The beginning of 2019 for me has been a whirlwind, and unfortunately not the winds-of-fortune kind. It started off with a trip to the ER after waking up with a stabbing pain in my side that I suspected was appendicitis—not to worry though, just a kidney stone. Only days later, I was off to an unsuspected visit to the vet, because I found one morning that my kitten Gingham was refusing to open her right eye. The eyedrops I then got had to be applied every 2 hours for 2 days, meaning that my already precarious sleep schedule was disrupted in a big way.
This all comes of course with the usual stresses of the new year: new diet, new goals, and major planning initiatives at the workplace (making time off for these sorts of things all the more stressful). Even the very day I started thinking up a post about how knitting is great for stress, upon leaving the house, I dealt with all of the following in no more than 2 hours:
- Traffic on my commute being about quintupled due to the Detroit Auto Show
- Realizing halfway through that I forgot my employee badge
- Spending fifteen minutes crawling around the floor near my desk after dropping an earring (my piercing is new enough still that leaving it out for too long could cause it to close up)
- A local water main break affecting our building—which means no coffee!
Honestly, it was enough for me to want to break down—so I did! After work, in the comfort of my own home. But even all the while, through every anxiety, I was left with an overwhelming feeling of really, really wanting to knit.
I remember a story I heard in science class in high school, about a man stranded at sea on a life raft. He was catching fish, but that didn’t solve the problem of dehydration—until, by instinct, he started eating the eyes. See, it turns out, you can get water in your system by eating fish eyes. He didn’t know that, but his body did, like some ancestral memory passed down, the same way you might crave chocolate when what you really need is magnesium.
I bring this up to say that I think knitting might be my fish eyes (alternate blog post title?). When I’m stressed, anxious, or downright distraught, I crave my knitting needles, and reflecting on it makes the reason clear. See, when I want to spend some time in my feelings, crying it out and what not, I don’t want to just sit and dwell. It rarely does me good. But I also don’t want to distract myself from those feelings by watching Netflix, or going out, or something like that. I do want to give myself the opportunity to feel those feelings, or else they just get shoved down.
That’s what knitting does for me. It gives me the calm I need, the clarity to remain active and productive, but without distracting from my feelings, letting me process them in a meaningful way. Gingham’s eye? The vet knew what was wrong right away, it wasn’t a huge deal, and it’s being treated. My morning of mishaps? All temporary, enough to rile me up, but not anything lasting. Kidney stone? This too shall pass! Does that mean that any of those things don’t totally suck? Not at all, they all completely suck. But without taking the time to sit down, grab my needles, and think, I would have spent days more freaking out about them, paralyzed by the associated stress.
The next time you’re stressed out, anxious, or even in the middle of bawling your eyes out about how overwhelming it all is, pick up your yarn. Even if you don’t feel like it. See how it feels to work your way through it on your needles or your hook. If it ends up not being for you, that’s okay, you don’t ever need to do it again. We all process differently, after all. But if you’ve never tried it before, and if you’re like me, you might find that it’s exactly the thing that you need to level your head, straighten your bearings, and keep going.
At Gingham’s checkup at the vet yesterday, they let me know that her eye was 100% healed after dutifully applying the drops over the weekend. That night, I dreamed of a handmade hat, knit in teal, gold, fuchsia, tangerine, and blush.