in which we catch up: Homespun, head scans, and secrets revealed

If there’s anything nicer than a Maryland spring, I’m having a hard time thinking of it right now. Of course, I’m awfully distracted by Maryland & spring at the moment, so.

It’s been a good few weeks. I’ve been getting the garden ready, planting seedlings, opening windows, spring cleaning. There’s an overall feeling of goodness and forward momentum, and I’m already dreaming about eating what I’m planting.

March was busy, busy, busy. My secret is out: now that it’s been announced, I can talk about it here, too, finally. The whole Editor- In- Chief thing is pretty big and intimidating, but most of all it’s just exciting. Of course, as soon as we made the announcement two people went on leave and another two quit at my day job, so I pulled a full- time week at my part- time the moment we told everyone. AGH. Maybe I didn’t need that moment of reverse- serendipity, but otherwise? Thrilled, you guys. If you sent me a note or left a message on my FB and I didn’t get a chance to thank you in person, I’m so sorry- it’s been really frantic, but thank you, thank you, thank you. The reception and enthusiasm has been really awesome, and I’m super- stoked to get to work.

I’m almost a month behind on telling you all about Homespun Yarn Party, that’s how busy the end of March became. HYP is my favorite smaller show; it’s just right, situated in this old textile mill in Savage, Maryland. Can we take a quick break to talk about how much fun it is to say “Savage, Maryland”, too? It gives me images of just tearing the place to pieces, folks just foaming at the mouth and getting all rabid over yarn (or antiques and french pastries, which is mostly what is sold in the place when it isn’t full of yarn people). I’m into it. I know it is just some dead guy’s last name or something equally boring, but it gives me a smile.

Kate and Nancye of Dragonfly Fibers were there, but almost never both in the same place at the same time, which seems to be true almost 65% of the time.

Those gradient kits, though. Unhf.

Those gradient kits, though. Unhf.

Christiane from Three Ravens was there, with her giant needles, of course— yeah, I have a picture, that’s a must- take.

threeravens

I also met Scott Manko and Amy Ross Manko of Ross Farm Fibers, a rare & heritage breed farm/ yarn & fiber supplier in Pennsylvania. I’d heard about them before, but I hadn’t had a chance to meet them (or see their stuff) in real life until last month. You guys.  Anyone who has spent more than half an hour with me in the last two years knows my feelings on heritage breeds, right? Yeah. My favorite place of the entire show, no offense intended to anyone else most especially my friends: I’m just a sucker for sheep, I guess.

rossfarm

Simple, pure, sheepy goodness.

Karida of Neighborhood Fibers is the devil and convinced me that I want to knit a sweater right before the weather turned warm, so we aren’t speaking right now, although she doesn’t know that and wasn’t even really trying so it’s really not her fault and I’ll probably be over it in a minute anyway. It’s a really good sweater, though, and I take for- goddamned- ever to finish anything, so it isn’t a thing. It’ll be cold outside again by the time I have the thing blocked.

You can see a little of the sweater in question (Jennifer Beaumont's Pixelated Pullover) on the right-hand side of this photo. I'd do it in a different color scheme, but yeah, I'm into it.

You can see a little of the sweater in question (Jennifer Beaumont’s Pixelated Pullover) on the right-hand side of this photo. I’d do it in a different color scheme, but yeah, I’m into it.

I didn’t pick up much- I don’t need much, so most of what I do buy is either work research, used for gifts, or purchased under oh god, I think I must own this lest I die levels of desire. Here’s what came home with me.

Duck Duck Wool's Silky Singleton (70% SW Merino/ 30% Silk, 438 yrds) in Night Bokeh.

Duck Duck Wool’s Silky Singleton (70% SW Merino/ 30% Silk, 438 yds) in Night Bokeh.

This is gorgeous, right? Really, really amazing stuff. I’m not certain what it’s going to be yet- there was only the one skein, so I’ll have to be creative, but I’m looking forward to it.

Neighborhood Fibers' Studio Sock (100% merino, 400 yds) in Logan Circle.

Neighborhood Fibers’ Studio Sock (100% merino, 400 yds) in Logan Circle.

This is one of my favorite colors- and my dad’s, too, actually. It’s hard to find a good, gorgeous mossy green, so this came with me, too.

These necklaces from little teapot designs are too cute.

These necklaces from little teapot designs are too cute.

These handspun necklaces from a little teapot designs are adorable and a great idea. I haven’t decided if these are just for review or if they’re also a gift or what yet- they’re kind of mesmerizing and I’m wobbling. There’s three of them in this pack and I’m still on the fence.

They're just so stinking cute is all. I JUST WANT TO PINCH THEM.

They’re so stinking cute, is all. I JUST WANT TO PINCH THEM.

This skein of Fiber Rescue Falkland didn’t even make it out of HYP intact— I started turning it into a ball at one of the tables and cast on for a simple shawl that evening.

Fiber Rescue's Falkland Fingering Multi Gradient (100% Falkland, 410 yds) in Spice Rack

Fiber Rescue’s Falkland Fingering Multi Gradient (100% Falkland, 410 yds) in Spice Rack

Oh, but my real darlings:

Ross Farms' Leicester Longwool 2- Ply, (approx 250 yds, 100% Leicester Longwool), in Flynn and Ambrosia. (Those are the sheep's individual names, BTW. Because awesome.)

Ross Farms’ Leicester Longwool 2- Ply, (approx 250 yds, 100% Leicester Longwool), in Flynn and Ambrosia. (Those are the sheep’s individual names, BTW. Because awesome.)

These definitely fall into that latter category, the “oh god, I think I must own this lest I die” list. Everything I picked up is wonderful, but Leicester Longwool is just so hard to find, and this is just brilliant: beautifully prepared, simply put up, perfectly spun and left to speak for itself. YUP. I’ll be making a classic piece of lace out of this, with the dark grey as my background and the light grey as edging. I’ve been pulling out charts for the last few weeks trying to find things that I like enough.

