onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “crochet”

Art and my noisy brain

I have been working on a crochet project for a few weeks, and I am in an uncomfortable but predictable place with it. I am a good portion of the way done and I have not been working on it almost at all for weeks, because I have begun to wonder if I actually hate it and have made a terrible mistake in trying to make it.

This is predictable because it happens every time I make a project that is an original idea and not based on a pattern. Every. Single. Time.

I know that this is the way of art. That there is nothing to do about it but keep going. And I even know somewhere in the back of my mind that it will probably be amazing, even if it is not perfect. And I know that I can alway frog it back (the common term for pulling out rows of stitches, because you rip it, rip it) and try again if I am so inclined. But knowing all of this does not particularly help me move in one direction or another.

My mind can be a bit of an echo chamber. Thoughts and ideas can bounce around in there for long periods of time, and grow or change shape in all kinds of unpredictable ways.

When I got my eating under control, an important early lesson was how I am “only as sick as my secrets.” That the things that I was afraid or ashamed of were amplified by my reluctance to talk openly about them. And once I found people on whom I could rely to be lovingly honest and nonjudgmental, I started telling my “secrets.” It turns out that the ghosts that can haunt me in my own mind are just shadows and dust bunnies when I shine a light on them. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

But art (and yes, I do consider myself an artist, and the kind of crafting I do art) is not merely an idea or a concept. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say. (I know, they don’t say that. But they should.) And art is not about ideas, but execution. So even if I were to wax poetic about my current project, which I occasionally do, it still doesn’t change the fact that it is not really anything until it is finished. It is not the idea that is haunting me, but my ability to make the idea tangible, and the reality of whether I can, in fact, manage to do that.

What I have learned about making in the 16+ years since I put boundaries around my eating is to trust the process. To fully embrace this place where I am stuck. To make friends with the rattling jumble of noise in my head. To honor the uncertainty and fear, and then, eventually, push through. To recognize that the idea and the object that is born from it are never the same. That art and craft are different, and that my art will only ever be as good as my skill in the craft. That there will always be more craft to learn, so make the art now anyway. 

Like I said before, I have this experience every time I create something from my own mind. And everything I have ever hated half way through, I have come to love upon completion. So I will probably make a few smaller projects or try some new techniques, and give myself a little distance from this major creative undertaking, and then I will come back to it and power through. And we shall see what I end up with.

A Shot At Resilience

Over the past few weeks I have been obsessing over plans for a character doll. (Yes it’s more Bridgerton. Do you not know I am an obsessive person? I am!)

There are two parts of art/craft for me. There is what I can imagine and envision, and what I am capable of executing and delivering. And my friends, those are so rarely in alignment.

Capability is very emotionally loaded for me. It always has been. Perhaps because I was a very capable child. I always liked being good at things. I liked the effortless way I did things early in my life. I liked the praise I received. I liked the feelings I got for being naturally good at things. I did not like the feelings I got from failure.

I avoided things I was bad at. I was easily paralyzed by fear, not only of being incompetent at something, but also of the accompanying shame, frustration, worry and guilt. So I ate. But in not even attempting new or difficult things, I experienced another kind of shame and embarrassment. Somehow knowing I should at least try, and being disgusted with myself for being stuck, and how that made me feel lazy. So I ate.

I ate to be numb. I ate to get high. I ate to forget about all of the ways I was ashamed of myself. I ate to find oblivion.

Here is the thing. Oblivion makes it really hard to learn anything.

One thing that changed when I put boundaries around my eating was that I ended up with a lot of time. A ridiculous amount of time. Cooking took up a lot more time than it had, but eating took up so much less. Once I put eating boundaries in place, the act of eating took up, at the very most, 3 hours of my day. And that was a stretch. In reality I probably spent an hour and a half, total, eating every day. But I had been used to eating all day. So what was I supposed to do with all the rest of this time?!?!

I decided to learn things.

I tried (and still occasionally try) lots of things, and I have made all different kinds of art. I tried drawing. I have designed and created clothes and even made an award-winning cosplay (awarded by a small, since-defunct English language manga magazine.) I have written prose and plays and poems. But perhaps most zealously, I threw myself into yarn craft. I learned new, advanced crochet techniques. I taught myself to knit from YouTube videos. I tried more and more complicated methods and processes. And I built on those skills, and used them to acquire new, even more Intricate ones. You know…learning.

I still don’t like learning curves. I still growl and swear and occasionally throw crochet hooks and knitting needles. I flex my toes and grit my teeth and make angry faces. And I definitely cry. But I still have all that time that is not being used to eat. So I do it anyway.

