Sunday, November 16, 2008

Knit, spin, frog

I'd say that those three words are a fairly adequate description of the fiber-related activities of yesterday and today, although the last is, as yet, more of a projection than a completed task.

Friday was, overall, a stressful day at work, at the end of a stressful week. Lots of politics, lots of intrigue, and it turns out that I just don't enjoy it. I'm going to have to start shutting my door and telling people that I'd rather not know what they know. So much simpler.

On the other hand, having things like that happen also give me a chance to realize how much better I handle them than I did even a year ago, which in turn was already exponentially better than I would have a year or two before that. A lot of things have happened in those four or five years that make the difference, including that painful back surgery I've mentioned, which certainly served the purpose of making me rethink a lot of priorities, but knitting and yoga have, I think, made it possible for me to implement that rethinking. Among many many other changes that those two activities have brought about, possibly the single thing that makes the most difference to me is that I now regularly get a reasonably good night's sleep.

I know that most women, at some point in their lives, have trouble sleeping. And I also know from talking to friends that there are lots of different ways to have trouble. Most of my friends have sleep troubles of the variety which involves going to sleep just fine, sleeping for a few hours, and then waking up and finding it impossible to go back to sleep. That has never been my problem. If I can get to sleep, then I can pretty much be guaranteed that I'll sleep until someone makes me get up. It's the getting to sleep that has been a problem my whole life. I remember as far back as high school lying awake in bed for hours, fretting and worrying, completely unable to go to sleep no matter how tired I was. That pattern lasted through the fatigue of the early baby years, right through grad school and into my new job. Exhaustion had no bearing on my ability to get to sleep. Trying hard just makes it worse, because if there's one thing in the world that doesn't respond to effort, it's sleep. And then I started taking yoga classes, and after a year or two, I found that I could lie quietly in bed and do sun salutations in my head, breathing along with the imagined poses, and that I would then fall asleep in (relatively speaking) no time.

The back surgery changed some things for me, making it near-impossible to take any kind of yoga class, or to easily practice at home, but as my teacher has always pointed out, one can always breathe, and those imagined sun salutations got me through a lot of post-operative pain and fear. More recently, I've found that knitting serves the same kind of purpose. Not just to help me go to sleep when I would otherwise be fretting over the day's events ("I should have said...", "Why didn't I...?", etc etc), but also to give me some space to calm down and step away from that fretting during the day. It's almost like having a mantra to mull over quietly, "knit knit knit purl purl knit".

Perhaps the weirdest thing about all of this discovery of peace is the part of me (the waiting for the other shoe to drop part of me, apparently) that thinks that there must be something wrong with me that I am not stressed out and losing sleep. As if it's somehow wrong and abnormal not to be in a constant low-level state of stress. And isn't that a sort of sick statement about what my life used to be like? I think I prefer it this way, my sense that I'm failing at something in some way because of my lack of stress notwithstanding.

So, what did I do to meditate the week's stress into a place where I could observe it more peacefully? Well, I started in on Anne's latest foot-covering beauty, the woodsmoke sock.
I'm knitting it in some STR lightweight from this year's sock club (I never got to the pattern for this particular one, although I will someday, but the colorway seemed perfect for this pattern). The greens there are more emerald and gray than they show in the picture. Look at those lovely scrolls:
I love the deep texture of this pattern. In the long run, I think that I'm more of a texture person than a multicolor person, although there are times when lots and lots of wild colors make me happy (like Kauni). But right now, it's all texture, all the time (think about Laura's sock that I just knit -- lovely lovely texture).

This is the project that needs some frogging, though, alas. My computer failed to save the latest version of the pattern, and I missed some of the nifty stuff that's supposed to be going on in the heel flap, so even though I'm almost done with the gusset, I'm going to rip back and try again. I am going to wear these a lot, I can tell, so they may as well make me entirely happy.

I've also been spinning. I suddenly decided that I wanted to finish the Sanguine Gryphon roving that I got at The Loopy Ewe so that I could concentrate entirely on the Fuzzarelly roving (what can I say? even I sometimes get overwhelmed by too many projects at once), so I've been pounding away at that, and have finished the first bobbin, and am halfway through with the second. Once I finish the last bit, I can ply those two bobbins together and pet the yarn while I move on to my spindle again.
I realized as I was spinning why I love this colorway so much; it's almost exactly the colors of the silk in the sari that I wear each year for my friend's Diwali party, and I adore the colors of that sari with an insane passion. I'm not quite brave enough to post any pictures of me wearing it, but imagine a whole nine-yard swath of silk in that gorgeous burnt orange, with green and gold in the trim, and you've got it.

Meanwhile, it is miserably hot and dry here. I know you're tired of hearing it, but people, it was over 90 degrees yesterday, and the humidity levels are below 10%. That's just fundamentally wrong for November. And the results are some terrible fires in L.A. and Orange counties. Please send wet and safe thoughts to the folks whose homes are in the way, and to the firefighters who are battling those blazes.

It does mean that I can do this, though, which is a small consolation.
So, it's off to the frog pond for me, with intermittent stops involving the clothes line.


Jane said...

Hope the frog doesn't stay long and you get the result you are looking for. I always find the day seems to go a lot better if I get some time to knit or stitch, able to cope with anything then

Anne said...

