Thursday, November 18, 2010

The ravell'd sleeve of care

I can get addicted to almost anything. Mad Men. Caramel corn. Three Stooges videos. All kinds of good stuff. The knitting addiction started early, and has flowed in and out of my life like the tides.

I probably started around age 8 or 10, when "someone" taught me: either my mother, or Mrs. McAigie (don't know how to spell it), a dour old Scottish lady who sometimes looked after us and checked for sore throats using the ornate, grape-carved handle of a sterling silver fork. I remember her saying, "Always knit into the back of the stitch," which I know now is completely wrong.

In spite of all that, I learned. The first big spate of knitting came when my kids were born. I didn't care much about the quality, and they didn't either, but I did turn out some nice stuff: a Scandinavian cardigan in coral, mint and turquoise for my daughter; a pullover knitted side to side for my son. They weren't embarrassed to wear these in public. Oh, maybe they peeled them off when they got to school.

It's a little different story now. Certain family members, who shall remain nameless, don't like my knitting any more and have pronounced it "gross", so I try to avoid making those little sweaters. I've made "blankies" for each kid, probably eight of them by now because they keep wearing them out. I swear, a kid should not have a blankie at age seven.

But what do I have to say about it?

Every once in a while I try to knit something for myself. I remember early attempts, and even see some of them in old photos, and they're not bad, or at least wearable. In the interim, something happened. I just can't do it any more, and I can't quit either. I either give the thing away because it's too big or too small, unravel it and recycle the yarn, or if it's really hideous, toss it in the trash, wasting expensive materials.

So. Having run out of projects, and by now totally, deeply addicted to the hypnotic rhythms of the activity, I decided to take on a cableknit sweater, probably the hardest thing of all because you have to pay so much attention to what you're doing. So if I have my Mad Men DVDs on, I can't fully take in Jon Hamm's breathtaking gorgeousness when in bed with some skank that could be me.
I was totally seduced by the picture, of course. I'll never look like that, for God's sake. And as usual, the color I chose, a sort of caramelly light tan called Heather, now looks green. Store lighting is totally misleading.

Cableknit has such cabalistic instructons as C4F (slip next 2 stitches onto cable needle and leave at front of work. K2, then K2 from cable needle), T3B, T3F, C6F, etc. etc. Sounds like half a postal code to me.

I have to follow a little chart, pictured above. You probably can't understand it, and neither can I. It's hard to stay in step with this thing. It's like an elaborate dance (and I can't dance). Miss a beat, and the whole thing falls apart.

Kind of like life.

Is this why I'm so hopeless at making things for myself? When (I think) I've done an OK job making stuff for other people, even designing patterns for 8 different blankies? I keep trying, too, which I know I shouldn't. Some fatalistic part of me says, hey, face facts. It'll never happen because you're outside the club, always have been, and always will be.

A horrible thought came into my head not long ago, a real soul-killer. I had this realization that sooner or later, probably sooner, the grandkids will see through me (and thus, inevitably, stop loving me). But that wasn't the horrible thought.
The horrible thought was, "By the time they see through me, I'll be dead anyway."

These are the dark things that stir at the bottom of my brain.

I'm reading Furious Love, all about the tempestuous relationship between La Liz and Le Dick (aptly named). Richard Burton apparently harbored a deep self-loathing that drove him to alcohol (his true love). At the end of his life, after a fragile period of sobriety, he went on a bender, suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, and died at 58.
Almost my age.

I'm not going to drink! I'm not. I don't even know where all this is coming from. I'm having a better week, I really am. I'm not so hopeless about the work.

But I'm gaining back the lovely weight I lost, and finding I can't get into all those lovely new clothes that I spent all that money on. I wonder why I have it in for myself like this. (Maybe that explains why I love the Hopkins poem about Margaret, To a Young Child: "And yet you will weep, and know why.")

So I knit. I try to knit up the ravell'd sleeve of care (speaking of Shakespearean actors. Did you know: my maiden name is Burton?). I try to make something out of nothing. Isn't that what writing is all about? What gives us the right? Who do we think we are?

All the stuff I hear about on blogs and message boards now talks about how nearly impossible it is to get anywhere, to get published, even if you've already been published many times. Some wise souls give up. I don't.

Good? Bad? Indifferent?

I may not be cut out for success, no matter how hard I try. And I've been told, repeatedly, that I have the goods, I have the talent. Some folks just aren't cut out.

Or perhaps they are.
POST-SCRIPT. Since the above post, I discovered some things that bugged me in the 9 or 10" I'd already completed on the sweater. I hummed and hawed about it, thought about backtracking and undoing the worst of it, decided I needed a new color and went to take the yarn back, changed my mind, came home and thought about it, then, ruthlessly, ripped the whole thing out and started all over again.
This may well be a metaphor for my life.