A new gratitude

Ravelry never ceases to amaze me. Yesterday, it showed me a yarn shop in my town that I didn’t even know existed. To be fair, it didn’t exist until about a month ago, so I’m not that far behind the curve, which is unusual for me. Sometimes me and the curve are years apart.

This place was LYS-less for a while. The only shop we had relocated, then closed. I didn’t miss it much, which I’ve discussed previously. But I also figured I didn’t really need a LYS, because Los Angeles is close enough to drive down for a day trip, and there are enough yarn shops there to keep me hopping for a while.

That said, there are a couple I’ve been to that I’d love to go back periodically. And the more I’ve worked through my self-esteem and mental-health issues, the more I’ve actually wanted to be a regular at a yarn shop. I’ve actually wanted to hang out and knit and converse with people who share this common interest.

I finally have a yarn shop near me that not only has a wonderful selection and is run by awesome people, but also seems like a place I’d just like to go, and sit, and knit. I rarely feel that way about yarn shops, and I’ve been to a lot of them. But only four of them (Nature’s Yarns in Fairfax, VA; Gate City Yarns in Greensboro, NC; A Tangled Yarn in Nicholasville, KY; and The Altered Stitch in Los Angeles) made me feel comfortable and welcome enough to want to spend time as well as money there.

That’s not to say the other shops were bad. I’ve had only a few unpleasant yarn-shopping experiences that were unrelated to my neuroses. It’s just, well… I’ve got issues. For a lot of years, I’ve had the attitude that no one really likes me or would want to hang around me, but that they’re just putting up with me to be nice. Why would I impose upon a group of innocent knitters and crocheters? They probably wouldn’t be interested in anything I’d have to say.

It’s that mindset, far more than the shops’ environments, that has prevented me from doing a knit night or knitting group. Of the 95 shops I’ve visited only a handful have been able to put a crack in my thick shell of self-loathing. And even then, none of them have penetrated it completely yet.

This one, though, might just be the one. The overall atmosphere of the shop combined with the work I’m doing on myself may just converge into a situation where I go to a LYS to spend time with people, instead of just trying to be as unobtrusive as possible while I pet the shop’s wares.

I am incredibly fortunate to have a resource like Ravelry. Even after seven years, I still marvel at how the vision and hard work of Jess and Casey Forbes – and their staff – are responsible for such a vast and comprehensive network for people who enjoy fiber crafts. And they keep making it better! They’re always tweaking it and adding features, and they do so without the hassle of major redesigns that make you have to figure out how to navigate the site all over again. (Looking at you, WordPress.) And they do it all without charging the site members.

I’m fortunate in a lot of ways, really. I was reflecting on this during my drive home from the beach this morning. Long drives are good for one of two things, depending on whether I’m the driver or the passenger. Since I was by myself and couldn’t knit, I had plenty of time for rumination, and the main takeaway was this: I am adopting an attitude of gratitude.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, but haven’t put it into words yet. I write less in general when I’m not unhappy, because that’s the kind of relationship I have with writing. It’s been a form of therapy for me, and why would I see a shrink when I’m feeling fine? To borrow a phrase from a song (it’s always from a song), I do this when I’m trying to untangle my mind. When it’s not tangled, my primary focus is just trying to enjoy it.

I want to get away from that, because I really do want to be in a good place. I like my life, warts and all, and I want to sustain it. I don’t enjoy being miserable. But I do enjoy writing, and I don’t want to lose that just because I don’t have something I’m actively trying to figure out.

To me, knitting for others is an expression of gratitude and a way of showing affection. There are the five love languages, but I think knitting should be the sixth. Obviously I don’t only knit for men I’m romantically involved with, but for me, it’s a less-awkward and more-tangible way of saying “I like you and you enhance my life in some way. I was thinking of you fondly when I made it, and hopefully you think fondly of me when you use it.”

There are a great many people I’m thankful to have in my life, far more than I could feasibly make socks for. But that’s why I don’t (and won’t) sell my knitting. When people request handknits, I might have them buy the yarn, but I won’t let them pay me. If I have knit something for someone, it’s because they’re knitworthy.

