When Things Go Well

I’m going to be honest: I did not expect to record a video about my knitting successfully. At least, I didn’t expect it to happen at this juncture. In my non-existent crystal ball, I envisioned spending weeks struggling along, recording increasingly hopeless and frustrated videos, before a triumphant breakthrough.

But that is not what happened.

As I mentioned in the video, I think it’s as important to take a close look at what is going well as it is to analyze what is going wrong. While there is a lot to learn from struggle and adversity, figuring out why something is successful can allow you to draw more of that towards you in the future.

So I leave you with these questions: what is going well right now? And what did you do that brought this good thing or experience into your life? It’s worth thinking about!

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Knitting for Fun and Frustration: Part 1

I’m doing something a little different this week, and for some weeks hereafter: video!

After years of waffling, it’s finally time for me to learn to knit. Join me for the adventure! I’ll be demonstrating some of the ways that I use crafting as a coaching tool, using myself as the guinea pig, but you can tune in just for the schadenfreude. I imagine my frustration as this project goes on will be plenty entertaining.

Why do I expect to be entertainingly irritated? Because learning something new is hard, and it tends to bring up our stuff. That’s why I use learning to spin on a drop spindle as a coaching tool — it’s a fast track to all the thoughts and issues you usually keep a lid on, but which are quietly making you miserable.

This is just the first installment. I expect to add more as knitting developments unfold.

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What I Learned From My Public Speaking Mishap

Things don’t always go according to plan. Understatement, right? It’s never fun when our plans go awry, but sometimes it gives us a unique opportunity to witness a view we don’t often get to see. That happened to me last Friday.

I was scheduled to give a five minute talk at a local event, Ignite Craft Boston. I must have run through my talk a few dozen times during the weeks leading up to it. I’d figured out where I was most liable to stray off topic or get stuck for words, and the best ways to rescue myself from any of those mistakes and get back on track. I was nervous (who isn’t, before speaking to 100+ people?), but I was ready.

The evening started, and it was time for me to talk (did I mention that I was somehow going first? I was). I stood up, took the microphone, started my slides, and began to talk. It was amazing! Despite being in front of all those people, I was more confident, more poised, and more energized that I’d ever been talking to my computer.

Then my microphone stopped working. Pausing to figure out what went wrong would have meant losing some of my precious five minutes. I didn’t really think about it – I just kept talking.

After my talk, during intermission, a number of people came up to congratulate me on handling the snafu so well, which confused me. What else could I have done? Other people did not see it that way.

Lest you think that I am someone who naturally rolls with the punches, let me assure you: I am not. Historically, my inclination when faced with “disaster” is to slink away and give up. I always get back up and try again, but first I give up.

For whatever reason, I was not that person on Friday. On Friday, I was the confident woman who kept skipping along without a second thought.

Where did that person come from?

Partially, she came from preparation. As I said, I practiced that talk dozens of times, and could probably have done it in my sleep.

Partially, she came from years of practicing my life coaching tools.

Partially, she came from using crafts to calm and center myself, as I’ve written about so often.

In totality, she was the result of a number of small steps, steps that I may not have even seen myself taking as I took them. It’s easy to feel like your attempts to grow as a person are fruitless, to feel like you are the same scared, inadequate person you always were. I know it is for me. But it’s not true. Just because you can’t see the progress you’re making, that doesn’t mean you aren’t making any.

One day, you’re going to turn around and surprise yourself. When you do, I hope you’ll tell me all about it while we play with some yarn.

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New Year, New Project

Happy 2015! I hope that the holidays were kind to you, and that the new year is off to a gentle, loving start. But what if it isn’t?

My year has started with a bang! Most of it is good (I have some excitement in the works for you!), but there is a lot of it, and I’ve been busy and even a bit overwhelmed by it all. I’m coping by crafting.

I’ve written more than once about how spinning yarn can be used to heal, but right now I’ve turned to crochet. While spinning is a wonderfully meditative activity, it doesn’t always give my brain enough to grab onto when I’m feeling frantic. It’s like the difference between empty mind meditation versus meditation with a mantra – the latter gives the monkey mind a little more to play with, which can help the rest of the mind to quiet down more easily.

IMG_20150108_144818I’m crocheting a simple, repetitive project: a dish cloth. The pattern is complex enough to be absorbing for me, but repetitive enough to be easy to pick up and put down quickly. Whenever I start to feel overwhelmed, I pick it up and crochet a few rounds. As I pull loop after loop through, I return to my center. I breath a little more deeply. I am restored.

It’s helpful to know what you need in a given moment. Sometimes, you need something that will thoroughly distract you, something you can really sink into. Sometimes you need something cheerful and quick, to give you a boost of confidence and accomplishment.

What that looks like for you isn’t going to be the same as for me. Someone who just started crocheting would likely find my dishcloth a little too complicated, and would want to stick to a basic double or single crochet. Someone who has been designing their own patterns for years would probably find it too simple to hold their attention for stress relief, but might like it as something to do while socializing, to allay social anxiety.

The nice thing about using crochet, knitting, spinning, or any other craft for healing is that it happens automatically. While you can certainly use difference techniques to maximize the benefit you get, you’ll get a healthy dose of healing just by picking up your yarn.

As you settle into the new year, I want to encourage you to do just that. The post-holiday period can be a difficult time, with any combination of disappointing holidays, withdrawal from either stress or excitement, and heightened expectations for the new year combining with reduced sunlight and increased cold (in the northern hemisphere) in a mix of stress and confusion. Give yourself the gift of twenty minutes spent with yarn.

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Top 4 Reasons to Knit Through Your Holiday Gathering

shopping-565360_640Crafts are healing. They can distract from physical pain and negative thought spirals. They increase feelings of self-worth and confidence, and reduce feelings of depression and anxiety. That all sounds really nice, but it’s vague. Let’s take a craft project into a real life, that can be stressful for many people: a holiday gathering.

  1. Feeling shy and anxious? Or are you simply an introvert who doesn’t love small talk? Your craft project gives you something to talk about. It’s probably something that is comfortable for you, so the conversation will be on familiar turf. It’s also a great way to avoid feeling awkward between conversations, but is more socially friendly than looking to your phone.
  2. Will be there be difficult people at this gathering? Your craft project gives you something to focus on when someone starts spouting inflammatory political opinions or giving you a minute-by-minute account of their last vacation. Just small, nod, and keep counting your stitches.
  3. With luck, you can use your project to dodge awkward questions about your relationship or reproductive status. This won’t work on the most dedicated of relatives, but it will cut back on casual questions. Most people will be fascinated by what you’re doing, which distracts them from discussing ill-advised, potentially painful subjects.
  4. It’s an automatic escape. Studies have shown that knitting has many of the same health benefits as meditation, including increased feelings of peace. For introverts, even the most pleasant of gatherings can become draining. Knitting or crochet can help you to restore your flagging energy when you start counting the minutes until everyone is gone.

This list is mostly geared towards introverts, but even the most extroverted can get drained at a family gathering, or want to avoid unpleasant conversations. If you enjoy crafting, think about bringing a project with you! Or if you used to enjoy it, now might be a good time to give it another try. Even if you don’t touch that scarf again next year, it will have served its purpose if it helps you through the holidays.

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