More happened in March than just Homespun Yarn Party, obviously. I decided to quit one of my day jobs- the easiest one, unfortunately, but it was also the one that was the least reliable, so there’s also that. There’s something very scary about dropping a “real- world” gig so soon to head back into the creative world, but I don’t really fit in the cubicle world any more (I never really did), and it’s a terrible fit with appointments, tests, etc. I needed to make more room for the CP job— doing four different things is fine, but five at the same time is too much to juggle, and Sam is working these wicked 12- hour shifts lately, so I’m not asking him to pick up much of the slack.

It was MRI month, too, which is always weird. How are you supposed to feel about an MRI, exactly? While sometimes they’ll show something that’s actively happening, whatever we see in one, it’s a done deal. It’s useful, but only to a degree for me. There’s always the worry in the back of my mind that we’ll unearth a T1 black hole or six, but I’m pretty certain we’d see that coming, and I’m yet to see one of those. I went in on a Saturday last month, and felt pretty good about it overall; we did a brain & cervical spine with & without contrast, my first time doing cervical spine, and I was really excited to see the cervical spine images. Yoga teacher training left me with a real love for anatomy, and I was looking forward to having my own set of vertebra images to study. (They’re incredible.)

Braaaaaaiiiiiiiinnnnsssss.

Braaaaaaiiiiiiiinnnnsssss.

My radiology department has a Pandora subscription and they let you choose the station you’ll listen to during your scans; I asked for the Delta Blues station, and as they rolled me into the giant white tube, I Got A Woman came on over the headphones and I just had a good feeling about things.

Superstitious, sure, but we’re all apes and it’s hard- wired into us. I did my best not to tap my fingers and toes through the test and in the end, my hunch didn’t let me down: diffuse small lesions in the brain, nothing to worry about, a few noticeable older lesions exactly where we expected to find them on the cervical spine, C5 & C6.

Maybe this is where the MRI is helpful after all, although not in any clinical way; it is comforting to have this very technical, Medical Thing confirm what I’ve known for years about my disease & body. My disease is presenting primarily in my spine (I have mixed feelings about this, but that is a different subject for a different post). I’ve known that for a long time, but I’ve never had proof in any firm, science-y sort of way, just “well, this symptom + this symptom along this timeline seem indicative of a primarily spinal course of attack, at least in this moment.” Not that there’s anything to be done about that, or with it; it just helps me address and manage, that’s all. Having this MRI, this affirmation, is solidly nice: hey, I have a pretty solid handle on what’s happening in there. Cool. That makes me feel safe, and while it’s utterly out of my control, at least I am in touch with my body again. There was a time when we weren’t really speaking; that was rough.

Oh, and finally: I am an aunt again! My step- sister Bianca gave birth last month: welcome to the world, baby Alyssa! No photos as they aren’t mine to put out into the world, but suffice to say she is absolute perfection and I’m not just saying that because babies are delicious, she actually is a really pretty baby. Time to commence with ridiculous amounts of tiny, tiny knitting! Recommendations for your favorite quick baby patterns very, very welcome. What’s your go- to baby knit?

on anger, compassion, and self- care (for A.H., with thanks)

A friend wrote me a few days ago, asking about anger. It’s funny— I’d never imagined that I’d be someone that might give out advice on that subject, but she’d asked in a very serious way, so I gave it some thought, and in giving it even a little time I realized that no, hey, I really did have a lot to say. I’ve spent a lot of time working with my anger- my rage, really- and while it’s paid off, it’s been a process, too.

Everybody’s got something to be angry about at some point in their life. I’m not talking about traffic or parking tickets or noisy neighbors or lousy internet service; I’m talking about real rage, the sort of thing that can eat you up inside. It’s poison, that stuff— no good for the bearer, and no good for recipients, either. It’s a flag, too; a warning sign that something is off- kilter and needs your attention, now now now now now, damnit. I think that far too often we either cram it into some dark corner of ourselves (which means it then spills out in inappropriate ways later on), or try to “vent” it (which frequently just perpetuates the rage cycle: anger feeds on itself). It’s a trap, and it sucks.

I spent years being just plain pissed off half of my day, carrying this low- level, simmering level of ire under my daily face. You wouldn’t see it, most days, but it was there, waiting for something, anything to go wrong, so that it could manifest. I’ve never made any bones about coming from a messed- up family, and as I grew older I began to really understand exactly how messed- up it really was, and as that understanding grew, so did my anger about it. I got out of my family, got out into the world and made friends with good people, amazing beautiful people with amazing beautiful families. That was a really good thing for me— I needed to know that was a real thing that really happened in the real world, not just in books and on sitcoms. It was also a really painful, rage- inducing thing, because it showed me everything I had not only missed, but would never have. (Those families, of course, aren’t perfect— because no family is ever perfect— but they came really close, and I’ve used them as models to build and run my own family today. I’m deeply grateful to them for the examples they set.)

Dealing with all of that was tough. I tried sweating it out at the gym, drinking it away at the bar, crafting it away with ALL off the hobbies, working it off at multiple jobs, forgetting it altogether with about a thousand moves. Nothing really changed, though. I mean, I got to be a somewhat decent runner for a little bit there, learned that I loved whiskey and couldn’t stand tequila, I’ll be useful as hell if civilization comes to a screeching halt, and wow, I’ve got one hell of a diverse resume, but other than that? Still pissed.

I met a lot of other irate people along the way, though. That helped. The service is full of people who are looking to get as far away from the folks who did them wrong as possible, and eventually a good amount of us share our stories, in part or in full. I did a lot of listening. Like, a lot of listening. People tell me their stories, I don’t know what that’s about, I have one of those faces, but it’s an honor to listen. The details are always different and we all take it in different ways, but it’s all the same, too: we came from places with holes in them, places that have something missing, whether it was compassion or money or people or affection or sanity or safety or yeah, all of the above.

