Thursday, December 30, 2010

Beginning Anew

Beginnings challenge me. Beginning anything new, I feel awkward, unsure, and lost in not knowing how to proceed seamlessly from step one to step two. I stumble, begin anew, veer off track, and fight the desire to give up entirely. As life is a process of beginning, I have spent many years frustrated with getting from step a to step b. Recently, my crochet project gave me the opportunity to practice beginning and showed me the true gift of beginning anew.

In November, I began crocheting four place mats. For the first one, I followed a pattern. Each additional one has been my own creation, yet similar in theme. I love the creativity and freedom of designing my own patterns and struggle over figuring out how to mesh different stitches without a manual explaining each step. In this process, I often find myself deconstructing rows of stitches that took hours to create.

On a recent trip to Seattle, I had my crochet with me and one ball of yarn. On the plane westward, I found that the two stitches I had chosen to create a pattern for my second place mat were not working well together, making the piece uneven. I resisted pulling out the stitches and starting over, as I felt that if I started over the time and effort I had expended on that section would be wasted. Instead, I devised a "fix it" plan with my seatmate, a lovely woman from Alaska who was familiar with crochet.

As my trip progressed, I continued to try and make the stitches work together without tearing out any of my work. When I realized that I had seven additional days ahead of me and my one ball of yarn was disappearing rapidly into my work, I realized I had a choice to make. I had no way to buy additional yarn to continue my project, so I could either continue until my yarn was finished and be crochet-less for the remainder of the trip, or I could start over. I started over . . . from the beginning.

Once my perspective had changed, I easily accepted what had seemed so distasteful and wasteful to me on the plane: starting over. This was especially startling to me because I had expended extra effort to keep my additional design, worried over it, consulted about it, and spent much energy attempting to coax it into a workable pattern. Yet, when the time came to tear it out I did so easily, without worry, or regret, or self criticism, and with eager anticipation for the new, better pattern that was sure to emerge from my renewed effort.

This process fascinated me, as I had never before started anything over so easily. Thinking about this, I realized that it isn't ever possible to start over from exactly the same place as before because experience has value. I knew this intellectually, but to see it in practice and really "know" it was a startling revelation.

I now realize that whenever I begin anew, I begin from a "new" place because the passage of time and the experience gained during that time have value that cannot and are not erased even as crochet stitches unravel into a pile of squiggly yarn. So, I began anew, once, twice . . . four times, easily, without worry; and my finished place mat reaped the rewards of my letting go and beginning once more. I look forward to beginning anew in 2011. Happy New Year!

Here is a photo of my completed place mat:

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