Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Knitting & Neurosis

I am not a craftsy person.  I generally find most crafts to be sources of frustration rather than fun because I can't make things look like I want them to. I can picture or see how cool something could be, but my fingers are too stupid to make it work. I like to be good at things so I hate having lofty goals and amateurish results. So it is with real trepidation that I am committing to making all of my Christmas gifts for adults this year. I am committing here so that I will actually do it, and you can all hold me accountable. My kids will still get indulgent and wasteful stuff. If there is something I hate more than doing crafts, it is the stress and expense of Christmas shopping.

I had solved the holiday shopping problem by using Amazon. Sit down, click around, get a bunch of presents - no muss, no fuss, no traffic. Except that I am trying to reduce the commercialism & waste in my life, and I do my best to buy local, so a Christmas sponsored by doesn't really fit in with those goals.

More than anything else, I dread the idea of giving people cheesy, tacky, hideous, handmade things that they would never want or buy, even in their wildest dreams.  We've all gotten those gifts from well-meaning relatives and the thought of giving them makes me cringe. So next week I am going to learn how to knit.  I mean, I live in Alaska so who can't use a nice scarf? My BFF and knitting coach assures me that if I start now, there is time to re-do them if they are ugly.

Now, if I were a normal person I could approach the idea of learning knit as the simple acquisition of a new and useful skill without being all neurotic about it, but noooooooo.  I am not going to make things that simple; I am going to overthink everything instead. I have been intending to learn to knit for about three years, but have always helf off because of the emotional drama I spin around in at the idea. I know several really good knitters and it fascinates me. I like to watch them knit and it is amazing when they take some yarn and twist it around for a while, and magically it turns into a thing...a useful item. It is like yarn and stick-based alchemy. In my mind there is an intergenerational communion in practicing old skills, like the rare occasions when I knead bread and I feel in harmony with all of the women who came before me and fed their families with the work of their hands.  It might be a good thing to learn this relaxing and meditative alchemy.  It is probably a better thing to do with my hands than to continue to use them to shove Nutella in my face. But I digress.

As soon as I decide to learn the other voice speaks up. Do I really want to learn to be so domestic? I spent most of my life trying to prove that I was a female person and not that bogie-woman a girly-girl. Did I work that hard to be taken seriously only to fall into a stereotype now?  I mean, what kind of feminist knits for goddess's sake? I had the same thoughts when I learned to really cook and I love cooking now. But cooking is a little different - everyone needs to eat, but no one needs to know how to make their own socks.  If I end up liking to knit, am I telling myself that I am someone other than who I think I am?

To any reasonable person, the second point-of-view is stupid. The whole point of being a feminist is to be able to make my own choices, not to limit my choices to a different, less traditional, more masculine set. As I wrote this I could imagine the Buddha laughing at me.  Why would you not allow yourself to do something possibly useful and enjoyable because it might conflight with your identity which you, yourself created and isn't even real?  But those values of creativity, utility, relaxation, and humility are real, so why let my ego get in the way of giving knitting a try?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Grateful for Older Women

UU Membership is "graying"; we all know. In my short time as a UU I have heard and read a lot about why this is a problem and how to fix it. Demographically, I understand why aging memberships are a concern, but I have found a benefit to this lop-sided nature of our congregation. It has given me an opportunity to get to know a whole group of people with whom I almost certainly would have never interacted.

Older women.

I love the older women in my church and I am so grateful I have gotten the change to get to know them. There is the cheerful & bubbly woman in her 70s who did more than anyone to convince me that AUUF was worth looking into. She loves and welcomes everyone and embodies loving-kindness. I recently heard one of our board members whisper that he wanted to be her when he grew up, and I don't think he is alone in that sentiment. She also introduced me to her women's group and the wonderful retired teacher who turned 71 on our shared birthday. That detail is just one of the many things this second woman and I have in common. She has shown me how to remain yourself while embracing change, and that gratitude and contentment lay on the other side of difficulty. Her spirit make me glad to be around her.

The simultaneously bold and relaxed 60 year old who hosts our small group is such a role model for me. Every time I talk to her she makes me feel valued and appreciated while continuing to push me to be the person I want to be. She pushes in the nicest way possible, but still... you know you were pushed. These wonderful women take everything in stride. When things go wrong they laugh, do what can be done, and move on with life. I love this about them.

These are just the three who stand out to me the most. There are others who I don't know as well, but I look forward to learning what they have to teach. I only hope that when it is my turn to be one of the elders I will have gained some of their love and wisdom, expressed with their humor and grace. I hope that I can be to a younger person what they have been to me.