Sunday, November 29, 2009

Snagging Wool

In my own Quaker meeting we have about 10 minutes at the end of the gathering when we are invited to speak any thoughts that have “arisen out of the silence but we were not led to minister on”. I hadn't gone to meeting today but did give myself time to do some reflections and my mind wandered between three loops.

I keep thinking of Jane and her Olympian Torch Carrying Journey. I think of her determination and grace and courage. I think of her doggoned stubbornness to live with cancer. I am also thinking of my mom-in-law, Judy, who is experiencing that moment when she knows cancer has returned but not in what form or what the future holds. I am thinking of the courage to simply get out of bed. I am thinking of how difficult it is not to know.

My other thoughts keep returning to the time in our lives when around 15 years of age, we were all so sure. Sure that life was fabulous or sure that life sucked. We knew everything and what we didn't know, we had complete and detailed plans on how to find out. Everything seemed urgent somehow. The missing hairbrush was as important as the missing homework. The shopping for shoes was as important as not getting caught in some mischief. Although many of us fancied ourselves “liberal” thinkers, we hadn't bumped into any of the situations that would challenge that kind of self-definition.

Now many of my friends are past 45 years of age, in fact, many of us hang around the 50 year mark. Many of us have children who are past the age of 15 and they are beginning to understand that there is more than one way to view life. We watch them and laugh, or cry or sigh. I think about how at 50 whoever I am is not an urgent question anymore. I and me have been rubbing along for so long now that whatever urgent questions I had at the beginning have drifted off or have resolved themselves. Life now is a lot like knitting. There is a plan in front of me which I have chosen, there is a colour scheme that I may have chosen, depends a bit on the pattern. There are small steps that are taken along the way to achieve the finished item and hopefully I get them all right so I don't have to retrace my steps, or if they were wrong steps, maybe I can live with them. This is a fully explored metaphor elsewhere but the part that is new to me is the idea of snagging wool.

Every so often a day or two comes along when I have a snag in the skin of one of my fingers and the wool doesn't glide smoothly over the surface of my finger. I adjust my finger to avoid this, or put on a bandage or sometimes, switch hands. Eventually, the snagging of the wool, or for the purposes of metaphor, life, gets on my nerves and I stop “knitting”. The knitting doesn't sit there ignored until my skin surface has healed. Oh no, it sits there until I have fully lived through the frustration of not being able to knit with ease. I sabotage myself into not knitting because I don't want to knit under less than perfect conditions and I grump along until the moment when things could resume is long past. When I do get back to it, I wonder why did I wait so long.

Jane and Judy don't have that luxury right now. If they stopped doing things because they were less than perfect, they would find themselves never getting out of bed and one day even that would be a piss off. Every person we know who is getting on with life even though there are snags are a lesson to us to persist. We can give ourselves permission to face the day in a snarly, grumpy kind of way if it helps for a tiny little bit of time, but we can't go through life that way endlessly. Jane couldn't run that Torch ceremony but that was the best damn walking I ever saw. Judy can't figure out how to face her cancer today, there isn't enough information right now, but she can call her grandkids and rake a few leaves and put her toes up with a cup of coffee. I can go get a bandage and pick up the knitting and knit a sleeve. We all have so much to be grateful for and it is our privilege to acknowledge it.

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