I’d been meditating for years and years when I started putting that together— that all of our hurts are both somewhat individual and also not all that unique, which I found oddly comforting. (When “my family sucks” is a secret, these sorts of things can seem like a revelation.) I’d had a counselor in middle school who taught me very basic mindfulness meditation techniques, breath awareness, that sort of thing, and while I’d been expanding on that I hadn’t strayed too far. It wasn’t until I started doing metta work that I started making any progress on my problems with anger, though. Metta helped a lot, because it walks around a version of forgiveness that I find acceptable, and it exercises compassion, which, when you’re that angry, you really need. In metta, you start off meditating on the idea of sending compassion to yourself: “May I be happy, may I be safe, may I be well,” then work through someone you love, then someone you don’t really know… and then someone who challenges you. You finish by taking it out to the world at large.

Ahhh, but that “someone who challenges you” part. That’s the athletic bit.

Look, for beginners I sometimes skip that piece, because most students aren’t ready for it yet. I’ve had students burst into tears doing this practice in full; when I first started teaching, I didn’t know any better and would do it all and would have at least one student weeping, nearly every class, no exaggeration. It’s just too much to sit with for some folks, and having done it on the regular for years now, I get that so hard. Sitting brings up some serious stuff, stuff you have to deal with both while you’re sitting and afterward. That stuff can be revelatory, game- changing. That doesn’t mean it’s always fun.

You get good at compassion, though, and you get good at letting go. You get good at wishing people well and letting them loose in the world again, and that’s important, because a big part of rage is holding on. And you get good at extending kindness to yourself, too, and given how brutal anger is— how it can tear at a body— trust me, you need that.

It hasn’t just been metta that’s helped. That’d be too easy, right? It’s amazing stuff, and it’s one- half of the equation for me, but that didn’t do it alone. It’s also been about surrender.

It seems obvious, but most of us miss this in the rush of emotion: people are going to be themselves, and that really is their prerogative. (Who else immediately began to hear Bobby Brown?) I needed to surrender to the idea that people are going to do what they are going to do, that they are going to hurt me, anger me, that they have hurt me, that those injuries cannot be fixed, and that in the end, nothing can be done for or with it. Surrender is both a liberating and horrifying concept: we people hate the idea of not being able to control everything, but giving up the idea of trying to run the show is a damned good thing.

I am 100% responsible for my own words and actions and so is everyone around me. I can’t–– and shouldn’t try to— control the people around me, even when they are behaving poorly, hurting me, or working against their best interests, and part of that fight is frequently about control. See my side. Fix this. Make it right. Apologize. Stop being an ass. I can advise, I can disengage, I can call bullshit when I see it, but other than that, I find it’s best to regard other people almost the same way as I see forces of nature. I’m not responsible for them or their behavior. Other people will do whatever they’re going to do; they will follow their core natures (just as I will follow mine) and if that’s not working out for you, for whatever reason, it’s important to see that, acknowledge it, and make a plan. This isn’t a judgment on you or them: it’s merely seeing the world as it actually is rather than the way you wished it would be.

Easier said than done, I know. I’m not doing to lie or sugarcoat it: this process is difficult and it hurts. It’s also worth it. Look, I’m talking about a 20- year process on my end, although really, most of this work has been in the last 10, and the biggest push has been in the last 6. I know some of what I’m writing about here sounds like woo- woo mumbo- jumbo to some folks, but it does work, and while a great deal of it is based in traditional Buddhism, when I ran the bulk of this post by Sam, he cheerily summed it up by telling me that Taylor Swift said all of my surrender paragraph much more snappily in Shake It Off. I could have shaken him at the time, but I’m working on that, don’tcha know.

Okay— there it is, my wordglut on anger. Have your own advice? I’m sure my friend would love to hear it— leave something in the comments! I’m off to work on patterns and think about something other than being angry for a while.

on getting back into it, Imposter Days, strangers and the simply strange

I miss writing here. I keep meaning to- I write such long entries in my head, on scraps of paper, in my notebooks, but they never seem to make it over here lately. There are a few Reasons lately; I’ve been hibernating, mostly, fomenting, in retreat.

After Rhinebeck I began to expand; things started making a lot more sense, coming together. That was good, but I still haven’t had much I wanted to share. And I still have some weirdness about certain folks who are following this blog, which- well, that’s the nature of the beast, of course: it’s all out for public consumption and I’ve been a public person for some years now, but it’s more really about the nature in which they follow, which can only be classified as strange and a little obsessive. Writing about it won’t exactly help, but seeing as some of these people haven’t been in touch with me for decades, others a least a year or so, I’m not sure how it can harm, either. I have an estranged relative who is hitting this site about daily, sometimes multiple times a day— regardless of a dearth of updates. That’s actually the eeriest part: the unflagging persistence despite my lack of posts. On some level I’d been holding out, hoping they’d give up and let it go, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen any time soon.

I’m tempted to squirrel my life away out of pique, out of anger: this is mine, this is ours, you have no right to it, you kicked us out, so keep out, fuck off, go away. You never wanted me, or us, in the first place; why are we so fascinating now, when we’ve stopped knocking on your doors?  I was tempted to pull stakes and start somewhere new, just let this site archive, or even drop writing online altogether.

Here’s the rub, though: I believe in communication. I believe in the power and importance of the shared experience. I remember how many lines of communication opened up when I shared my time in Afghanistan, and damn, talking about MS, pain and chronic illness has been strange at times but there is a clear need for that kind of writing; I’ve met so many disability advocates, talked to newly diagnosed patients, and been given the opportunity to share information and experiences with other folks living similar lives, and their caretakers. Writing about MMJ has helped raise awareness; sharing my love of textile arts helped grow my community there. It seems small- and it is- but it still matters.

