July 30, 2013

When I was about 7, I learned how to knit.  I made a few incredibly misshapen items, including a horrible gray scarf for my dad that he actually wore (he doesn’t wear scarves, it was truly horrible, and I made it out of incredibly cheap gray acrylic yarn, thinking mistakenly that gray was his favorite color because he had gray workshirts.  And he wore it).

I stopped knitting within about 6 months and didn’t pick it up again for 20 years.  When I learned again at 27, I realized that I had found a really powerful coping mechanism for anxiety.  With knitting, I could sit still.  I could wait for things, and I could escape my thoughts and feelings to some extent.  It wasn’t harmful like drinking or drugs, and it was certainly much better than cutting or any other kind of self-harm.  It was productive and wholesome and I love it.

While knitting is all those things – therapeutic and productive and wholesome and creative – I’ve been doing it obsessively for over ten years now.  I really can’t sit still without it, it helps me deal with feelings, and I’ve even been told I knit faster when I’m anxious.  In some ways, it was like any other compulsive behavior for me, because I’m really good at keeping myself busy enough to not feel feelings.

When I was in college, I used to write in my journal to the point where I was using it to escape.  I don’t necessarily think that any of these things were bad – they were coping skills and I needed them.  But it was definitely compulsive.  I would write in my journal during class, during movies, during church, whenever.  I would write so fast that I couldn’t read my own handwriting – it was more like I was running than writing.  I was writing so fast that it is clear, looking back, that I was trying my best to stay one step ahead of something at all times – anxiety, depression, fear, self-loathing, etc. etc.  If I wrote fast enough, it wouldn’t catch up with me.

Knitting has been a strange mix for me of that kind of compulsion and a fun craft.  It’s never really been one thing or the other, but always the combination.  And I’ve always been knitting – people remark on when they see me without my knitting.  But lately I’ve been forgetting my knitting.  And even when I bring it with me, I often don’t take it out.  When I’m a passenger in the car, I’m not usually knitting which is very new and unusual.  I’ve been sitting still at church and at meetings and when I’m talking to people.  I’m getting very little knitting done.

This was actually bothering me until I realized that it’s freeing.  I can knit but i don’t have to.  I can also sit still, and I’ve never been able to do that before.  It’s also scary – there’s part of me that feels like I’m losing my identity, and I’m not sure if I mean knitting or being anxious or what, but I’m afraid I won’t be ME any more.  Then there’s the part of me that realizes that there’s me underneath all the running and fear and depression, and maybe I get to learn to know that me.  I’m still not sure if I’ll like that more or less than copious amounts of hand-knit socks but I might find out.

Trouble Hearing the Good

July 12, 2013

I went out to dinner last night with my relatively new (and really wonderful) boyfriend and a friend from teaching and her girlfriend. This friend had been supportive in my freaking out about getting to know someone in a dating situation thing and is also a really cool person and one of the best teachers I’ve ever known so I wanted them to meet each other.

My teacher friend told lots of stories about how crazy our job was – she came my last year in the classroom and just left that school last month. Then she said something that surprised me – or at least I think she did.

I think she said that I was one of the reasons she went into teaching. She had been working as a salesperson for educational software and our school bought it. She came and set it up and told me last night for the first time that she was watching how I interacted with my students and that’s part of why she went into teaching.

She said that when she came to work at our school a couple of years later, I was like a celebrity to her. She had specific examples of what I did with the kids and how I talked to them that she admired and they are things I totally remember.

I don’t, however, remember a lot of details from what she said last night because I was, while being incredibly honored, so uncomfortable with someone giving me this kind of praise. It felt undeserved and uncomfortable and I just had trouble hearing it. To the point where I actually can’t remember much.

I think I’d like to get to the point where I can hear about how great I am. It makes me sad that I’m so much more comfortable and accustomed to hearing about my flaws.