Can Knitting Change Your Life?

Daughter Michelle Loving Her Prayer Shawl, Spring 2010

Today’s blog post isn’t about eating gluten free nearly as much as it is about how knitting can change your life for the better.

However, for those who may be new here, I’ll give a little of my gluten free background . . .

In September of 2009, I was diagnosed with acute gluten-intolerance. Transitioning to a gluten-free lifestyle was difficult for me (see my earlier posts for more info), and I found myself feeling sorry for myself most of the time.

I also became obsessed with complaining about living gluten free. I drove people crazy.

Truth be told, I had been on a negativity binge for quite a while, long before being diagnosed. This was against-the-grain for me (pun intended), because I am one of those gals who deeply believes that positive feelings bring positive results while negative feelings bring negative results.

Negativity hurts. And it keeps hurting until you come to the realization that happiness is a whole lot easier and a lot more fun.

So then, why was I living on the dark side?

Gluten had a lot to do with it. I didn’t know it yet, but eating gluten made me feel low, lethargic and lost. Like others who feel the symptoms, my neuropathy, body aches, brain fog, gastro issues and (for me) weight gain, really brought me down.

And when you’re down, you start to think negatively . . .

. . . and, after a while, thinking negatively becomes a habit . . .

. . . and then the habit attracts more negativity . . . and so it goes.

(That and sometimes it’s just easier to be a bitch.)

I won’t bore you with all the things that were going on in my life at the time. What matters: I came to the realization that I needed to attract more positive energy into my life.

Okay . . . fast forward to last spring. My husband Howard and I were planning a trip to New Mexico to visit our oldest daughter, Michelle (pictured above).

New Mexican food is my favorite food in the world, but New Mexico can put you to task when it comes to finding restaurants that understand gluten free food preparation.

At first, I thought I should expect everyone on the trip to go along with where I could eat and what I could do . . . but that was my ego speaking, and ego-speak is the same as it’s-all-about-me-speak, and in my world, it’s-all-about-me-speak doesn’t attract positive energy.

I needed to find something to keep myself happy while others did what they wanted to do.

For those who will write to me to remind me that a lot of Mexican and New Mexican food is gluten free: I am so hyper sensitive that even pure corn tortillas and store-bought beans cause reactions in me, unless they are Certified Gluten Free.

So, I decided to handle the problem the old-fashioned way. I prayed for guidance and asked to be shown how to get over my pity party.

Then, a few days later, it just hit . . . KNIT!

It came out of nowhere. For the life of me, I can’t remember what made knitting cross my mind.

Wanting to knit didn’t make any sense—none whatsoever. Neurological problems caused my hands to be numb much of the time, and when they weren’t numb, they hurt like the devil.

Knitting was the last thing I wanted to do.

And even though I loved knitting years back, I was never good at it. I wasn’t even semi-good at it. I failed at most projects, and failing doesn’t feel good.

Yet, something in my gut kept pushing me to knit. It was strong and wouldn’t let go. Despite all the reasons to the contrary, the thought of knitting again excited me and made me bubble up inside.

Then I read about how the act of knitting is a lot like meditation. The philosophy behind this is something along the line of if-knitting-is-a-simultaneous-right-and-left-brain-coordination-sort-of-thing, then it is difficult, if not impossible, to knit and worry at the same time.

Sounded good to me.

Next, I looked for a beginner’s project to take with me to New Mexico—something to give to Michelle.

A garter stitch prayer shawl pattern practically fell in my lap.

Sounded good to me.

Next, I read about how there are all these knitters out there, all over the world, who use prayer shawl knitting as positive time to either pray, chant, or think only positive thoughts.

Sounded good to me.

So, I set out to knit with only one rule: I would allow myself to knit only as long as I thought positive thoughts . . . and they had to be HONEST positive thoughts.

How long can you go without thinking a negative thought?

Have you ever looked at it?

Have you ever timed yourself?

For me, it was a minute or two, max.

And positive affirmations don’t work for me, either. Unless I honestly believe what I’m saying and honestly feel fantastic as I say it, it’s a lot like dunking a turd into whipping cream while expecting dessert.

So, the moment a negative thought would enter my mind, I’d start knitting more “religiously,” chanting something, anything positive.

After a few weeks of knitting positive, good thoughts became a habit again.

Good grief, they had to! I became so freaking addicted to knitting, I spent every free moment I had doing it.

Ask me if my house is clean. (Ask me if it ever was.)

I began taking my knitting everywhere, including casual parties – you know, the ones where everyone sits around eating . . . and eating . . . and eating ALL NIGHT . . . and none of it is gluten free . . . those parties where self-pity starts to creep in?

Knit, knit, knit, knit, knit!

I didn’t care if I looked silly knitting while everyone else ate, ate, ate, ate, ate.

Knit, knit, knit, knit, knit!

And on the road, and on the phone, and in the airport, and on trying days, in the bathroom-

Knit, knit, knit, knit, knit!

I know you see the happy ending coming, so I’ll keep it short:

Life became a hoot again.

That said, I must tell you that when I screw up a pattern or drop a few stitches (something I do a lot), there are more than a few curse words that make their way into the hoot.

But that’s okay.

Because even though I want to throw the project across the room, it is a positive anger. Does that make sense?

Honest anger isn’t the same as negativity.

I remember when Michelle was a toddler and she tried to run across the street for the first time. I was angry, frustrated, frightened, confused, even guilty . . . but I was so in love with her that, even as I screamed my lungs out, it made it all worthwhile. Michelle learned from it and moved on.

Anger of this sort is not a negative thing. It is a reactive thing.

The same thing is true with screwing up a knitting project. Good, old fashioned, healthy anger and frustration never hurt a soul as long as the soul learns from it and moves on.

I could go on and on about all this positivity stuff, but enough is enough. I’ll end by leaving you with this quotation:

“The act of knitting provides comfort in times when life weighs the most.” — Adrienne Martini (from Sweater Quest, My Year of Knitting Dangerously).

So true, so true.

Now, if I could just get the weight off . . .

Find and write to Lee on Ravelry:
User Name: LeeBernstein
Visit the Knitting Is Gluten Free Forum on Ravelry — GREAT discussions here, including loving support for people with food intolerances . . . and tons of recipes.
Facebook: Fans of Knitting is Gluten Free
Twitter: Lee_A_Bernstein
LinkedIn: Lee Bernstein

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4 Responses to Can Knitting Change Your Life?

  1. Kathleen says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Lee! Knitting has helped me through the most difficult times in my life, and has reminded me of just what you say: that making something is better than waiting for it to appear; that knitting stitches together, one by one, soothes our souls; that sometimes simply sitting and being is what we need.

  2. Pat says:

    This was a great article. Knitting has always been the one thing that stays the same in my life. It’s given me the time to reflect on the things that occur in my life. It’s helped me through illnesses and losing my grandsons. Usually when there’s a problem to work out, it helps center me.

  3. Jamie says:

    I surfed over from Ravelry. I’ve been gluten free since 2005. Knitting and crochet, then new to me, helped me through what was the worst one year period of my life (beginning with the death of my mother, ending with me attempting to put myself in the psych ward on my birthday, with finding out I had Celiac somewhere in the middle, right before I crashed my new car. . . ). I’m so glad to hear that it has helped someone else!

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