This has been my spot online for a long time, and I miss being here. I’m not sure I really care whether or not more strangers know the things I’m thinking or knitting or spinning or photographing or yelling about in the streets, really. It was bothering me for a minute until I realized no, wait: These people don’t know me any better than any other reader who happens across me on the internet- they’ve just met me face- to- face, and not for years in some cases. What’s the difference between them and some rando in Abu Dhabi landing on my page? Hell, compared to a lot of the folks who read/ comment, they’re behind the curve. Forget it: let’s just let it ride.

I can’t promise that I’ll be here a ton more. I want to make that commitment- I want to make high- minded plans that involve scheduled posts, lists, photos, all of that, but the truth is that I am busy beyond all belief these days, reshaping my life. I have intentions, though, and they are earnest and good, and they include a desire to be here more. I don’t know how much that counts for, but I’m trying to keep it straightforward & true.

I’m teaching again and I’ll be posting some about that in the near future (see? An almost guaranteed post!), I’d forgotten how much I enjoy the act of teaching itself, regardless of the material. I mean: I knew I enjoyed teaching, but I forgot the depth of pleasure it gives. I’ve also begun recording some guided meditations- metta, yoga nidra, general relaxation exercises- and that’s a bit surreal, too. Recording & editing audiobooks was one thing; sure, okay, that’s my voice, I’m over it. Hearing myself as a meditation teacher, though, I don’t know. I’d been doing that for years but never had the chance to hear how I sounded, and now I’m terribly self- conscious, which I need to get over right away. (Or I need to stop doing my own editing. This is probably a wiser option, but I’d then need to work up the nerve to hand over my un- edited audio to someone else and HAHAHAHAHAHA, like that’s ever going to happen, so I’m just going to learn to get over myself instead.)

It’s good for me, actually- feeling that awkward, editing my own work in that way. I’m so used to editing my own writing painlessly, going over paragraphs and tossing out clunky sentences, even entire pages that I hate and barely wincing. Oooof, that is terrible, I can think, and it hardly stings. I can do that again. It’s not the end of the world. There are so many words! Sort of like this entry— not one of my best, it’s rambly and long and all over the place, just a catch- everybody- up kind of thing, I’m not at all worried about it. I can write so many things, everything I write doesn’t have to be The Most Amazing Thing Ever Set To Paper. When it’s my voice, though- audio work? If it isn’t perfection JUST. LET. ME. DIE. I want the floor to open up and swallow me whole.

I don’t get it. Hey, I’m doing something sort of- kind of new, so hey, if I’m not 100% awesome at it, I SUCK I SUCK I SUCK I SHOULDN’T BE DOING THIS WHY AM I DOING THIS. Do we ever stop being in high school? Amanda Palmer knows what I’m talking about. (Hat tip: so does Cacie. I’ve been having some serious Imposter Days, but I’m working it out.) It’s good to be this uncomfortable, though. Sam makes fun of me because I enjoy feeling uncomfortable every so often; it keeps me flexible and on my toes. There’s something to be said for feeling really out of place and uncertain— it makes me look for new solutions, better ideas, different approaches. I make other things on those days, or I push myself to power through the work, or both.

So— I hope to write here more. And I hope to be a bit more present online in general, when I’m not working a part- time job, freelancing (there’s the photo gig, the audiobooks, the meditation recordings, the meditation teaching, pretty soon yoga teaching, occasional knitting/ spinning/ dyeing teaching, designing knitwear, and some odd making- of- things, too), and generally trying to have a life, as well. It’s hectic, but not as bad as it looks when it’s written out— strangely, it’s still more restful than my life was 8 months ago, and that’s really saying something. It’s interesting to be on the hustle again- I’d forgotten this feeling. It’s good, you know? Really, solidly good. I know it’s transitional- I’m working toward some pretty solid goals, there’s a well defined 18- month- plan here— but ooof, I’d missed the rush of this kind of living. Maybe I’ll be back in a few days to talk a little about that.

Be well, all. I’ve missed you. Let’s talk soon.

 

 

in which Rhinebeck is magic, but we already knew that

Rhinebeck was the weekend before last, and it was glorious, folks.

I mean, just look at this. It was ridiculous.

I mean, just look at this. It was ridiculous.

Sam and I went as civilians this year, our first time ever; we’d only gone as vendors before, which means we’d never really properly seen the show. We rented a house with our friends at Cooperative Press (with bonus Stefanie!) again- sort of a Rhinebeck tradition at this point, and a big part of the joy of the trip, too. There’s something that’s just deep- down fun about an annual, get- away, grown- up sleep- over party, and that’s what this feels like, each year.

This photo is missing Shannon, because she's the one who took it, but it's of almost the whole house. We should have grabbed a stranger!

This photo is missing Shannon, because she’s the one who took it, but it’s of almost the whole house. We should have grabbed a stranger!

I’d headed out to New York with some hesitation this time around: I was worried it might be painful. I dawdled getting packed, which (understandably) annoyed Sam, and it set a tone to the beginning of the trip that was less than pleasant, but by the time we were halfway there, I’d begun to release a lot of my anxiety. If it hurts, that’s okay, I thought. I can be with that. It’s part of this process.

It was good, though. Solidly, heartily good. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was bittersweet; I did miss the excitement of being a vendor, absolutely. But we helped CP set up and tear down, which made things feel better, somehow, and seeing our very good friends Dragonfly Fibers in our old spot made me feel so happy. Watching Kate and Nancye gain that dazed but joyful Rhinebeck- vendor glow as the weekend progressed was both terrific and a little frightening; I remember that feeling. It was so exciting and so draining, all at once.

