While I was laid-up last winter with a broken foot, I decided I’d learn to knit. I streamed knitting classes online and practiced stitches for weeks. When I got bored with knitting, I’d change to woodworking and sewing videos, then go back to knitting. After more attempts than I can count, I finally made a hat good enough to wear in public—as long as no one looks too closely.
Onward! When I could drive again, I took a short class at a local yarn shop https://www.allwoundupyarnshop.com/ to make a shawl. In this class, everyone makes the same shawl pattern with the instructor teaching the new stitches, helping us fix mistakes, and encouraging us when we want to give up. It seemed a good way to take the next step. https://newwayopening.com/2017/11/08/whack-a-mole/
The shawl we were making has two sections. The first is cable stitches—a new skill–and the second is simple knitting. Surely, I could do this. People all over the world knit, so how hard can it be?
That’s like saying people all over the world keep going in tough times. Or, people all over the world have setbacks but keep putting one foot in front of the other. Or, people all over the world fall but keep getting up and trying again. How hard can it be if so many people do it?
Having tried both knitting, and getting up after setback in life, I can tell you: both are harder than they look. Really hard. Frustrating. The biggest difference between them is that one is a non-essential skill for most of us, and the other is life.
I’m still deciding if learning to knit as a way to push through a major setback was a good idea or not. The shawl isn’t finished, nor is the comeback. On each, I go backward so often that I wonder if it’s worth the effort.
Here’s what I mean: I began the shawl at home before the class, but I couldn’t get past the first few inches. I kept ripping it out and starting over. Even with the instructor’s help, I must have started over at least 1400 times. Just last night, I ripped out a dozen rows again. Note to self: Don’t try to knit in the dim light while watching a movie.
Likewise, the last few years have had what seems like at least 1400 life setbacks, as well. https://newwayopening.com/2018/03/05/my-heart-failure-returned/ I keep pushing through, putting one foot in front of the other, but it sure feels like my knitting experiment: slow. I started physical therapy for my foot and ankle and have made good progress. But if I stood too long or didn’t elevate my foot enough, or bent it too much or walked too far, I had to elevate and ice my foot and ankle again for hours.
For months, I walked and iced, knitted and ripped, walked and iced.
My knitting teacher fixed my mistakes a few times and said, “You can do it. It’s hard, but you’ll get it.” My doctor said my foot was healing well. “Keep up the good work. You can do it.”
Then, I took a class on how to fix mistakes without ripping out endless rows of knitting. I felt so empowered and hopeful that I almost cried. I straightened my spine and kept knitting.
On a warm March day, I raked winter debris off my flower gardens. Granted, I had to elevate and ice my foot for an entire day afterward, but I’d worked in my garden without permanent damage. Last week, I was finally able to walk around my block. I’ve gone back to my fitness class. Sweet.
My shawl is now two-thirds finished. People who’ve seen it seem genuinely impressed, as I am. Cool. I’m almost daring to hope.
Last week, I hiked a short distance on a fire road in the mountains of Eastern Washington and walked on rocks beside a stream. I couldn’t have done that a month ago. The smell of cedars in mountain air mingled with the sound of birds singing and our dogs splashing in the creek. If there’s a heaven, I think I was there. I’m almost daring to hope.
Knitting well isn’t easy, as people all over the world know. Nor is it easy to keep getting up when life knocks us down. Yesterday, I chose yarn for my next project and signed up to volunteer in a food bank. Knit and rip. Walk and ice. I dare to hope.
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Barbara, your life stories are always an inspiration for me. Although knitting is not happening for me, photography and it’s evolution continues to keep me going. The struggles we go through and the process of learning to get back up, are becoming more familiar to me as well. In these past 9 years or so, I’ve dealt with 2 deaths in my immediate family. You’ll remember that in 2010, My mom passed at home in her sleep from a heart attack (84 yrs old) and my Brother and I had the daunting task of cleaning out an entire house filled with so many memories from 47 yrs of family life there. Two years later, my Brother was diagnosed with a small brain tumor_ but it was operable and they started him on radiation treatments after surgery. The two of us wanted to spend as much time together as we could_ he in Chico, CA and me still in Pasadena. My Brother has always been such a health nut and ran marathons constantly. He had just met his partner Joe at the time Mom passed and was now the superintendent of a small high school near Chico. Life was going along pretty well for him. I never heard him complain about all the medications, chemo treatments or the fact that he didn’t have much of an appetite. I was at work at Kintetsu Travel (LA) when Joe called me to share the news, that my Brother Bruce had less than a week to live. The cancer had come back in a rage and spread very quickly. Life had stopped for me. All this took place only 4 years after Mom passed.
Actually, it was these events that led me to consider how fleeting life can be and that nothing should be taken for granted moving forward. I decided to leave my last job at Kintetsu Travel Management (LA) and pull all my resources to retire early at 62. I finally moved back to Northern California 2 yrs ago (Sacramento) and it is an adjustment but it is getting easier. Less crowds, less traffic and so much more nature and clean air. Family is much more important these days and the little things in life are truly keeping me going.
Again, than you for sharing your struggles and successes. Much love to you & Mark.
Bryan, That is such deep sorrow that it takes my breath away. You know how hard it is to get up. Keep going, friend. Love, B
You have my amazement. My grandmother – the one who was an elder at PPC in the 60s, a founding member of Church Women United’s national organization, and the first woman president of my union local… you know, the woman I wish I was… could knit and did knit all the time. She knit through Session meetings, union meetings, faculty meetings. She knit through family parties. She knit while watching TV. She was an expert, but also used it to keep her hands busy. When she ran out of knitting she knit cotton bandages for lepers. But when I asked her, as occasionally did, for a fisherman’s sweater or vest… she would explain to me that this was not something she could do while doing something else. This was too complex, with too many twists and turns. So, a fisherman’s sweater from my grandmother was a true gift. And that is what you are giving yourself with this shawl that has more than simple stitches: a true gift of concentration and small victories. My grandmother (who would have liked you a lot) would definitely approve.
Frances, I am moved and honored by your words. You’re right about the meaning of the shawl: a gift of concentration and small victories. Thank you.
What a wonderful post! I’ve often told Fred that knitting definitely teaches patience. Even as an experienced knitter, I always have to rip out some part of a project. It’s humbling. Oh, and in addition to not knitting while watching TV, I’d recommend not knitting after a glass of wine. Here’s to knitting, ripping and repeating!
I made the beverage mistake again and must agree with your advice. Darn. It seems so relaxing to have a glass of wine and knit….until I look at my work the next day and have to rip it out.
Your shawl is beautiful and your persistence an inspiration! Thank you for sharing the journey with us! <3
You’re a great teacher! I’ll be back for another round.
Brava! Nevertheless you persist! I do so wish we were close enough for lunch and conversation! Many blessings and love!
So good to hear from you!! I’m wearing a sling 24/7. Sharing hope is essential 🦋
Good to hear from you, too. How do you manage with your arm in a sling?
I have found that knitting has helped me through some hard times. It is probably the closest I get to meditation. I have found that I keep two projects going: one that is simple that I can do while watching TV and one that is complex that takes all my attention so I don’t go down an anxiety road. Keep knitting and keep getting better!