onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “learning”

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.

From instant gratification to the long slow dance of application.

There are things about life that my addict self is bad at. Like process. Like anything slow that takes effort. Like anything that doesn’t come naturally to me.I’m good at stuff. I’m smart. And I have always had a knack for understanding the way things fit together. Literally and figuratively. 

But being good at stuff made me impatient. When “easy” is the norm, anything remotely difficult becomes frustrating. And I never dealt well with frustration. I learned to numb it early. I used sugar. I got through life that way. I didn’t shine. But I did get by. 

But it made people call me lazy. I suppose that is one way of looking at it. But in the past few years I have chosen to have some compassion for the person I was then. I was overwhelmed. I was terrified. And I was in the throes of an addiction I didn’t even understand.

When I put boundaries around my eating, I wasn’t expecting anything except to deal with my weight. But it ended up shifting the way I saw the world. It made me less afraid of failure, and more willing to take risks. And it freed up a lot of time. And time opened me up to the possibility of process.

For one thing, I didn’t have the option of zoning out on sugar, so when I came to the point where I got frustrated with something, I couldn’t get so high I just forgot about it. And also, getting high on sugar went from being the most important thing to me, to being the thing to be avoided like the plague. All of a sudden, I needed other things to fill my time. 

A little over 2 years ago, I first tried to learn to knit. I tried on and off for over a year and a half. Did you get that? Over a year and a half. From March 2014 to November 2015, I tried and failed to knit. 

In November, something clicked for me and I finished my first project, a simple basket weave baby blanket. And suddenly, I could knit.

There are different ways to knit that have to do with where you hold your working yarn in relation to the needles. (I happen to be a continental knitter, in case you were wondering.) But there are also ways that people knit that are about the way one thinks about knitting. In other words, are you a project knitter, or a process knitter?

A project knitter sees a scarf, a sweater, a pair of socks, or a bag and thinks “I want to make that for myself or a loved one.” A process knitter sees a stitch, a pattern, or a technique and thinks “I want to be able to do that!”

I, personally, think of it as a continuum, more like you fall somewhere on the spectrum of “project” to “process,” than being strictly one or the other. But I am pretty we’ll situated on the process side. 

I like acquiring skills. I like learning things. I like the challenge and the reward.

What an amazing thing that was to learn about myself! What a miracle to discover that inside that “lazy” girl who insisted on instant gratification, was a woman who loved the long, slow dance of attention and application. 

I am not saying I don’t get frustrated when something takes me longer to learn than I think it should. I occasionally groan and curse and put it away for the time being. But in the end I am always called back to learning. I guess it’s just the way I am. And I never would have known if I hadn’t put boundaries around my eating.

A stitch in time

I sometimes have mentioned that I have gotten many benefits from getting my eating under control. More than being in a smaller, healthier, more comfortable body. More than no longer being obsessed with food.

There’s a long list, frankly. Self-confidence, integrity, peace, happiness and love are just a few. But this week I am really struck by one of those gifts. A specific kind of patience that I have acquired. Patience to learn and improve. Growth patience.

When I was a small child, my grandmother taught me how to crochet. She taught me one stitch, and how to make rows of that one stitch. But I don’t remember ever finishing anything as a kid. Not a scarf or a blanket. Not a pot holder. Perhaps I did. But for most of my life, I thought of myself as someone who never finished anything she started. And I would say that I thought of myself that way because it was true.

In my early 20s I took up crocheting again. But I did it feverishly. And with no concern for the quality of my work. Or the quality of materials I used. I half-assed a few hats and scarves because they were quick and easy. I would get impatient to be done and would start making my stitches bigger to hurry up and get it over with. I even started using the wrong size tools so that I could make bigger stitches in smaller yarn. I had zero patience.

I’m not sure why I even wanted to crochet back then. I don’t remember enjoying the process at all.

But in the past 10 months, I have completed and given 7 homemade gifts, made 2 blankets, a hat and a scarf for myself, and have 2 small complete throws sitting in my closet that don’t have recipients. And I am in the process of 2 new projects at the moment. Some have been quite large and time consuming. Some have been smaller and quicker. But they are complete.

And they have been good. I take my time. I care about both the quality of my work and the quality of my materials. I am proud of what I make.

Mostly because I have been patient about learning. And practice. I have been willing to make the best thing I can with my current skill level. And then to take the time to learn something new. And to make a project with my new knowledge. And then to practice some more. And to be content to be where I am without needing to be the best right away.

Don’t get me wrong. I got a little ahead of myself in the beginning. Wanted to go from making a scarf to making a dress in an instant. Tried to make a dress. And failed.

But I decided that was ok. I didn’t quit crocheting. Instead I decided to quit having ridiculous expectations of myself. I decided to take a step (or ten) back, and get better at what I already knew. And then I decided to learn a little something new. And get comfortable with that.

Because one thing I learned from getting my eating under control, is that pretty much everything worth anything takes time.

Losing weight takes time. Changing the way you think takes time. Getting the life you want takes time. Becoming the person you want to be takes time. That slow and steady wins the race.

And it’s always only a journey. That there is no destination.

My life eating was all about destination. And accomplishment. One destination to the next kept me from ever being satisfied. My worth was based on getting everything right and/or perfect. And that still didn’t propel me to doing things right or perfect. It more just kept me from ever getting anything done. Out of fear and shame.

Getting my eating under control has taught me patience. I have to be patient for my next meal. And in between meals is time to do something. Anything. Have an experience. Read something. Walk somewhere. Learn something new. Make something.

For the most part, I am still making blankets. I’m not quite ready to move on to sweaters or dresses yet. But it has been less than a year since I started crocheting again. And perhaps I never will move on to sweaters. Perhaps I will only ever make scarves and hats and blankets. I don’t have to decide today. I just have to get better at what I know. And decide what I want to learn next.

I learned that from putting boundaries around my food.

I’m posting some pictures of a few of the things I have made since last November when I started crocheting again.

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