It’s also a love story. Fair warning.

I am in the process of a divorce. It’s the reason I lost my mojo, the reason I sold my wheel and a bunch of my yarn, the reason I am now living the farthest from a Carolina that I’ve ever been.

I’m not going to go into the details. I’m not going to lay blame in either direction. All I’m going to say is what we weren’t right for each other, and while it is one of the most painful things to have happened to me in my life, and something I still look at as a personal failing on my part, I am working to move past it and create a new life for myself.

Part of that new life involved moving to Southern California, where yarny things aren’t generally terribly necessary. (No matter, I’ve got friends in cold places.) What’s important is that I needed to be with family. I was living in Kentucky, and while I loved Lexington and the people there, being in a place I only had moved to for my husband’s job was too much for me to deal with. Moving in with family in South Carolina would not have been conducive to getting into a good headspace. So I accepted my sister’s offer to move in with her until I found a job here, and I honestly love it far more than I ever thought I would. She has two small children, kids I rarely got to see, and being a part of their life and seeing them grow up was something I needed and wanted. And spending time with my sister and brother-in-law, from whom I had let myself drift over the past few years, has done a world of good for me.

Another part of moving past my imploded marriage was creating friendships, and tending to ones I had let wilt. I have always been kind of a loner, due to some pretty major issues with self-esteem. I figured I wasn’t really worth the effort of getting to know, and that I was just bothering people, and that I wasn’t much fun to be around anyway. While I still struggle with the self-esteem, I am feeling much more positive about myself than I have since my childhood. I have ups and downs, but overall, I do see myself as a decent person, and I see friendships as something valuable yet attainable, instead of a kind of luxury that I didn’t want anyway. (I’m seeing a lot of things like that, actually.) I know the importance of finding the people from your past and staying connected with them.

One friendship that needed some serious tending to, is one that has stretched out for more than a decade. We’ve known each other from a forum since 2003, where we chatted about all manner of topics. The first time I spoke to him on the phone, I asked him to watch out for my little sister, and since then, we’ve kept in contact sporadically through phone calls, social media, and the occasional piece of mail. We’ve both gone through some pretty rough patches in our personal lives. We’re both the kind of people who tend to hide inside ourselves.

After I received word that my husband wanted to divorce me, I flew out west for a week. At that time I was still living in Kentucky, but I was trying to figure out what my options were. My mother and sister suggested I visit California to get away for a bit, to spend time with family, and it was exactly what I needed. I reconnected with my sister, I got to meet my nephew, I got to see what it would be like to try and make a life somewhere outside the South. During that week, my sister started talking about people from our past, and she exhorted me to get back on Facebook. (I had closed my account years prior, mainly due to said self-esteem issues.)

So I did, and in looking through her friends list, I saw Alex again. There was no hesitation (which isn’t always the case with me–I often think “does this person really care what’s going on in my life enough to be my internet friend?”), I friended him immediately, and we started talking on the phone again, just as if we had never left off. Even though everything we discussed was on a strictly platonic level, I couldn’t help but feel a strong undertow within myself: “this guy is really great. He’s funny, he’s easy to talk to, he’s genuine, he really just makes me happy every time we have a conversation. I really want to meet him.”

Up until that point we hadn’t met. (We still haven’t, as of this writing.) He lived in Michigan for years, until he moved to Tennessee with his ex-fiancée six years ago. I was in various places, but always involved with someone else, and even though there hadn’t been any kind of romantic feelings between us up until this summer, the guys I was involved with would have felt (justifiably) weird about my driving hours to meet this guy from the Internet. But with my being in Lexington and his being in Tennessee, it would have been perfect. He was only a few hours’ drive away. I suggested that I come down and spend a day with him, but he ultimately turned me down.

It hurt, but in hindsight, it was the right decision, because I couldn’t admit to myself the feelings I had for him until I was on the move to California: in a car alone for hours at a stretch, bored with my podcasts and tired of my music, and in the mood to have a really serious discussion with myself. (Kansas can do that to a person.) Even though I had started to feel drawn romantically to Alex, I argued with myself during my cross-country move that I couldn’t be with him for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which was the distance (compounded by the fact that neither one of us has the means to just fly out and see each other whenever we want).

It wasn’t until I got here, until the middle of a seven-hour phone call, that I could really admit it to myself: I loved this guy. I truly, honestly did, and there had always been something to love about him, I just hadn’t had enough in-depth conversations with him about our respective scars and emotional injuries to realize it. It took all I had not to tell him that at the time, because really, what kind of fool falls in love with a person they’ve never met?

I was being pulled under by my own emotions, and I thought “there has to be some way I can express my real feelings to him without saying the L-word.” And almost immediately I had the thought “I’ll knit him something.”

Not all knitting is done out of love, but I think a good percentage of it is. As the yarn runs through your hands, you infuse the stitches with your emotions. Sometimes those emotions are worry or anger. Sometimes they’re grief or longing. But a lot of times, especially for me, it’s affection. When I have knit for my mom, for my husband, for my cousins, for my grandparents-in-law, I have done so because I wanted to make them something I thought they would like and could use, and I wanted them to know I was thinking of them as I worked on their gift. I thought them worthy of the time and attention.

So what better way to say an “I love you” you can’t say?

As it were, we did end up saying it anyway. It was something we kind of stumbled into, and then something we embraced, and now it’s just something we know. So when I finished the hat and sent it his way, it was no longer a secret way of expressing my feelings, but a physical token of my affection. It doesn’t matter–I know he’ll love it and wear it, and think of me when he does.

I’m looking forward to a new chapter in my life, with new characters. And new knits–I’m planning on making Alex hats for a long time to come, as well as socks, scarves, and eventually a sweater, curse be damned. I’m dreaming of spinning on a front porch while he plays his guitar. I’m even thinking of (and this is something that has surprised me) starting a family and teaching our children how to work with and appreciate fiber. I feel like a long-hibernating WIP that I finally frogged, and am using the yarn to knit something really fantastic. Something I’ll treasure for the rest of my life.