Which brings me to the most important part of the whole weekend: realizing, on a real gut level, that I had made the right choice this summer.

I knew, cognitively, that I was doing the right thing in retiring from dyeing. You know how that works, though, right? How a body can know a thing is true, but not really feel it to be true, deep down in their gut, where it really matters? Once it was all done, I’d keep wondering: what if I had just tried LDN, or what if I’d just tried to stick it out through August (it was a very mild summer for Baltimore, after all), or what if I’d tried switching to the other oral medication, or what if… It’s the “what- if”s that will kill you, I swear. They’re brutal. They come for you in the middle of the night, and they just won’t leave you alone.

Saturday, I left the show an hour early; I was completely exhausted from being there. It was shocking, really; I hadn’t done anything but catch up with friends, eat French artichokes, pet some sheep, browse the barns, the normal things, but I was worn down in that painful, exhausted- down- to- your- bones way that I associate with- well, chronic illness or being the parent of a very small child. I hated heading back to the house early, but it was also a strange relief: now I knew. It sucked, and made me sad, but also: it was an established fact. If I couldn’t manage this, just the act of just wandering the fairgrounds as a civvie, then no— working the festival as a vendor would have been completely out of my reach. Hell, I’ve actually been resting for the last six weeks (I really did listen to my doctor, which is remarkable), so making it up to this point might not have even happened, if we’re looking at this with a truly critical eye. It was a confirmation, and one I really needed: I feel better than I did this summer, and I still couldn’t have done this thing, and that’s okay.

I’ve been in this holding pattern, waiting for my strength to come back, for these muscles to stop the whatever it is that they’re doing and be something approaching average again for far too long. That might happen, but my body has felt this way for about a year now, longer than I’ve had most of my other symptoms, which come and go; it also might not. This could be my new normal. MS is funny like that. Not funny: ha- ha; more like funny: I keyed your car and pissed in the gas tank, but you get the idea. Being at Rhinebeck this year, in an entirely new context, that was important, and I’m happy we didn’t skip going. I’m extra glad it happened as soon after the closure of the studio as it did.

It was different, being there as a designer and editor. Really, really different. I got to see things, for one. Assess trends, shop a little, eat, all of that. And actually spend time with people, which was good. I didn’t get to see everyone I wanted to- I missed out on a few important folks, actually (Lisa R, Penny S-G, how did we miss each other!? My stupid phone died on Sunday, to my absolute heartbreak) but I did get to talk with lot of the people I wanted to see, and that was wonderful— and not the quickie conversations that I would have needed to have in the booth, either. I met with many of the yarnies I wanted to see, started plotting for the next year (I have Ideas, obviously), started making my list of colors and bases for upcoming designs, and overall realized that while not at all like my life as a dyer, this was all right. No, better than all right: this was solidly, happily good.

That’s what I’ve needed, as I’ve been grieving over these last couple of months. Closure, sure, which Rhinebeck provided in a neat and tidy way, but also the real and solid feeling that I had made the correct decision, difficult as it was, and some sense of what things would be like, moving forward. The reassurance that I would be happy, in this new existence: I needed that, in a serious way. I’m still not in love with all of this, but that’s all right- I don’t have to be. That would be a lot to expect at this point, honestly. Being in a place of acceptance and surrender is so much better than where I was before; it positions me to create a new way of living that I can fall in love with, instead of just mourning a life I can’t have any more.

So, Rhinebeck: always surprising, always magic. I should have known that would be what brought me back to myself. It’s a bit like waking up, like surfacing after a dive. I’m sorry I’ve been so absent- not just from the blog, but from just about everything lately. To say that I’ve been “in retreat” would be putting it mildly, but I think I’m coming to the end of that now, and that’s a goodness.

The annual sheep photo, because OBVIOUSLY.

The annual Rhinebeck sheep photo, because OBVIOUSLY.

on the woods, and finding peace

This is what the storm looks like so far. It's sort of promising, from my point of view.

This is what the storm looks like so far. It’s sort of promising, from my point of view.

We’re watching the weather lately to see if this hurricane/ tropical storm is going to affect us for the 4th, and I’m a little embarrassed to say that I’m the Scrooge who’s hoping it might put a small damper on the festivities. I’m not hoping that the fireworks will be cancelled altogether, but if it could just discourage the unofficial explosives that happen throughout the neighborhoods- the backyard pyrotechnics that freak out my elderly dog and give me a bit of the weirds, too-  I’d be okay with that. Better than okay: I’d be happy. I know that “blowing stuff up, sometimes under varying degrees of intoxication” will be the theme of the weekend no matter what actually comes out of the sky this Friday, but it’d be nice if the 4th itself was a bit more subdued, as that’s always the worst day.

It’ll be so good to have a long weekend, though. I love that the 4th fell on a Friday this year; we can hide out and get some much needed- rest. No trunk shows this weekend! Just cooking, knitting, organizing, nesting, and maybe some writing. Snuggling my big old Rottweiler, who gets so nervous about fireworks sneaked over the Pennsylvania border, and trying to convince her to go outside a little- that, too, which is always an adventure. Poor Lilu, she’s a good old girl. 

Every year around the 4th, we think about heading for the hills. We talk about taking off for Canada, maybe, or a cabin out in the woods, just hermit- ing away, campfires and books and no connectivity, my favorite sort of vacation. We never do it, which always surprises us, and I’m still not sure why; possibly because the 4th itself seems to surprise us each year. It doesn’t really register on my list of holidays, which might just be denial- if I don’t think about it it doesn’t exist?- or maybe, because we don’t celebrate it, it doesn’t really ping on our radar. Either way, disappearing for that week- or even just a few days- would be a spectacular piece of self- care that we really should prioritize. I think next year we’ll toss that cabin idea up to a few vet friends and see how it shakes out. Besides, I miss the woods.