This week I did a thing I had never done before. I crocheted a doll body without a pattern. It took some math (a surprisingly necessary skill in yarn craft.) And lots of written notes. And a few stops and starts. And definitely some ripping back trying again. But it’s good. Really good. I am proud and pleased. Accomplishment unlocked!

I am grateful for this learning. Not eating helps me learn, true. But learning also helps me not eat. It gives me pride in my accomplishments. And something to do with my hands and my head. And a frame of reference that shows me that failure is not the end of a thing but the middle. It gives me a shot at resilience. Whether or not I choose to take it.

The “doing” and the “having done.”

I have been feeling particularly lazy the past few days. And today is, of course, my day to get stuff done. It’s the day for laundry and cooking and writing this blog. It’s my day to prep for the coming week. And I will do what needs to be done. In fact, the laundry is already in the washing machine. And I will start my cooking as soon as this is posted. But already I am looking forward to being done and sitting on the couch with a yarn project. 
It has been a long time since I have picked up a yarn project. And this one is particularly ambitious. I am attempting to make two dolls without a pattern. Or rather, I am starting with the base of another pattern and attempting to change it to fit my own specifications. It’s complicated and is taking a certain amount of blind faith. 
In my life in the food, everything scared me. Anything that was not an obvious win for me was a no-go. And even some of those “obvious wins” turned out harder than I imagined and I would quit. Everything was so serious. And nothing got done.
Or if it did, it would get done in the least healthy way possible. I have mentioned before that I went about creating like a crazy person. I would work like a machine through the day and night. Unable to stop. Unable to evaluate. And at some point things would get done half-assed because I couldn’t break my momentum but I was too exhausted to keep going properly. I had to see the end. I had to get that hit, that chemical reward. And it was usually mixed. Because it was done, but it was never perfect. And not perfect was never good enough. Now things get done with more care and attention, *and* I don’t need perfection. Wow!
I have always enjoyed the idea of creating. I have always enjoyed having created. I have always enjoyed the beginning and the end. The idea, and the finished product. I have never enjoyed work. Until I got my eating under control. 
In the food I was always interested in knowing, but never learning. I was always interested in having, but not acquiring. 
In getting my eating under control I learned to sit with difficult feelings. And feelings like realizing that I might fail at something are particularly difficult for me. Also, work, with it’s long-game potential rewards, as opposed to instant gratification, also fills me with difficult feelings. 
These are some of the feelings I ate. I mean, I was eating pretty much all of my feelings. But these feelings that forced me to evaluate myself, these were the ones that probably scared me the most.
Since I put down the food, I am no longer afraid of work, especially the work that creating entails.  I am not saying I enjoy it all the time. Ask my husband. I get frustrated. I swear, and growl. And sometimes I even throw down the yarn in a huff. But I pick it back up again. I learn. I acquire new skills and techniques. I add them to the list and seek out newer and even more difficult skills. 
Not being afraid of work is one of the biggest gifts of getting my eating under control. Not having to care that things be good enough is another gift. I am allowed to fail. I am allowed to make bad art. I am allowed to work really hard and have nothing to show for it. 
Putting boundaries around my food has always meant freedom. Freedom from the food itself. Freedom from living in a body that was difficult to live in. And freedom from my own ridiculous expectations. So today I will do the things I don’t want to do, so I can sit on the couch and attempt to do things I still don’t want to “do,” but will find immense satisfaction in “having done.”

Not to succeed, win, have or accomplish

I was an impatient child. Especially when it came to learning. 


See, I’m smart. Really smart. And most things came easily to me. I didn’t have to work hard to learn. And things that I didn’t learn immediately…well, I hated them. I didn’t want to do them. I didn’t want to fail. It made me feel bad. And I always felt like whatever energy I put in to something that ended in failure was a waste of my time. It was all about what I had to show for it in the end.

Soon I am going to get back into the workforce, and I would like to get a job teaching crochet, and helping people fix their crochet projects. At least one place I am looking at requires that you know how to both knit and crochet. So recently I started trying to knit again.

I am a bad knitter.

That is an imprecise way of putting it. There are things that I am great at. Like the dexterity parts. I am excellent at making the different stitches. I can make beautiful patterns with them. I can make cables and laces. When it comes to the actual knitting, I am really talented.

