I keep saying: This Is So Oprah, and I Respect Her Like Dammit, but this is just Not Me. Therapist says: gratitude is like yoga, or gardening, i.e. Not Lame (even though Pinterest Moms are trying their hardest to fuck this one up for everyone, too). (I kind of REALLY resent the way gardening/cooking/etc has been turned into an Olympic sport. Calm the fuck down. Your David Austin roses and gold-dusted macrons are lovely. Sit and enjoy them awhile, you hyperactive screech-owls). (Not YOU. You know the ones I mean; they wear out everyone except for Other Them’s.).
Gratitude List preface:I still remember my teen calling me trendy, a few years ago, because of my knitting/reading/gardening-habit-riad. I told her I’d done the same boring shit since I was a teen, but it was nice to be Cutting Edge, for once in my nerdlife. She kept harping on my hipster-ish-ness until I told her sixteen-year-old-me listened to Prairie Home Companion while I’d weed or knit. She was so embarrassed, retroactively and simultaneously, that she finally accepted the truth. This Wasn’t A Stage, This Was Me, sorry to disappoint. She has some friends with MILF-y Moms, and Shopping Moms, and SuperFit Moms in VC yoga pants, and If You’re Gonna Party, I’d Rather You Did It Here Under My Roof Moms… I think she was waiting for me to show her my secret identity, and she just knew it was gonna be a cool one, to compensate for my non-secret lame one. Not sure how she concluded that the stuff I’d been doing since her birth was an internet-inspired phase, but she surely did, bless her heart).
The Actual List (such as it is):
- I've been able to knit and/or read during hurricanes, in hospitals, in copshops, in freezing tents pitched in the Back of Beyond, with a sleeping child cradled in one arm, during cross country trips, in sickness and health, blah blah. Always, since childhood, the reading, and since teenhood, the knitting.
- I lost that, these past months, this past year. I not only couldn’t sleep more than a few hours in a row; I couldn’t read myself to sleep at all. I’ve always been able to read something, even just a few pages, before falling asleep. It’s been so strange, so world’s-end around here that it shouldn’t have registered, let alone felt Like A Thing. But it did. Couldn't read. Couldn’t knit. Couldn't find my mind with both hands and a flashlight, not to put too fine a point on it. Old coping techniques and comforts, along with really-for-real sleep and really-for-real-life...just gone. Literally the worst months in the worst year, and my mind and body were like, yeah, we can’t dig this either, see ya.
- This loss? Like taking the wrong exit in a foreign country and not having the language or the currency, like not knowing the word for “help” or “home.”
- I’d pick up a WIP, or a squishy skein, and put it down fast. Because what I really wanted was to rip it apart and then take scissors to any loose strands, in case they had any ideas about hanging around. I stopped going on Ravelry, I stopped looking up projects, I stopped planning hats and socks for people, I just flat stopped.
- All that anxiety, all that twitchy-ness, and I couldn’t put it into productive knitting, which would then calm The Brain Squirrels in a helpful and healthy loop of knitting + self-soothing = useful knitted goods/less headfuckery. I started having thoughts like: fuck knitting, it’s pointless. I’m just moving string around, I’m like a hamster pushing paper around in a cage. I realize non-knitters agree with that point, but trust me, sticks and string have always been superduper interesting.
- Now? Fuckit. Fuck all of it.
- Like, books and fucking book-y-ness? Fuck that noise, too.
- I stopped noting book recommendations, I stopped going to the library and bookstores, I stopped carrying a book in my purse.
- I’m the person who previously would, if zombies broke through the window, be the one saying: hang on kids, there’s a shovel in the garage, aim for their heads while I make sure I’ve got a new book and knit project in my bag before we bug out, mommy believes in your reflexes, gimme ten minutes please, my little sugar-cookies.
- My Nook broke and I didn’t fix it. I stopped looking for author lectures, I stopped all of it. A friend held a lovely, thoughtful book club (with tea and snacks even) and I could only talk about books I’d hated, authors I’d loathed. Kind, interesting women were Sharing and Being Open, and I. Was. Hateful.
- I delivered myself of lectures about Anne Rice’s writing and Franzen’s fall from grace, and how funny it was to me that Hemingway felt like his writing process was one. agonizing. word. pulled. out. of. him. at. a. time., because that’s how it felt to read him. For real. I did this. At a share your favorite books thing, with friends and potential friends.
- It was supposed to be: Tea and Books.
- Not: A Moody Shitclown Will Now Opine.
- And, AND… I sold all my books. All 4000+ of them.
- This isn’t a hyperbolic number, meant to imply a big-ass amount. This was my collection and it’s mostly gone now. I didn’t photograph my library before I broke it up. I didn’t capture the endless parade of plastic bins overflowing with books on their way out to the garage sale, or document the back of the 4Runner piled so high that even the giant tires were a bit flat. I didn’t even catalogue them. I counted, but didn’t do a list. I wish I had. I just sold and gave away as many as I could, as fast as I could. All my books now fit into two average sized boxes. Never, ever did I think I’d ever do this. Ever. But between trying to pack the house (over a year now, of trying to move, Hotel California-style), and dealing with many Small Shit Things and one Genuine Headfucking Lifefuck, I got rid of books, hand over fist, as fast as I could.
- Here’s the thing for the gratitude list.
- I went to the library a week ago, wandered around, picked up this year’s Best Science and Nature Writing anthology because it was there, no other reason, and read some of it.
- I was so relieved, after, on the way home. I hadn’t meant to do it. I was there for something else. I wasn’t testing myself. I wasn’t thinking at all, not really. I thought it was gone, that my brain was permanently fucked, that reading, like so much else, was lost to me. I was so relieved.
- It was like finding money on the ground and getting back on the right train, because a kind stranger stopped to point the way but first gave you a hot thermos and bread for the journey.
- And I started knitting again. Just a little.
- I hadn’t meant to do that either, not as a test, not as a TED-talk-here-we-go-now-team-here-we-GO-clapclap-type-deliberate-action. I was just stuck in traffic, the kind of jam where you turn off your engine and stew about bad drivers. (not YOU). (You know who I mean). After fidgeting for a while, I noticed some steel needles sticking out under the passenger seat. They were holding up a half-finished but still cheerful sock. We got a few rows done, the sock and I, before traffic started moving again.
- So I’m grateful.
- I’m thankful for muscle memory reaching through the fog of despair, for hands that remember, for old habits that die hard.