17 November 2018

Active Waiting

As I wend my way through this year I have seen over and over again the power of waiting. It has not been so much a matter of 'good things come to those who wait' more a series of erratic stoppages in my life.

In the early part of the year it was waiting with, and on, my mom as she entered fully into dying. I had brought several knitting projects with me because I always bring projects down to my parents' house to work on, often times more than I could ever do in the week or two I plan to stay. Dad sometimes teases me about the number of bags or boxes in my car, but he also helps me carry them in the house when I arrive.

As I have written elsewhere, I found certain types of knitting a great antidote to waiting to do the Next Thing for Mom. I could feel like I was getting something done and keep my mind active, even as I was waiting for Mom to express her next request.

Several times she said variations on "I'm sorry to interrupt your work…" before asking me for help or to get her something. My answer was always that the project was only to fill time between requests, I was there for her first and foremost. We eventually agreed that she could say she was sorry for interrupting me as often as she wanted, as long as she went ahead and asked for what she needed with worrying. It sounds strange now, but it worked for us.

Over time, I came to realize that, for me, knitting a simple project that didn’t require my full concentration was helping me to stay in the moment. It gave my naturally worrying brain something to focus. If I was going to spend energy worrying anyway, I might as well focus that worry into keeping an eye out for dropped stitches; rather than what the next day or two might hold. I can (mostly) control the stitch count of a knitting project, I can't control how well someone will sleep or what the side effects of medications will be.

Having a focus that was outside of myself filled the waiting minutes but didn't distract me from the moment that I was needed to take action.

Other forms of waiting this year have been less fraught. I took over a crafting project to repair a blanket and for several weeks I was able to work on it actively as I figure out what stitch pattern and gauge was used to make the pattern. However, once my investigation was finished, I was left with the difficult part of the project: finding yarn that matched the existing project. Not only did the color need to match, but the fiber content, sheen, and weight needed to be close to the original. Commercially produced colors change from season-to-season and from year-to-year. Colors that were everywhere suddenly vanish into thin air. Add to that the fact that colors fade and change over time and finding a match becomes as much a waiting game as anything. I couldn't will the yarn I needed into existence, but I could keep an eye out for it, waiting as stock changed, or as I spotted new places to look for older yarn. I was actively waiting for the right yarn. Letting time pass while also keeping myself open to finding the right thing in an unexpected place.

Now I am in a new time of waiting. My favorite season of the church year, Advent, is almost up me. I have started my own tradition of getting out my Advent candles and my nativities in the week before Thanksgiving. This year Advent in the Episcopal Church starts on Sunday, December 2nd, so if I stick to my schedule, I'll be ready to light my first candle ten days early. 

I started my practice of setting up early for Advent because I frequently would miss the first week in the confusion and busyness surrounding Thanksgiving. Having everything set up in advance of the first Sunday in Advent make it easier to intentionally mark the start of the season and enter into the quiet the season brings.

Back when my own daughter was born, I wasn't a knitter. I did sew, and I made her a little, slightly weird, baby outfit of my own design. Maybe this year, I will spend some time knitting while my Advent candles burn through the dark time of the year.  They can light the way as I actively wait for the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

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