But there is another part of knitting that I am really really bad at. I cannot fix mistakes. This is inconvenient for a girl with mild perfectionist tendencies. If I make a mistake anywhere in a project, I don’t know how to get myself back to the point before I made the mistake without unraveling the whole thing. It’s all or nothing. I either have to live with the imperfections, or start again from the beginning. And I can’t stand making mistakes. So, so far, it’s all nothing.

But there is something different about me since I got my eating under control. I am patient. I am now one of those people who believes it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. (Seriously, I never thought I would be one of those people. I promise I don’t have art with motivational sayings. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

So for the past few weeks, I have been knitting. And I have nothing to show for it. And I am a-okay with that. I must have started anew at least ten times. And yet none of the times I unraveled the whole thing and wound it back around the ball of yarn did I feel it was a waste of my time. I wasn’t doing it because I need a scarf or a blanket or a sweater. I have plenty of beautiful clothes. And my house is cozy warm. I was doing it to practice. To get better. To learn. I was knitting to knit. It’s that simple.

The events and circumstances of my life are so much less “significant” since I got my eating disorders under control. And it’s such a relief. I love being free from having to be great at everything. I love having the ability to be incapable without shame. I love being exactly who I am all the time. I can even be ok with being a bit of a perfectionist.

I’m going to put the knitting away for a while. I just finished a really amazing crochet project and I’m ready to do more of that. But it’s nice to do something for the sake of doing it. Not to succeed, win, have, or accomplish.

As in life, so in crochet

Yesterday I finished crocheting a new small throw blanket. And there is a story about this throw. And the story is an analogy.

Several months ago, I made a baby blanket for a specific baby. (Unlike my tendency to make things, including baby blankets, for no one in particular.) And when I was done, I had quite a bit of extra yarn in a shade of pink that I loved.

Around early September, I learned how to crochet squares with flowers in the middle. And around that time, I found a light shade of green yarn that I liked a lot. So I made a bunch of pink and green flower squares. And they were lovely. But I didn’t know what to do with them. And I didn’t really have enough of either color of yarn to make much.

Plus, I had just purchased some fancy (superwash cotton and wool blend) yarn at a specialty yarn store. Needless to say, I was very excited to make something with the fancy yarn. So I put the pink and green aside and I completed a project with my fancy yarn. And then it was done. And it was time to do another project.

So I went back to my pink and green flowers and decided I would make it a 3 color blanket. I went to the store and I bought a bunch of skeins of another shade of green. I brought them home, held them all up next to each other and thought, “Ugh. This is not right. This is going to look terrible together.”

But this was the yarn that I had. So I decided to move ahead with the project. And I kept telling myself, “Just do the next thing.” And I kept crocheting.

And I kept stopping. “This can’t be right. Should I quit? Should I just give it up before I put a bunch of wasted work into it? Should I go online and order more of the light green and the pink? Well, for now just do a few more squares. Just do the next thing.”

So I crocheted. And stopped. And crocheted. And scrunched up my face wondering if this was going to end up a complete fiasco. “This really can’t be right.”

But it was something to do. And even with all of the stopping, I had already gone pretty far. So I kept just doing the next thing.

And it went on like this for the whole project. Right up until the very end. “I should just stop now. This can’t be right. Ugh, just be quiet and do the next part.”

I think that this turned out to be one of the most amazing pieces I have ever made. It is maybe my favorite.

pink green throw

IMG-20131123-00822

pink green throw 1

And I could never, ever EVER have planned it. Because it seemed like it couldn’t possibly be right the whole way through.

I see life this way. It starts out with something I love or I want. But I don’t know what to do about it. So I don’t do anything. I just go about my business. And then opportunities arise. And they turn out not to be what I expected. Or what I thought they should be. Or what I would have chosen as the best option for my happiness. But they are what I have. So I do the next right thing. And I stop. And I make false starts. And think, “Are you sure? Really? This can’t be right.” But I keep doing the next thing. In bitty baby steps.

This happened for me with food. (Give up sugar? Forever?!?! That can’t be right.) And it happened with writing this blog. (Write every week about being fat? Or bulimic? Tell people personal things about myself and my eating disorders?! That can’t be right.) And it happened for me with falling in love. (Leave New York City? With my childhood friend? To travel Small Town America in a pickup truck?!?! That can’t be right.)

And in the end, these turned out to be the greatest decisions I have ever made in my life.

I am limited. I can’t imagine anything outside of my own experiential frame of reference making me happy. But I have this amazing tool. Willingness. Surrender. To go along. To not seek too far into the future. To just do the next right thing right now. And to trust. That life knows better than I do. About blankets and yarn and blog writing and love and food. And anything else that I am willing to be open to.

Post Navigation