Even though APW operates around monthly themes these days, sometimes a weekly theme will emerge as we work our way through a given week’s content. This week, it would appear, is all about figuring out who we are. For me, this is it. No matter the circumstances, knowing who we are is the first step to being prepared to enter into a lifetime of partnership. Because when you know what makes you feel fulfilled, then it won’t end up falling to someone else to figure it out for you. So today we have our intern Elisabeth, with her always-hilarious writing, and a brilliant narrative take on knowing oneself. Plus, there is knitting and baby birds.
When people ask how K and I met, I generally tell them we saw each other online, exchanged a series of winsome emails, and then met up for a bourbon cocktail. If there’s time, though, I like to tell them that what really happened: I put away my shoebox, and I knit a sweater.
A few summers back, I went to a psychic, mostly on a whim, when I was mooning around getting over my last break up. A good friend strongly recommended her. She said that her theatre company relied on the psychic for guidance about absolutely everything. And a theatre company is way more complicated than me, all that blocking and staged readings and shows run entirely on electricity generated by bicycles. Plus the psychic’s office was on the same block as my therapist, which seemed very important.
The psychic had a lot of slightly bizarre and moderately profound things to say to me, including that I was like the 2010 Gulf oil spill and my recent ex was like the cap that neatly sealed it off (not a false assessment of our relationship, but couldn’t you just agree gently that we were a bad match?!). She had lots of things to say about how creatively blocked I was, and that I needed to stop relying on other people to find outlets for my creativity and happiness. When I got out there and found it for myself, by myself, she intoned, only then would I be my authentic self with or without a relationship. Now, I realize that 99% of psychics probably say this to 99% of their customers. But then she said sternly, “You like wounded birds, and you need to stop carrying shoeboxes around for them.” How did that psychic see the last decade of my dating history? This was a logic model I could get behind: spend time alone; do not be distracted by wounded birds, even the most adorable ones; use all that time to discover my authentic self; once self is found, hold onto it and find a Person who is really pumped about my authentic self.
Of course, I had big intentions, but as with many of my projects, I was long on enthusiasm and a bit short on follow-through. I would “be creative” in periodic fits of energy. I sewed two pillow covers out of sea themed dishtowels from the Crate and Barrel outlet, my wild and distracted stitches marching up and down the messy seams. I co-chaired a consensus-based community garden committee. I rearranged my desk. I scattered ocean treasures just so across the wide planks and waited for inspiration to strike and ignored the fact that I had so many public health papers due that I never had any time to do any writing for myself anyway. (In retrospect I may have gone overboard with the ocean treasures. When a friend saw the pillows and sea glass strewn everywhere, she asked if I had plans to rename the bathroom “Buoys and Gulls Room.”) Of course, I also spent a lot of time creatively crying on the Q train.
Then, in the middle of a miserable city winter, I decided I’d embark on a truly creative pursuit: I’d knit a sweater, and I would start dating again when it was finished. Not even any making out lying down, nope, not until I was wearing a hand-knit creation. I reasoned that as adrift as I felt, by the time the sweater was finished I’d feel differently, maybe a little closer to the person I wanted to be. I went to the Lion’s Brand studio just outside of Union Square the next day, found a perfect, vibrant fuchsia, and brought it home. It was just me and those needles, flashing furiously. I realized that in two decades of knitting, I’d really never made anything for myself—not a pair of handwarmers, not even a scarf. I raced jubilantly through the first six inches without realizing the raglan increase was backwards. Ripped the stitches out, started again, slower this time. I would bring my sweater on the train; listen to The Moth podcast while I slipped yarn through loops and counted the rows and let my mind fade away, feeling calmer already, creating my own string theory. “By the time this sweater is done,” I would think, “things will be different.” Continue reading Elisabeth: What the Psychic Said