Sunday, February 12, 2012

Zen and the Art of Knitting

Part of my plan to do something different this time around the IVF block was to take up a hobby. I wanted to learn how to knit. I've had the needles, and yarn, and a book (Stitch 'N Bitch: The Knitter's Handbook by Debbie Stoller) for years, but never tried it. I am sometimes afraid of trying new things. I don't like failing. I don't like to suck at something. And knitting, while it sounded like a fun and crafty thing to do, sounded like something that I could easily suck at. But, in the spirit of my new attitude and plan for keeping my mind on other things while coming up on and participating in my fourth fresh IVF cycle, I broke out the yarn, the needles, and the book.

My Stockinette stitch square. So proud...
It turns out knitting is a fantastic outlet for me, especially the infertile me. It is strangely hypnotic and meditative. It forces me to focus completely on a task and get into a rhythm where my mind is quieted (or sometimes not so quieted, but I can think things through in a relatively calm and rational way when I knit). It is tremendously soothing. And I don't suck at it. At least not anymore. If I make a mistake, I can just unravel and start over again. Every practice square that I have made is the product of at least 10 unravellings. I was frustrated at first. But really, what's my hurry? What's the big deal if I have to unravel and start again? I'm not knitting an actual project, not yet. I'm just doing practice squares to perfect my stitches and get them to work for me. So if I mess up, no big deal. I can unravel and start over. I get another chance. I can go with it. The yarn is amazingly can be stitched up and unraveled and stitched up again, over and over, and it still works just fine. (The only time it doesn't work fine is when my cat, Lucky, gets ahold of it. Then I need to sacrifice some yarn, cut it, and start again with some fresh yarn.)

I've actually found that knitting is a good meditative practice and an oddly accurate metaphor for what I'm trying to accomplish as far as my state of mind moving forward. (Maybe I should stop saying "try." As Yoda said, "There is no try, only do." I am accomplishing a new state of mind.) When I knit, I have to accept that things won't always go smoothly. There will be missed stitches and holes. But I can start over. I can be flexible. I can go with the flow instead of trying to swim upstream all the time. I have found that I am a very tight knitter (big surprise). I have to literally make an effort to be looser, because it's a lot easier to knit smoothly when your stitches are on the looser side and not strangling the needles. Just like my mindset is on the path to looseness--I have to go with the flow and not be so tied to rituals and to mind tricks that tell me that I haven't done enough or something I've done or haven't done will have a negative impact on my chances to conceive. I can do what I can do and no more...the rest is up to what will be. I think about this when I make a concerted effort to loosen my stitches. I'm still tight but way looser than I used to be...without even thinking about it. It's becoming inherent in how I loop the yarn around the needles. I have to think about it less and less. When I knit, I get excited to see how something is shaping up. If it's not absolutely perfect, so what? Am I a professional knitter? No. Am I a knitting machine for perfect mass production? Nope. I am letting go of my expectations and just letting the knitting happen to me. I am systematic about the knitting--I am practicing each stitch over and over and moving on to a new stitch when I feel confident with the ones I've done before. I'm in no rush, but I don't want to start an actual project until I feel confident that I know what I'm doing.

I love my new crafty hobby. I am excited to try rib stitch and excited to make something more than the little yarn coasters I've got floating around the house in each stitch I've learned so far. I'm happy I don't suck--I'm not proficient yet. How do people knit without looking? I think I can get there eventually but it astounds me that people can do that as I have to see what I'm doing every stitch or else I royally screw up. That level of auto-knit-mastery will come with time and with practice. Even when I am proficient, I don't think I'll be making any baby items anytime soon. This hobby has to be something independent of the fertility quest. If I use it to make baby stuff for my FutureBaby, then it loses its meditative quality. I want it to be an outlet away from fertility. (Could I knit a baby blanket when it's time? I bet I could. Will I do it ahead of time? No, no, no.) Scarves are great, dishcloths are good, and maybe if I can figure out how to piece it together I can try a hat. My husband wants me to make him a sweater but I think he has to wait. Unless he wants some kind of busted wacky sweater that I do without a pattern, as I haven't given one of those a go yet.

I'm so happy that I have found a way to create something and practice a kind of meditation at the same time. When I knit, I am not putting pressure on myself. I had to learn that (it started to become not enjoyable when I felt that everything had to be perfect all the time, before I decided unravelling was just fine and it wouldn't kill me to just start over). Soon I can fix mistakes without unravelling everything (thanks to a book my mother-in-law sent me, The Knitting Answer Book by Margaret Radcliffe). I don't feel quite competent enough to try the fixes yet, but I am ok with the occasional hole in my practice square. I am ok with mistakes and the option I have to just start over. How wonderful that teaching myself a new craft is resulting in learning new ways to deal with the pitfalls of fertility and my coping mechanisms. I feel a little more at peace every row I knit or purl.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so happy you took up knitting and are enjoying it! Check out Lion Brand's website. All the yarn brands have free patterns on their website, but I think Lion Brand's pattern selection is the most comprehensive. They have all kinds of non-baby things, from beginner to advanced. You can even find beginner hat patterns that you stitch in one piece and then sew together to make it round. Good luck and let me know if you ever need a knitting buddy!