Saturday, January 03, 2009


When I think about what knitting teaches me, the word courage keeps coming to my mind. It seems a bit of an odd thing, really. I mean, courage? Why would one need courage for knitting? My need for courage stems in part from my overdeveloped need for control in life. If you've ever heard of the Myers-Briggs, I'm a J. I really like control, I really like knowing how things are going to work, I tend (perhaps) towards anxiety. It all fits. So a craft like knitting can be a tad scary for someone like me.

Seriously, you take some sticks and some string, put in a lot of time and effort, and you might get something amazing, or you might get something that doesn't work at all. Yes, there are things you can do to minimize your chances of failure, but I am not convinced you really have complete control. Well, some knitters might, but I am not that good. For someone like me, a control freak and recovering perfectionist, this might cause some...anxiety.

For me, every new project takes the courage to try something, to put myself out there. You can't hide, you know? You can't say "well, gosh, you know, if it all works out, wouldn't it be great to have some new socks." When I start a new project, I am announcing my intention to the universe around me that, gosh darn it, not only would I like some new socks, but I'm going to make them myself! It might not work out. I might not finish them (this is always a real possibility, especially with a project where you make one, and then you have to make another just like it!). I might finish them but have utterly screwed them up. I might have done them well but just not like the way the yarn pooled. Really, anything can happen when you cast on.

The nice thing is that the stakes aren't really all that high. Suppose I do mess up those socks entirely? What's the loss? Some of my time, maybe some money. I'm sure to have learned something along the way, and hopefully enjoyed the process, even if the product fails. So, knitting gives me a place to practice the courage I need in the rest of my life. It takes courage to live authentically and honestly, to open your heart to love. It takes courage to commit to something or someone, to get married, to have kids. Some days, it takes courage just to leave the house. When you truly and deeply love, you open yourself to hurt. When you truly make yourself known, you face the possibility of rejection. But you also have the potential for something really glorious - the possibility of being truly known and loved, the possibility of truly knowing and loving other people, which is, I believe, pretty much the whole point.

So, when I knit, I am opening myself up to the possibility that I might fail. But I'm also taking the risk that I might not! Sure, I might have to start the same project two three four times. Sure, I might get most of the way into a hat and realize that it's just not going to fit the intended recipient. Sure, trying something new can be hard, it takes time to learn. But in the end, I do learn, I do get better, and sometimes I even get some really beautiful objects. Things I can give away, or wear with joy. And it really doesn't get much better than that.

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