I’ve been sneaking off to the woods- or approximations thereof- a fair bit lately. Baltimore has all these lovely green spaces tucked in the middle of the city, and stopping off to take a moment in Gwynns Falls Park or Druid Hill gives me a moment of peace. I love these places year- round, but in the summer there’s this blissful coolness to the canopy and a very specific, heated- earth smell that I’ve always loved. It makes these places feel secret, hidden, and special in a way that they somehow miss in the other months. My family still refers to me as a city mouse, and they’re right- I am that, and my mistrust of small towns still runs deep. I prefer a bevy of resources. I miss the quiet, though, and I miss spaces like these, full of trees and moss and fallen logs. My cities need to be of a certain size— large enough to have Parks Of Some Substance. I can’t do the large- scale hikes I’d like to take on- I still have aspirations regarding the Appalachian Trail- but I love having these quiet, sweet pockets of woods tucked into my city, waiting for us. I can duck into a park, pull out a book and some water, just hide away for an hour or two in order to find my center again. 

I keep thinking that if I’m clever enough to know that I require an hour or so of quiet in the trees throughout my week, I should be clever enough to take a few days out of my year, too, and run off to a cabin in the woods for the 4th, as well. Why don’t I just do the thing, then? Why do I just ignore it? Is it my trademark bullheadedness, my desire to just push through any emotional inconvenience and keep trucking forward? I don’t hide that the 4th bothers me; instead, I just ignore my own needs and move through this period of the year. It isn’t that big a deal. And it isn’t, but it’s unpleasant: less so, year by year, but why experience that unpleasantness at all when I could replace that with something calming, something potentially healing, something definitely better? Ach, but then I’d need to extend the effort, I suppose. 

Self- care isn’t always simple, you guys. Maybe next year I’ll be better at it. What was it I was saying a few entries ago, about hitting the age of adulthood and being, magically, an adult? I remember hitting specific age markers and thinking, This is it, now is when I will have gotten it… right? The more I talk to my older friends, the more I begin to realize that we never do really “get it”, though; we’re all still puzzling it out as we go. I used to find this so frustrating, but there’s a comfort in it now. We are all just sussing it out. We are all constantly getting better at this. We are all progressing. There is no end goal, no point at which we begin to stagnate, unless we allow it. There’s something really exciting about that thought, too. I’ll keep getting better at self- care. I’ll get better at everything, as long as I work at it. Oh, I like that set of thoughts very much. And maybe next year I’ll find that cabin, take that trip. Something more than a few stolen hours in the woods sounds very, very good. 

on losing and regaining the thread

 

Adipose toy and ball of brown wool yarn.

speaking of smaller things

 

I was at Homespun Yarn Party last month and someone told me I should write here more often.

Boof.

I agree, though. I should. It’s good practice, it’s good for me, and apparently there’s some value to others in it. I enjoy the conversations that are generated in various spots by some of these posts. And it’s funny: I frequently start entries all the time— in my head, on my phone, scribbled off on teeny tiny bits of paper that end up wadded in my pockets, only to be found months later and puzzled over. When did I write this? I’ll think, smoothing out wrinkles, trying to read the fuzzed- out pencil. It’s almost always pencil; so inconvenient, but I like the way it always works, and the way it bites into the paper.

It’s hard, though. So much of what’s happening right now affects me but it isn’t mine, if you know what I mean. It’s all indirect. Without ownership, I don’t feel comfortable commenting on it or even on my feelings around it. Kiddo being off in college, my mother- in- law’s illness, the issues in Kiddo’s boyfriend’s life, how my husband deals with his mom’s illness, none of that belongs to anyone but those folks. My reactions to those things? Yeah, that’s all mine, but in sharing that, I share them, and— yeah, it’s okay to do that in passing, but I’m not down with me getting into the nitty- gritty in public. You do you, no judgment, but I’ve got to do me.

All of that’s a pretty huge section of my internal life these days, though, so… I don’t know. Every time I sit down to write, this all just seems to come up. I mean, here I am, talking about it, right? They’re not the only things in my life by a long stretch, but they sure are the biggest ones, and it’s hard at times to see anything but the big things. I’m losing my ability to draw down, surely. Getting caught up. It’s inevitable to some degree, but I’ve also allowed it. I haven’t fought it for a while; for a period, it wore us both out, definitely, but realignment is certainly in order, and I’m trying.

Back to the smaller things, then. It isn’t as though we can ever forget these big things- god, they’re ever- present, it’s not as though they’re going away- but back to my mindfulness, quiet, and seeking. I simply lost my thread again, that’s all. It’s so easy to drop, but never hard to find again. How do I forget this so easily, and so frequently? It’s been mindfulness and the small things that has always saved me and kept me balanced.

When this happens— when I “lose the thread”— there’s always this urge to beat myself up over it. The “How can I be so ridiculous?” refrain seems to be pretty common for everybody at some point. I try to give it as little energy as possible, but it never fully goes away, and I do think the thought merits a small amount of impassive analysis: How, really, did I get here? I let meditation become less of a priority. I stopped really looking around me and started powering through my life. I started using old “tools” from my life in corporate work to get through challenging situations- like skimping on sleep, a thing I can do for a while but which makes me miserable.

Cool! I can do better. Unhealthy habits like those can be dropped, and I’m pretty clear on how to fill the gaps. It’s funny how approaching the question without judgment makes finding those issues— Where am I going off- track? makes fixing them so much easier— Right, I’ve really got to pay more attention to the minute- by- minute of my days, I’m missing everything. Nothing is ever so far gone it can’t be put right again. There’s no use beating your head against the wall.

