It isn’t often in life that a person gets to undo something they’ve done and re-do it until it is perfect. In fact, I’m not even sure most of us would have the time, energy, patience and stress level to deal with such a concept. But we are supposed to learn from our mistakes, and I just read in a book that some people believe that we just encounter the same experiences over and over until we get them right — kind of like the movie “Groundhog Day”. I think we do have very similar experiences over and over, which is why we have deja vu, and I also believe that we often make the same mistakes many times, which is why it’s a good thing we have many chances to do something better, we need every one of them! But rarely do we get to undo the past: perhaps forgive, perhaps forget, but not erase those things we’ve done that we might regret. And after all, they bring us to the point we’re at now, and hopefully for many that is a good place.
Well it is a good place for me, but now that I have time and space both in reality and in my mind, I have been delighted to find that there is one area I CAN undo things, and re-do them until I am satisfied, and that is knitting. When I first saw my partner taking out a sweater, which she often does at the beginning of a new project (until she gets it just right), I marveled at her patience. I never thought that could be me. And then I saw her take out a whole sweater, one that had been a gift. She liked the yarn, but not the style of the sweater, and just sat calmly unraveling until it became several balls of yarn. I couldn’t believe it. What if the yarn was funky after it unraveled? What about the fact that it was a gift? What about the finished product that just disappeared? I thought it was a sin, at least until she said she was using it to make a cardigan for me, and then I decided that maybe it wasn’t so bad after all… But I could never never imagine doing such a thing.
When I finished a sweater, if it didn’t fit just right, I took a picture of myself wearing it anyway, and then put it in a plastic box under the bed. If something I made for someone else wasn’t right, I cursed, perhaps even cried, said tough luck, and put it away somewhere. I just couldn’t imagine taking anything out. But as yarn starting eating up my credit card, and I got faster with completing my projects, I decided I’d try this strange task by taking out the first sweater I ever made, which I never ever wore, but was bulky enough to take up a lot of drawer space. It was hard to do, the yarn kept catching on itself, I had to find just the right end to pull to make it unravel, and it took me a long time. But I did it eventually, and felt almost the same pride I did with finishing making a sweater! I then had the excitement of planning a new sweater, a new pattern, one that fit the kind of yarn better, one that I really knew I wanted to wear. Since then, I have done this many times; the sweater I made for my partner that was too short with too wide of a neck, I re-did and now she wears it all the time. The one I made that fit absurdly, but has beautiful bamboo yarn, I have just finished taking out and am totally thrilled about what I might make with it next. You see, it has taken me a while to discover that certain kinds of yarn are better for certain kinds of projects — the weight of the yarn, the thickness, the feel of it (do I want it next to my skin, or over a shirt?), the way it lies (or lays). This seems obvious to most knitters I’m sure, but it wasn’t to me. Like everything else about knitting, I’ve had to learn this the slow way. But now I can be thoughtful, while also knowing that if it doesn’t work out the way I imagine, I can take it out. Eventually. I always need a little space after knitting it before I can do that. And I try to plan my projects so that I’m finishing one sweater around the same time I’m taking one out. Just for a little positive reinforcement.
So how can I use this new and amazing patience, forgiveness (or rather allowance) to make huge mistakes, and persistence for getting something right without being a perfectionist, in my other life (the non-knitting one)? I honestly am not sure, but I am confident that it will come in handy somewhere either now or in my future. Perhaps in the fixing up of our little adobe in NM, (some improvements are just what I wanted and expected, others are now quite up to par),or in the dealings with my daughters, who although adults, are still having all the trials, tribulations, and joys of being in their twenties and are sharing many of these with me (and how good it is to remember that as a young person, one also makes many mistakes and lives through them). Perhaps in my letting go of my past and moving forward into this next life with excited and creative ideas about what can come next for the still-good yarn detritus of my old life. Something to think about. Another knitting and potential life lesson for me.