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Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Thread of Life

I have abandoned writing lately and thought I should explain why. After I wrote the piece "A Stern Talking-to", I did, in fact, have that serious chat with myself and took action. This is a process I have had to repeat every fall for the past few years as winter approaches and I find myself dreading the long quiet dark days ahead. This year is no different.

It was through the process of writing, actually, that I came up with a solution. I recently wrote a short story based on our aborted trip in October 2009 to the west coast to visit my very sick sister and her equally sick husband, who died only two months later. We never made it because Michael's battle with deep psychosis peaked on that long train journey and we had to jump off in Winnipeg to return home immediately. I was deeply saddened and disappointed not to see my sister for what I thought might be the last time. As it turned out we never saw her husband again.

During that voyage I had started a new knitting project to while away the hours of a six day train journey, three days each way. But with Michael so ill I had little opportunity to accomplish much the two days we did spend on the train. All my energy went into keeping him calm which during the night was nearly impossible. During the day when the daylight pushed away the demons, we both succumbed to naps, leaving my knitting project mostly untouched.

On returning home I resolved to finish the project through the winter months but I didn't realize how challenging that time would be. It was a period of adjustment for both of us: for Michael there were months of difficulty adjusting to the new drug regimen with extreme peaks and valleys in his health; and for me there was the challenge of just staying on top of all the new duties thrown at me with a now very disabled husband, both physically and mentally. So the knitting sat ignored. Every time I did have an opportunity to work on it I found myself completely uninterested. The project languished in my knitting bag.

Processing that ordeal through writing, I realized the real reason I was rejecting the project. It represented something of a chronicle of that terrible experience on the train that I had little interest in revisiting . I felt no pain or anguish on picking it up, just an overwhelming fatigue and annoyance. I wanted nothing to do with it anymore. I had at first thought that my reluctance to pursue the shawl was a lack of interest in knitting in general but it was when I made up my mind to give it up completely and start something fresh that I suddenly felt excited about my hobby again.

Recently, whenever I have had a moment of respite, I'd rush off to the wool shops and spend a happy hour or so poring over the pattern books and the vast array of splendid colours each store had to offer. I spent far too much money on complicated patterns, so convinced was I that I could tackle anything. I spent money on wool and triumphantly brought home materials for several projects. I started on one very difficult cardigan pattern for myself but quickly realized that my concentration was impaired by the constant din of the television, Michael's sole source of entertainment throughout the day. And I couldn't abandon him and flee to another room to pursue my hobby; I needed to be close by in case he needed me.

I settled on more modest projects, easily completed in a few days, and I am on fire. I've thrown the old shawl into a closet where I'm sure it will live out it's days until I decide to unravel it and start something new with it. In the meantime my current projects beckon to me throughout my day, urging me to finish them, so eager are they to become whole and functional. I find myself rushing to finish up my various domestic duties, so eager am I to sit with my new friends. And the television, which two months ago I thought might completely derange me, has become a nice backdrop to my simpler projects. Michael and I sit companionably, he watching or snoozing through his various sports shows and I happily knitting away.

With this entire commitment to Michael's care, I cannot look further than a few months down the road. I have given myself permission to reevaluate my own strengths every once in a while and not look beyond. It is why I think I am having difficulty committing to a long complicated project; it's easier to see the endpoint with the shorter ones.

So, dear Readers, if I abandon my writing it is because, for now, at least, I have a new love, and like a new love, I cannot quite get enough of it. It is making the prospect of a long quiet winter more than bearable.