So I’m back at it: sleep, meditation, blogging, crafting for fun, seeing people in my spare time, paying attention. Slowing down. All that good business. Do you remember when you were a kid and thought you’d hit some magic age when you’d be done, set, complete as a grownup? NO MORE GROWING UP FOR THIS HUMAN TO DO. Almost as though you’d finished cooking, like a turkey or a beef Wellington? Yeah, me too. Surprise!

in which we talk about breathing

handknits in the studio window

handknits in studio window

 

It’s been stressful, of course. Isn’t it always? Who doesn’t have stress? It’s a part of living. Me, I’m trying to get the studio ready for people. People, everybody. Like, John Q. Public levels of people. We’ve begun having Knit Nights, which are really just Craft Nights (I should start calling it that instead, maybe?) every Wednesday evening, which was a HUGE THING for me: what if they hated how industrial the space is? (They didn’t. It’s a seriously cool space.) Also: it’s my super- special safe space. Opening it up to everyone on the regular— it gave me the equivalent of emotional hives, I guess. I avoided this for so long for exactly that reason, almost hoarding the space, which is just silly. THIS IS WONDERFUL. I NEED TO SHARE. Sharing is caring, etc, etc, it’ll all be okay. And it was!

Now, we’re putting together classes. We have knowledge, and people want to learn! Why not, right? Oh, yeah: THE EPIC LEVELS OF WORK INVOLVED IN PUTTING TOGETHER CLASSES, PROBABLY? Possibly that. Almost certainly that. But to hell with it! CAUTION, MEET WIND.

Oh, god.

Let’s stop thinking about our stress. It just makes things worse. Let’s talk about coping. I’m crap at self- care, but this year I’m trying to make it priority.

One of my best friends is moving back to Maryland soon. It’s a gift, it really is; it came from out of the blue, a text: “How about a late Christmas present?” Indeed, sir. He and I were in Afghanistan together, in the DoD before that, and stationed together in the UK, way back when we were first coming up; he’s another safe places for me, and I’ll be glad to have him back. I find that lately when I’m stressed out I’ll go back to that moment of sitting in the car, that second when my phone dinged in my hand and that text came through, the sheer brilliant shot of happiness that I felt in that moment: my friend was coming home. Oh, this.

I don’t much care for visualizations, overall. (Allow me this break, it all circles back, I promise.) They tend to make me uncomfortable. I have no idea what that’s all about, but when I’m in a class, or doing continuing ed as a teacher and it comes up, I just get a case of the weirds- it doesn’t work for me most of the time. There’s something about someone else guiding my imagination- it puts me off. (Which, by the way, is a HILARIOUS thing for a yoga nidra guide/ teacher to say.)

But so many of my students like and benefit from them, and there are a few I use every so often. That friend who’s coming back to Maryland? When we were in working in the DoD together he taught me a trick that I think had been circulated through our group of friends as a survival technique, a way to make it through the daily cubicle grind and political labyrinth of government work. It isn’t always bad- don’t let me give you that impression- but when it is bad (say, just as fiscal year comes to a close, for example), it can be pretty tough.

So when I’m feeling ragged and I only have a moment or two to decompress, I’ll lock myself into a bathroom stall, lean against the door, close my eyes, and run this visualization, real quick: Breathe in pink, breathe out green.

It sounds so, so cheesy, I know. I KNOW. I mean, that’s some seriously dippy, dorky woo right there. I am not a fan of woo, either. Also? IT WORKS. It really, really does. Ten deep- breath repetitions of that later, I wouldn’t call myself 100% soothed, but I’m generally in a much better, calmer, more “me” sort of place. Part of it is physiological: deep breathing, it works every time. Bringing more oxygen into your system helps: we tend to tighten up and breathe from the chest when we’re under stress, but it’s also helping us access the parasympathetic division of our autonomous nervous system. This is the part of our nervous system that controls our heart rate, the dilation of our pupils and blood vessels, and can bring down many of the “fight or flight”, panicky- feeling, or overall stress responses from the other half of our CNS, the sympathetic nervous system.

Deep breathing alone doesn’t usually do the trick fully, though: it has to be focused deep breathing, and that’s why the visualization really works here— it brings your focus in to the breath and keeps it there. Taking our attention down to just one thing and holding it there for a period of time- even as brief a period as ten long full breaths- that’s important. It keeps us away from upsetting thoughts and distractions, all those things that might be causing us stress and pain, and that’s huge, but it also draws us inside, and that’s even better.

We can create a quiet space, internally. This is more of a long term project, but if you keep doing this sort of thing- just stopping periodically and taking long, deep breaths, focusing on them, doing a quick visualization alongside your breathing- you’ll start creating that space naturally. You can carry that silence with you, something you can tap into when you need it— and seriously, people need this. After years of teaching meditation, one of the most surprising things I’ve learned is how very deeply people need this without ever realizing it until they’ve dealt with it: our lives are so noisy, folks. If it isn’t just everyday life- cars, planes, music, TVs, the constant hum of electronics and engines and all that- it’s information. Email, social media, the Internet, it’s both addictive and overwhelming. Finding stillness, anywhere, can be a shock, but a welcome one.

And so: as I’ve been dealing with the (mostly positive) stress of trying to get everything arranged to open the studio, I’ve found myself doing this more and more frequently. It’s not a bad thing: it reminds me of my friend who’s coming back to MD soon, which is always a good thing, and it also helps to ground me. It reminds me to breathe, and gives me a quick moment of stillness in the middle of all the madness. It gives me room. I found myself taking a few deep breaths in the back of the studio late last week and thought that with all the quick meditation tricks I’ve been using lately to get through this transition, I should be sharing, too.

So much of what I use in my daily, non- sitting life, is beginner- friendly: I keep thinking I should pop more meditation work on the blog. Ahhh, something for my copious spare time, surely. :)

in which there is an address!

 

Stopped by our local Post Office this afternoon to chat and renew my P.O. box. Who wants a pen pal?

