Note: The "Trooper" in question is not actually in the military. It's a metaphor, people.

March 17, 2008

Old Dog, New Tricks

Every once in awhile I'm able to step outside myself and suddenly be able to see right through my own bullshit.. The first time I remember this happening was when I was about 4. I have scant memory of my childhood. It's kind of pathetic. And what I do remember tends toward an intense feeling or realization more than some cute story about about my first grade teacher.

This first "stepping outside myself" memory dealt with playing board games. I was (am) quite competitive and when I lost I would get really upset, sometimes even throwing the game board across the room in frustration. Then one day - probably sparked by yet another game-inspired temper tantrum - I took an unexpected, crucial step outside myself and saw it all very clearly. I was able to acknowledge that, gee, none of the other kids seemed to get so upset. So clearly I was the one who had the problem.

So I bargained with myself and agreed to sit out playing board games and instead opted to just watch my friends play. I wanted to see how they behaved when they lost or won; gauge how not upset they got. I was sure that if I watched them enough I could figure out what they knew that I didn't.

After a few weeks, I got it. It all meant absolutely nothing. It was just a silly game. It's fine to try to win, but if you don't, nothing has really changed. That was the day I placed myself back at the edge of the table and asked if I could play. Since then, I've generally kept my end of the bargain - I am allowed to want to win really badly and try my hardest. But, if I don't, all I can do is shrug and think about what I did learn that made the experience worthwhile. Yes, I know it seems strange that a 4 year old would have the emotional discipline to pull this off, but I never said I wasn't strange, did I?!

I am convinced that this experience is why, as an adult, I tend to choose sports or hobbies that require intense mental focus and constant refining of skill and technique. I was a long jumper/triple jumper in high school and college - technique, technique, technique. Then I took up tennis - a flick of the wrist can make you or break you. But since I've been inactive these last few months because of surgery recovery, I have had nothing to occupy my mind, soak up my innate competitive spirit, drain my body of excess energy that will inevitably morph into anxiety if I don't get it out in a more constructive way. No wonder I've been feeling so restless and useless these last few weeks. Unfortunately all of the things I love to do require physical activity that I'm just not up to yet. So I either had to suffer more or learn something entirely new.

When was the last time you just picked something brand new to learn? And not something simple but something that takes months, even years, to develop and perfect. And not something that you had to learn because of a job or because your significant other does it. Something you just randomly decided, "Hey, I want to learn that." Well, I don't know about you, but I don't do this very often. All those excuses about time, money, fear - you name it, I can come up with the excuse.

Despite all of that, I decided to start knitting. I know nothing about knitting, sewing, crocheting..anything outside of safety pinning a bra strap is completely unheard of for me. I admit I'm terribly intimidated by the knitting/hand-crafted world. I am not Martha Stewart-y, nor am I ironically hip enough to be one of those "stitch and bitchers." But I'm doing it anyway.

My friend Big Sis started knitting regularly with her 20-something niece and teenage daughter and invited me over, despite my protests that I know nothing about anything to do with knitting. She gave me the old, "If I can do it, so can you" argument and I had to admit that she had a point. A single mom with two kids, working two jobs while finishing her PhD. Talk about having plenty on your plate. But she's doing it, getting better at it, and loving it.

Since I first picked up the needles one week ago, I've thought of nothing else. I bought the Stitch and Bitch book, took a trip to the popular, locally-owned knitting store and had the owner walk me through what I needed (when she asked what kind of knitter I was to gauge what size needle to start with, I responded, "Consider me an uncoordinated one.").

Tonight is meeting #2 of our unofficial Tuesday night knitting club and our group of 3 has blossomed to 8 so far. Some will come, some with go, but I for one have taken a tiny leap onto this tall ladder of learning. It's going to be a long time until I get to my goal - making an arigurumi doll - but I have promised myself to stick with it.

Til then I will just keep practicing (knitting, unravelling, knitting, unravelling). One of the things I like best about this hobby is that it finally gives me a legitimate excuse for just sitting there. A lazy person's dream!

The best part (and the one that actually has to do with this blog) is that Wine Guy picked up the needles this past weekend and, being a total perfectionist, he is now obsessed with it as well. I don't think he is as committed to actually creating something in the end, but more intently focused on knitting whatever swatch he makes PERFECTLY.

How weird is this image? Wine Guy and Trooper sitting on the sofa at 3:30am on a Saturday night (technically Sunday), completely exhausted but unable to put the needles down. And I won't even tell you what was on the TV (if you really want to know, see this post). Try as I might, I couldn't convince him to come to tonight's knitting group. He may be comfortable with his sexuality, but a roomful of 8 knitting women might be going just a little too far.



Samantha said...

Thank you for making me laugh out loud today :)

mimi of sexagenarian and the city said...

that's wonderful! i love it that you guys are knitting together. now, plan c and i are doing the meringue together! he knows it, and i'm learning it. ditto salsa. so that's my new skill -- well, to call it a skill is premature. but i know how you feel about knitting. and wait till it comes to birthday and hanukah presents! you're set for life.

Melissa said...

Hmm, I may have a few projects for you... like this hole in my sweater... a new neck warmer... some headbands for the girls. So if you're looking for ideas, I got 'em!

Michele said...

OK you've inspired me. I've really been wanting to learn to sew and I've just been too lazy to find and sign up for a class. I'm going to find a darn sewing class tomorrow and sign up. Can't wait to see what you make : )