
I’ll scream, “What? I just had that thing right here in front of me just a second ago. How the heck could it disappear into nowhere?”
The problem is that I need at least double of everything in order to use something once.
Question: What does it take for Lee to wrap a present?
Answer: Two pair of eyeglasses, three pair of scissors and four rolls of Scotch Tape . . . and that’s only if she doesn’t lose the gift.
After I realized I had botched the glove, Howard stopped talking to me for, like, ever, because he knew if he uttered as much as a word, I might lose count, concentration, or both.
Howard does not like for me to lose count or concentration on a Sunday night. No, no, no. Howard likes to have his back rubbed on a Sunday night, and when I am fixing a knitting project, anything that sends my mind in another direction guarantees Howard will not get his back rubbed unless he is willing to wait until three freaking o’clock in the morning when I finally get things right.
So, for what was probably a very long time–I don’t feel time when I knit–Howard left me alone, which was smart, because I did the best job EVER at ripping back and correcting things.
Oh, the joy. Joy, joy, joy. Oh, the celebration of knowing I had confidence enough to try and stamina enough not to give up.
As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do,” which I did, and the thing that I did that I thought I could not do I did oh so very well.
It was genius, I tell you. Absolute genius.
I basked in victory. I basked in it so much, I felt the the pleasure push at every inch of me until I could contain myself no longer.
It was at this point I decided to proclaim my talent-beyond-measure to the universe.
The universe wasn’t available.
But Howard was.
So, I broke the silence by blurting, “I did it! I did it! I did it! I fixed it! I fixed it! I fixed it! I’m a genius! I’m a genius! I’m a genius!” I took a breath and added, “I am so smart, I should have been a surgeon.”
Howard sat still. Unmoving and without a blink, he looked at me with a blank expression. There was no way he was going to screw up getting a back rub.
I looked at him and said, ”Seriously Howard. I mean it. If it wasn’t for the fact that I misplace things all the time, I might have been an excellent surgeon. But, knowing me, there I’d be, after having performed the most delicate excision, saying to the nurse, ‘Where the heck did I put that guy’s heart, anyway? I just had it here a minute ago . . .’”
Howard blinked, but he stayed still. Or at least he tried. He tried quite hard. But, Howard being the Howard that he is, he couldn’t stay still any longer. “Genius? Surgeon? I don’t think so. Even if you never misplaced a thing, you’d still have to rip out all the the stitches every time you tried to close somebody up.”
–Have you ever laughed so hard that you felt as though your body was a helium-filled balloon, and someone just let go of your string, and now, as you laugh, you’re sailing toward heaven?
That’s how Howard makes me laugh. What a scream.
Oh, the joy of a mistake.
Love to all,
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