 

P.O. box!

I have a P.O. box like a grownup!

in which we have a month of letters

So I’ve been working on this post about a meditation technique I wanted to share with everyone, but that’s still in the hopper— it’ll have to hold. Instead, I wanted to tell you guys about this thing I’m doing. It’s actually all Marianne‘s idea, and it’s AWESOME, and you should DO IT WITH US.

Right. I’m excited. Who can tell, though, really?

It’s called A Month Of Letters. Who doesn’t miss real mail? Not fliers, not gas bills, but letters, post cards, honest- to- goodness mail. Once upon a time I was a prodigious letter- writter. Fancy stationary gave me the shivers and a pen with the perfect pen nib was a subject I could argue over for hours but I’d take a legal pad and a mechanical pencil in a pinch, too— I wasn’t a snob. As long as there as a LOT of paper to write on, I really didn’t give a damn. I still have most of the letters I’ve received over the years, bundled up by sender and year; I don’t keep many things, but those, they’re like gold to me.

Here’s how it works: every day that the post is running, you send out a piece of mail to someone- a card, a letter, an Easter egg stuffed with goodies that you’ve covered with some stamps and an address, it’s your call.

I love you, T.

T, I love you.

 

Sam and I are headed to STITCHES West in a few weeks, which means another cross- country road trip. Part of my Month Of Letters includes sending Marianne some of the WORST postcards I come across, which sounds like it’ll be easy, but trust, every time I set myself one of these challenges, they’re always harder than I thought they’d be. We’ll see.

Anyway, my point: it’s not too late to get in on this, or even take it on next month. Want me to send you a letter or a postcard? Send me your address and I’ll write you. I’ll be packing a metric ton of stamps to take along on this trip, and all my favorite pens, but I’ll be sure to grab some of those mechanical pencils, too. I can’t promise what sort of mail you’ll get- or how legible it’ll be, I might be writing it in a van as we’re winding our way through Utah, who knows?- but I promise you’ll get mail, and mail with heart.

Who’s in?

 

 

we are all alone together

hand, with short nails, stained with dye

Oh, 2013. You, you, you.

We really had no idea.

Let’s just get it out of the way: 2013, I’m glad to be nearly clear of you. I had high hopes, with a number like 2013- it seemed auspicious in that funnily backwards way, and I really thought it would work out for us. You’re a nasty, tricky piece of work.

There was the travel, ceaseless. Work, of course. My mother- in- law’s cancer diagnosis, oh god. Kiddo going to college- such a good thing, but an enormous transition for all of us, and hard. Family, mine, and oh, if it started out rough it only got harder; that post in April only brushes on how bad things really became. (Side note: never talk about family business on the internet, even if it’s 20- year- old family business; it’ll get you solidly uninvited to weddings. WINNING. At least I know where things stand? Actually winning this time, though, albeit in a very sad way.) There was the MS relapse, which led to the meds change in the summer, which is gong really well (winning!) but was more physically exhausting than I ever could have anticipated. Learning that they might have found something in Sam’s autumn MRI, which turned out to be fine in the end but resulted in a seemingly endless stretch of I will not think about this right now, because if I do, I will just start screaming and I don’t know if I will be able to stop. And then there were the external tragedies, which aren’t mine to address but belong instead to friends; the griefs we have seen around the people we love.

It’s been a brutal year, for us and for the people close to us. I find it amazing that back in the spring I thought we might be standing at the outer barrier of how much hurt and stress a human heart could hold at a single time; that seems so ridiculous now. It’s been helpful, too, though. Through all of this, there has been an ongoing exchange of kindness in our lives that has been so amazing and for which we are so grateful. I have always had a very hard time asking for help, and while I can’t say 2013 broke down that barrier forever, it certainly made some inroads.

So. 2013, you’ve taught me how to ask for help, some. And I’ve learned more about simplifying, obviously, because when you’ve got too much going on you’ve got to cut the chaff. I’ve learned who will be there, and who will be honest with me. I’ve learned how much I can actually do under immense pressure, as a civilian. (It’s a totally different world, trust.) I’ve learned what happens when I really push myself, traveling. (About two, possibly three less trunk shows next year- or less interpersonal stress. I can control the scheduling of trunk shows, at least, even if I can’t see every bump in my life coming.)

I’ve been looking back over the last year- how awful it’s been, how hard all three of us have worked, how goddamned gutting the entire go of it was- and while I’d never want to do it again, I’m so glad to have it behind us, I still don’t want to toss the damned thing out. I have this general feeling of “Good riddance, 2013,” and I do mean that- good riddance to all of that negativity, to throwing myself at closed doors, to wasted energy, to sadness and grief and exhaustion and all of it- but I’m also so grateful for the way this has brought people together, opened us up, and moved us.

I just wish things were easier lately. If not for us- I don’t expect an easy go right now, Sam’s mother is sick, and this is a part of living- at least for the people around us. It is just this strange moment for us, and I get that. Everyone around us seems to have such immense sadnesses in their lives, though- real moments of tragedy. Fires, death, addiction, break- ups, divorce. It is both heartbreaking (we love them!) and a really, strangely beautiful time— so many of the people we love are being so kind and careful and generous to each other lately. We all have so little of ourselves to give, so we give to the people closest to us, and we are cautious with one another, gentle, sweeter than usual, careful to communicate. It is beautiful, in a painful sort of way. People are remarkable. I love watching how we are, together. And so I’m grateful to 2013 for that, too- for the chance to see, again, how beautiful we are, even in sadness, even in grief, even in pain. We pull together. We lean in. We do the work. We love one another. We heal. We grow. We learn. We just keep our shoulder to that goddamned wheel and do the work.

Here’s to 2014: may it be better to all of us than 2013, whether is was a banner year for you or not. We can do this, hand in hand, as a community. We are all alone together.

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