Friday, November 18, 2016

Gratitude Knitting Challenge

Thanksgiving feels kind of buried and lackluster with all the negative focus going on right now. What does Thanksgiving mean to you, and how do you keep it special when times are hard emotionally, financially, or physically?

My mother always had us go around the table at Thanksgiving dinner and declare what we were thankful for. I hated this, but not for the reasons she probably thought.

I was young - grade school age, yet the oldest of my three siblings. I suffered depression, and was far more emotionally sensitive than my disconnected/disinterested attitude/coping mechanism let on. Finally, even though I knew it was coming every year, I always felt put on the spot. I wanted to declare so many things, and have my gratitude by heartfelt by my family, but sibling pressure, performance pressure, and the acute understanding/belief that I could light myself on fire and still not be taken seriously held me back and translated to insincerity - if only in my own perception.

In hindsight I realized Mom was trying to instill the "gratitude attitude" and bond her family but, alas, it took decades and, or course, advice from strangers - sometimes paid - for that lesson to take hold.

As I find myself turning to things that bring me joy as a means to push out stress and negativity, I look at Thanksgiving with a renewed sense of gratitude. I have so many things not to be simply grateful for, but deeply, spiritually indebted for.

At work last week on my lunch break (I work in a hospital), I was witness to a homeless man - suffering malnutrition, dehydration, having difficulty communicating, wearing severely oversized pants, t-shirt and just one sock, but no shoes. His hands were horribly chapped and beginning to scar from the cracks that had bled. His exposed toenails were overgrown and gnarled, hobbling his gait, and his underweight skeletal structure was hunched and clearly stiffened. He could have been 50... he looked and moved like 80. As I observed him, I became so embarrassed by the hot soup I was enjoying from my bagged lunch. I dug through my lunch pail and found a granola bar, and took it to him. I asked if he was hungry and he replied simply "Yes." I gave him that bar, and he struggled to hold it for a moment before it dropped to his feet. I picked it back up and put it in his hand. I still ach to think of him, remembering how he asked if I could help him get some water. As I recall this encounter, I still cry. I feel shame and embarrassment.

My shame is simple. I know I should do more for others. We all should.

My embarrassment comes directly from knowing I take my life for granted; my home, food, clothes, car, job, husband, rights, liberties, love I receive...all of it.

And I turn to knitting to comfort myself.

It is my solace.

But even as I knit quietly in search of inner peace, the mind wanders and stress and distress leak in.

So as I pondered all this, it occurred to me that I could revisit some things and make a better way.  I'd like to invite you to join me in this exercies; this challenge if you will...

Instead of waiting until New Years to make a resolution or change, let's make a change at Thanksgiving this year.  (If we lose sight of the goal, New Year's can be our restart/reminder.)

Here it is:

For each round/row you knit - focus on something you are grateful for. See it, feel it in your mind and really delve into its impact on your life. Let it fill you with gratitude for one round/row.

Repeat, with each round/row, dedicating one gratitude for each.

And don't get bogged down with trying to come up with deep, grandiose things. This isn't supposed to rob you of your energy or depress you. You can be grateful for simple, incidental things, as obvious as the tools, fibers or pattern you are using and build from there. Gratitude is contagious and building. You'll soon expand to deep concepts without effort, only joy and awareness of abundance. Simply remain positive, reflect on one thing for one round/row, and repeat.

And if that challenge isn't enough...

Knit something for someone else - someone known or strange to you that you've never knit for before, who expects nothing from you, and give it to them with NO expectation of getting anything in return except the gift of having given.

Me? I'm casting on a hat to keep in my lunch pail for the next homeless person or cold child I encounter on my lunch break, because I can, and should, give.  And I'm casting on a gift for a coworker who's planning her retirement, She has extended me welcome, support, and warmth - all of which I'm grateful for, and I'll miss her when she is no longer just a few cubicles away.