I’m on my third knitting project since December. As I sat through the short dark days of winter, I knit. Knitting through whole seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, Blue Bloods, and The Good Wife. Knitting at my father’s bedside as he recovers, through hours of potential worry and anxiety. Caught in the momentum of steady soothing rhythm and the touch of soft vibrant yarn, I knit. Each project has compelled me to pick it up and finish the patterns that need to be finished. My friend Joan was here visiting this weekend and told me her sister likes to time her knitting projects. I thought, to finish or be done with a thought pattern, a feeling, or even a creative project, continual adaptation and acceptance is required. Is it useful for me know how long this will take? Is it an illusion to think that fixing a time frame will yield a specific result?
It’s like setting boundaries. If I set them, does it guarantee a behavior in another I desire?
I’ve been knitting my way through Nora’s anxious behavior, her jumping in response to any new arrival in a room, her barking loudly for inclusion in a conversation. It is distressing to some, but mostly I observe Nora being seen and accepted and managed beautifully by so many. Still, I worry that these behaviors overshadow her sweetness, her particular brand of devotion, her beautiful presence. It reminds me of Ben’s need for attention from a particular classmate when he was in third grade. It was the beginning of our understanding that Ben had a problem with boundaries. The more this person ignored him, the more outrageously he would attempt to get her attention. It got him into trouble. He still struggles with impulse control. And yet as I watched him playing basketball this weekend in the Special Olympics finals, I felt the confidence of his ability to focus on the ball appropriately,
his brilliant and persistent way of playing defense, letting his opponent know he was there but maintaining his own space at the same time. I am so proud of his achievement.
I knit through the feeling of this pattern, thinking of my role in it, how to act appropriately, how to continue to help, how to control both the behavior and the anxious feeling that rises in me as a result.
The energetics of these kinds of dynamics are not lost on me. What is reflected back is often something I need to see in myself. Creating a context for safety is hard. It is a hard realization that clear firm boundaries and a kind of clear detachment are required. Knitting through my own anxiety helps me consciously settle into a safe place in myself and feel this detachment, not as isolation, but as love. Knitting through a tough feeling is a way to center and balance. Right brain and left brain weaving together through the heart into the hands. When I am knitting, Nora settles with me.
I’m nearing completion of this latest project, a boldly patterned shawl in soft muted brown, pale yellow, and rich pink.
As I sat and knit this past weekend, Joan made friends with Nora. True friends. Joan somehow knew just what to do, how to be with her, even had Nora sitting in her lap at one point.
Joan is also a mother of a child with special needs. She has worked through many of the same patterns I have struggled with. We had a great time walking in the woods together with Nora on a beautiful sunny day. She got it. How much Nora can be safe to be exactly who she is in this setting, how easy it was for all of us to relax and have fun here together.
I don’t know how long this current knitting phase will last. I have bags of gorgeous yarn left and many more projects in mind. I have fleeting worry that it is taking me away from my art, from other ways of connecting with life. But it is fleeting. Peace from knitting is so much stronger than the worry. There’s no need to put a time limit on this.