Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Living in the Short Rows

When she travels, my friend Peg always takes a knitting project with her for the airplane trip. For her holiday travel this Christmas season she was working on a lace project which was an especially complex pattern that incorporated a technique called short rows.  Short rows are Satan’s handiwork, designed to confound the best of knitters and keep us humble. (Not really but it feels that way sometimes.)

Wrap and turn, knit back, wrap and turn, knit back…and so on and so on. 

 Short rows never seem to end and you never seem to get anywhere…but somehow you plod through them and if you don’t scrap the whole project in total frustration, at some point sometime you finish strong, hopefully with your sanity in tact. 

Sounds somewhat like life, at times? Aside from the normal ups and downs and twists and turns of life, we all have periods of living in the “Short Rows”. Perhaps our plans took a slight unexpected detour, onto a road filled with potholes and sharp turns. We brave the challenge with aplomb, recalling all those wise words from our mothers who probably faced more adversity than we ever will… we steel our face in a smile, we grab our faith and try like hell not to go backwards.

Wrap and turn, knit back…

Perhaps the most difficult of all of life’s ups and downs is change itself. We all want to grow emotionally and spiritually. We call it maturity.  To stay in the same groove of life is stagnating…a broken record of sorts. But when life's changes take us places that are unpleasant or even frightening, our steely smiles dissipates. We gird our loins, so to speak and opt for the “just get me through this” approach.

Wrap and turn, knit back…

The goal in knitting short rows it to not leave “holes” in your pattern by carefully wrapping a strand of yarn around the last stitch in the row and turning the piece around to knit back to the beginning. An experienced knitter can easily spot the short rows in a garment, even if they are expertly executed. There may be a subtle change in the pattern or the colors of the yarn, but the rows are artfully secured with each wrap and turn.  No holes. 

We too can easily spot the beautiful unevenness in the pattern of our own lives, knowing that the turns and twists did not defeat us.  We were made stronger just by the journey itself.  No holes. Life’s short rows are inevitable.  I think that it’s how we “wrap and turn” that determines the ultimate outcome of our daily struggles. Making the effort to view each challenge as a personal growth opportunity rather than a crisis waiting to happen is what makes us stronger in the end. 

In knitting. we can choose not to do the patterns with the horrid "wrap and turn" short rows...but in life, not so much. If we could "pick" what happens to us, heck yeah, we would! But it doesn't work that way and we know it.  So, with every period of growth and every painful wrap and turn, we get a little better at living. In the end, we become deliciously complex...unplanned holes and all.

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