How We Mend

The following essay was submitted for publication to Darling Magazine. We'll see if they like it...

How We Mend

I’ve noticed something about knitters. Knitters love people and want to keep them warm. This is not a bad thing. The world needs more people like this. In fact, There are quite a few charity knitting groups that knit hats only for preemie babies. Others, knit blankets to send to villages ravaged by war. Still others that teach men in prison to knit because of the natural anti-depressant effects the rhythm of knitting has on the human brain. Knitting is what keeps me normal.

I picked up knitting at a time in my life when I was at my lowest. I don’t remember exactly how it came about but somehow I got it in my head that if I could teach myself to knit, via the internet, I might be able to accomplish the more pressing and necessary real life stuff I had not been capable of exploring. I had no idea I was seeking refuge, a measure of grace from a length of yarn. Finding rhythm in the familiar when nothing else in my tiny little world made sense and I felt like a stranger to myself. I did not understand then what is now the most shining and obvious thing. There was beauty in a series of neat tidy stitches when I could not for the life of me see the beauty inside of myself. There was risk and surprise in the limitless possibilities of what I could create from a single strand of yarn… a hat, a scarf, a purse, a blanket, a sweater… when I could not find the strength or confidence to understand that, I too, could become anything. The singularity of who I am, is most definitely enough.

I love the satisfaction of finishing something and being able to wear it or give it away. I love fingering all the different kinds of yarn, all the color possibilities and the seemingly endless number of projects. I love the clicking of the needles when things really start to hum. I love being able to decipher a pattern and make it happen. Knitting has given me a certain patience with myself. It forces me to sit still. In life, I want instant results. Knitting continually reminds me that I cannot skip ahead. If I want it done right, I must be willing to take it one knot at a time. Every single knot counts. No matter where I’m at, like it or not, I need to find a way to make the time I’m spending matter. And, if I don’t like it I can take it out. I can start again. It’s not a failure if I’m learning and growing. I tend to learn these lessons the hard way. I’ve always hated starting over.

But the time came when I had to seek out other knitters to answer my tougher questions and untie my larger knots. In the company of other knitters I’ve come to learn that I am much more normal than I had ever anticipated. This was shocking. I had always been told how original and different I am. When I found the comfort and company of other knitters, I found that I am an original, just like everybody else. I make the same mistakes in knitting and in life, as countless others who are knitting and living on this planet. For so long, I thought I was the only one who was over thinking things, anxiety ridden about the future, and martyring myself in jobs that I was too smart for and relationships to men who never really cared to look further than my blonde hair, blue eyes and ‘C’ cups.

I set a few rules in place to keep myself safe. I’ve never been real big on rules so actually, there is only one rule. No knitting for men that you are not related to by blood or marriage. Or, no premarital knitting. You may not believe this. Most women don’t. Just hear me out. When the relationship is over and the boyfriend is gone, you may be relieved and think you’ve dodged a bullet of sorts. But you will regret not seeing that scarf again. And you might find yourself wondering if he still wears that scarf with the woman he’s currently dating. Does he tell her who gave him such an extravagant gift? Hand made gifts mean something more. Maybe it’s the time spent. Maybe it’s the uniqueness expressed in a series of knots. Maybe there is an unspoken intimacy involved when you set your hands to work for one person in particular. Most men won’t get what you are trying to say with a hand knit scarf even if they genuinely love the scarf. It’s quite possible you won’t be sure about what you mean to say either. These misunderstood gifts are the kiss of death for relationships. Unfortunately the casualties are your heart and your beautiful knitting.

I’ve been told that I need to be willing to kiss an awful lot of frogs in order to meet a prince. Maybe the same is true for knitting. I need to be willing to risk a few scarves. A few beautifully unique hand made scarves that I sat knitting until late into the wee small hours of the morning, until my fingertips chaffed and peeled. Maybe I don’t always need to be the martyr. The truth is simple. We only grieve the things, and people, we truly love. Isn’t loving someone always a risk? Maybe it’s more about being wise and clear headed in light of the risk. Quite possibly, it’s the risk of limitless possibilities within ourselves that finally sets us free.

I took to knitting at the age of twenty-five, hoping it would save my life. What I found was a new sense of normal. Women have been knitting, keeping people warm and loving people well for centuries. And for centuries, we have also been risking our hearts and scarves. This is how we mend.