My life is full of knitworthy people, and knitworthy means something different to me than it might to some knitters. It doesn’t just mean that they’ll take care of the item, that they’ll lovingly handwash it and pack it away in a cedar chest. (I mean, I do always include washing instructions, but that’s just because it sucks to ruin something in the laundry.) It doesn’t mean they’ll appreciate and use it, or thank me profusely, or compliment the work. All those things are nice to have, but their absence doesn’t make the recipient less worthy.

My knitworthy people are the family, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances who have enhanced my life in some way, who have helped me through my darkest times, who have allowed me to lean on them with no expectation, who love me despite my many flaws, who accept me for who I am.

I have so many of these people in my life – more than I would have let myself believe three years ago. Maybe more than I deserve. It has shown me that I don’t hate people, and I’m not the misanthropic SOB I thought I was. I like people, and I like to know what makes them tick, but for many years I thought I would be just fine living in a cabin in the woods without ever seeing another human face. What I didn’t realize was that I was pushing them way with a toxic, radioactive cloud of self-hate.

I wish I could name them all. I may later expand on some of them. But I want to highlight a few folks who mean a lot to me, because they fill my heart. Yes, that’s corny enough to make my 26-year-old self cringe. But the 36-year-old I am now has been through enormous changes, and has done a lot of work toward self-acceptance. The woman I am now also has precious few fucks to give, and seeming cool instead of corny (or, heaven forbid, genuine) is not give-a-fuck-worthy.

Let’s start where I started, with my mom. I don’t even know where to begin. She has had a hard road, and I share some responsibility in the difficulties she’s dealt with. I wasn’t an easy teenager, and I haven’t exactly been an easy adult. She has given me an embarrassing amount of financial assistance. I worry so much about disappointing her, not because I’m afraid she won’t love me if I do, but because I owe it to her to try and be the person she raised me to be.

I am like her in a lot of ways. And I am glad.

My little sister, who has also given me an embarrassing amount of financial assistance. She is an absolutely amazing person, and I am so proud of her. She is so dedicated to her kids, her craft, and her education. (She is going to be a hell of a nurse one day.) She is also a lot of fun, and she has infused fun into my life. I owe her so much that I could never begin to repay, not that she would let me. I want to be just like her when I grow up.

My niblings. They are both such amazing kids, and it’s fascinating watching them grow up. Even though they’re not my children, I see little pieces of myself in them, and I hope I can help guide and shape them into adults. They’re both ravenously curious and really bright. And they’re so affectionate, with me and towards each other. They give me hope.

My boyfriend. He lets me unleash my silliness, and he is unbelievably wise. He met me at a really difficult time in my life. Instead of deciding I had too much baggage, he jumped in headfirst. He is generous and warm and completely fascinating. He’s a good father, and if I were going to have children, I’d want to have them with him. I could go on and on about him (and I have, in my private writing), but the bottom line is that he ignites a glow within me that shines inside and out.

My ex-husband, believe it or not, and I don’t say that with spite or malice. The divorce was hard, and it hurt. But it needed to happen, for both of us. He is not a bad person, and he deserves happiness as much as anyone else. I would probably have wallowed in my own misery for the rest of my life; I was so stubborn I would have stayed with him just because we signed a contract. Instead, he freed us both, and the pain that caused pushed me to seek help I needed for years.

My friends, who like me even though I’m a weird, awkward know-it-all who can’t hold her liquor. They forgive me when I don’t deserve it, they confide in me, they make my bare face into a work of art, they laugh at my stupid jokes, they ask me for advice, they advise me, they show me new perspectives, they indulge my dweeby enthusiasm, they hold my hand and sometimes my hair. Each of them hold a piece of my heart.

My class. There are six of us (that’s not a clique, that’s the entire class) in the final stretch of a nursing program, and without those girls, I would not have made it. Okay, I probably would have forced myself to make it, because I borrowed a lot of money, but the experience would have been miserable if they weren’t such incredible people. They inspire me, and they entertain me. They are determined as hell, and I know they are also going to be kick-ass nurses. I love to learn, but I have always hated going to school. They make me actually enjoy it.

There are so many more. From the people who know every detail of me, to the ones I see in passing as I go about my life. This really could be a book, and this post nearly qualifies as one, so I’ll wrap up with: if you are reading this, you have made my life better in some way, and I hope I have done the same for you. Thank you.

(Yes, even if you told me to take a long walk off a short pier. You too.)