The winter that Jim had cancer, our friends gave us their New Jersey shore house to use whenever we could. That gift was a huge sacrifice for them because they rented the shore house all summer and usually used it themselves on weekends in the winter; it was their winter escape. But that winter, the shore house was ours.
We went to the shore in between Jim’s cancer treatments and spent the better part of November, December and January there. It was a great gift.
Each time we arrived, I thought of our friends’ generosity and cried tears of gratitude. Their selflessness amazed me.
I wanted to do something to thank them and so I started knitting a blanket.
Many people associate the shore with summer heat, but in the winter, when our friends would be using the house, the shore can be quite cold, so I thought a blanket an appropriate expression of my gratitude.
The problem was that I found it difficult to concentrate on the pattern, and I kept making mistakes. Time and again, I had to rip out what I had knitted and start over. After casting on for the umpteenth time, I realized that I needed to be knitting for the process of knitting, rather than focusing on the finished product.
Knitting can be a meditative activity. Like other repetitive practices, I can lose myself in the gentle sound of clacking needles and the movement of yarn slipping through my fingers. I have often used knitting to help me focus, and during those months at the shore, knitting helped me focus on Jim and what we were going through. It helped me to let go of my fears and move to feeling blessed and grateful.
I didn’t finish the blanket before Jim died, and then it took me a long time before I could pick it again because it had become a symbol of my grief; each time I tried to knit that blanket, I cried tears of sorrow.
Enough time has passed, and I am again knitting the blanket. Each stitch reminds me of those days at the shore, our friends’ generosity and the importance of being present to the process instead of being overly focused on the finished product.
I think that life can be like that. I can have many false starts before I find the best path to travel. But each false start offers me a lesson, something that helps me see a little more clearly.
I remember reading somewhere that the stories we tell over and over are offering us lessons that we still need to learn. We keep retelling those stories because something is unresolved or not fully understood.
As I retell the story of knitting this blanket, I am again filled with gratitude for what was—and with hope for what is yet to be. I am grateful for the many opportunities to start over.
What stories do you tell and retell? What lessons are they offering you?