My friend Anna at Not Knapping tagged me on Facebook this morning and suggested I jump into the water as part of Fiber Arts Friday, in which a group of people who create with fiber – knitters, crocheters, spinners, dyers, weavers, and so on – blog about their creating. Projects might be in the contemplation stage. They might be just begun, part-way through, or finished. It’s a celebration of creativity, the moment, and shared interest. I’m in.
Right now, I have some confusion in my knitting life. Tucked in various corners of my house are a couple of abandoned knitting projects, one in repair, one that feels stuck, one ready to start, and a stash of patterns and yarn waiting to be matched up. I have a gallery of finished projects, most of which I’ve said goodbye to and sent on their way to the people for whom I made them.
It’s a metaphor for my life, I think. I’m always running in a few directions at once. There are always so many possibilities, so many interesting and creative things to do. In my work life, which is the primary focus of this blog, I have my wonderful coaching clients, who give me the privilege of walking through the most interesting and “juicy” times of their lives as they work on discovering who they are, who they are becoming, what they want, and how they’re going to turn those desires into realities. I also get to work with some amazing people with whom I co-create workshops, materials and other events designed to help develop people’s leadership in all parts of their lives. I’m exploring how to become more engaged in my community through a couple of different initiatives in order to bring about the change I want to see in the world. It’s fun and exciting and sometimes a little daunting.
What I haven’t been doing enough of lately is knitting. I’ve been missing the rhythm of the needles, the fiber slipping through my fingers, the ability to start and finish something, take a picture of it, and know I’d accomplished something.
I got stuck on my left mitten. The right mitten went fine. I got almost all of it done during a five-day conference last June. The left mitten? Not so much. You can see it in the picture. I got the cuff done and I’m right up to where I need to start shaping the thumb gusset. I changed the instructions to accommodate a different way of dividing the stitches on the needles (magic loop instead of DPNs, for the knitters among you), and now I don’t know how to adjust the instructions for what I’m doing. So I just stopped.
How often do we do something like this? Get part way through something, get stuck on it, and just stop. I’ve done it more than once. When I was talking to a friend today, though, I realized I could put in a “rescue line.” In knitting, if you thread a piece of yarn through the loops you’re working on, it kind of marks your place and you can rip back to it if you make a mistake without worrying about ripping out the whole item. It’s a marvelous thing that lets you go ahead and make mistakes. It’s amazing permission to fail. Permission to fail is always permission to learn.
How great would it be if we knew we had a rescue line in life? We’d have something to tether us so that we could go ahead and risk big, forge ahead with something we don’t know how to do, do it as well as we can figure it out, and if we needed to, rip back to our starting point and try again. No judgment, no beating oneself up, no need to fear anything. We could really follow Yoda’s advice to Luke Skywalker when he said he’d try: ”Do, or do not. There is no try.”
The truth is, of course, that we have rescue lines all around us if we just look for them — friends, family, colleagues, community members come to mind immediately. Those relationships, if they are truly supportive, can help keep us from falling too far when we’ve gone out into unfamiliar territory. Our values provide an important structure and landing pad. Remembering our life purpose, however we have defined it, re-orients us when we try and fail. These are just a few of the rescue lines that are available to us, a few of the things that help us finish up our unfinished business.
Another lesson I’ve been learning from knitting this week is about creating something from less-than-desirable beginnings. I’m in a group that is knitting scarves to raise awareness about violence among the attendees of the next General Synod of the United Church of Christ in July 2013. We were asked to use Red Heart Super Saver yarn in a particular colorway. I couldn’t find the desired colorway, so I bought something close and trust it will do. It’s the fiber I’m not crazy about. I don’t love the way it feels, and I’m not crazy about the colors (think primary colors on steroids).
It’s for a good cause, though. It’s for something bigger than my desires. It’s also inexpensive and lets a lot of people participate. And it washes easily. I’m going to choose to let those practical reasons trump my personal preferences and start looking for the stitch patterns that will show off the brilliance of all those primary colors. Wheeeeeee!!!
I’m eagerly awaiting learning what this project will teach me.