Sleep is good. Knitting is good. Breathing is good. And closing your door (literally and figuratively) to academics politics is also good. If there must be frogging, let it be of the sock and not this excellent attitude you're modeling for us all.

(My verification word is catorsus, which ought to mean SOMETHING, don't you think? Surprisingly, i often think this about verification words. Perhaps I am a closet linguist. Or etymologist -- is that right?)

Helen said...

Breathing is lovely. I had physiotherapy for my breathing because I was hyperventilating a lot, and I found it very empowering and calming. Quite blissful sometimes.

My verification word is Glikeni, who I think were an ancient people on the Celtic fringe.

Anonymous said...

Hate this weather.

Sleep is good! I have the exact same problem. Can't get to sleep for hours. And one night when I was completely unable to sleep, if finally occurred to me that I had nothing nothing! to worry about at all and that felt utterly foreign. (Thankfully I've gotten used to it;)

Anonymous said...

Wishing you peaceful colleagues and happy feet, and since you're already contributing to both of those by being a grownup when they need one and by knitting socks... You've got your best feet going forward, clearly.

Bea said...

The sock and the spinning look great. Its an interesting sock pattern.

The only time I've ever had problems sleeping is when I am alone in the house. Nothing will still my mind. I can do the same sort of yoga breathing and try and make thoughts go away and they are just there all the more. I usually knit/read until exhaustion hits. It was interesting when I didn't have a roommate in college for the first year and then after college for another year and a half. I probably slept half of what I should have. Right now with Chris out of town I'm back to the exhaustion thing. I couldn't keep my eyes open this afternoon and totally passed out. I was leaning over in the chair I was in and my head was just low enough that Abbys face was level with mine. Its not pleasant to wake up with a bulldog licking your ear. Just saying.

Anonymous said...

I routinely calm myself by chanting knit, knit, knit with each stitch. I completely empathize with you on the sleep, though my version is the wake up at 3 and go through the lists. Sometimes a row or two of knitting is all that is needed.

And that woodsmoke sock is great - with the cables and the bands of color, I can see puffs of smoke rising up the shin.

knitspot anne said...

oh how i wish we had a clothes line. but our squirrels would wreak havoc with that i'm afraid.

nice socks! i actually don't mind the rev st heel finish as much as i thought but i'm curious to see the other one

Lynne said...

Yes, knitting is great for relaxing - except when one is knitting lace! I'm frogging again! :-(

Alwen said...

I've been a good sleeper most of my life. I even converted my husband, who slept poorly before we were married.

Then this past year I started having a lot of trouble sleeping, and have only just got my old sleep rhythm back. So now I have much sympathy for sleep troubles.

I love the pattern and that yarn. It doesn't sound like the prospect of frogging is discouraging you.

You could have some of our snow, quite heavy overnight and today for this early in November.

Verification word is "chlot", which sounds like something stuck in the throat!

Anonymous said...

Ahhh, the fiber helps smooth our reactions...

We had lovely weather this weekend! But disconcerting for November. Where's the rain? Friday/Saturday was very windy. Friday felt like storms coming in with heavy wind. And then they didn't. But I got to hang out my clothes too. (Wish I'd managed to get the sheets done for the sun.)

Anonymous said...

I completely understand what you mean about having trouble sleeping. 3 years ago when i was changing careers, I was depressed and existing in a near constant state of panic attack. I couldn't sleep, or even function. That was when I started knitting socks. My first pair of socks was an exercise of faith. I just kept knitting around and around with those few shaping bits hoping that somehow something good would appear. Seeing those socks take shape let me do a few things each day, and then more and more, until now I have calm again on a regular basis. I am coping and happy, and knitting has lots to do with it. What would we do without yarn? Or at least fiber?

Take care.
Sarah (scienceprincess)

EGunn said...

Academic politics just never stop, do they? I've been getting a heavy dose this year, teaching at a different (smaller) school, where words fly fast as thought from door to door. It seems that listening, saying little, and staying positive is the best approach, though it's easier said than done. And I agree...close the door whenever possible!

I also sympathize with the lack of sleep and the back pain (is there anything we don't share??), but I'm glad to hear that a low level of stress is possible...maybe someday.

That fiber is beautiful, and so is the sock. Sorry about the visit to the frog pond! But in the end, you will be glad you did it. And those look like they're worth making perfect. =)

I'll try to convince some of our rain clouds to head your way, though they're probably settled in for the winter, now.

Lynne said...

Ah, the outdoor clothesline. Do you know most Aussies use one all year round? I'll take a photo of a tradtional one if I can find one [mine's obviously non-traditional].

BTW, you've been awarded.

Mary Lou said...

I used to be a power sleeper, then perimeno hit and that started the middle of the night wake up and worries. Breathing does help. i also figured out I can listen to audiobooks thru earphone and set it to shut off after 20 minutes. that can distract the brain enough to go back to sleep most nights. And of course, knitting helps with everything.

Stell said...

thinking of you amongst the frogging and the fires, keep safe and sane. I came across a DIY swift - here

breathing properly and kniting, I find both meditative, soothing, rhythmic, I know they help. Frogging can be good to, it gives me a sense of control, knowing I can do better, that i can undo.
Take care
na Stella

Stell said...

and spinning :)