When I was a teenager, my mother decided that it would be good for me to learn to knit. My friend’s mothers all decided that same thing, and soon seven young teenagers found ourselves in a 4H group that was called the “Knitting Lions.”
We each picked a project to make. I picked a sweater.
My club leader suggested a potholder, but I was sure that knitting would be easy. So my mother and I bought a knitting pattern for a sweater, yarn, and needles, and I began.
I will spare the agony of many weeks and months. My mother believed in the adage, “Never quit.” Suffice it to say that I did finish the sweater, but you could have fit four of me in it. Well, at least in half of it. One side was very loose, and large. The other side was so tight that it was impossible to get my arm through the armhole without struggling. I had a couple of very large “holes” in the front piece, and the back piece sloped sharply downwards in the middle (kind of like a tuxedo tail). Luckily, no one wanted to keep a picture of that awful project, so I can’t show it here.
I have never wanted to think about knitting again.
However, I have learned some things from that experience. (Most of them I won’t go into in this blog post -- including such things as, “Knitting makes me crazy.”) One of the things I learned is that I picked an extremely advanced pattern. If I had picked a very basic pattern, I would have knit the sweater in different pieces - the arms would have been separate from the front and back. This would have allowed me to put the pieces together and fit them to each other, instead of making one huge piece. Mistakes can be much more easily corrected that way.
I’m going to liken this to our emotions.
When we have an experience that upsets us emotionally, remember that it is a ‘piece’ of life -- not the entire picture. If we have one experience where someone hurts us, remember that it does not mean that all of life is painful in this same way. Segment things. This is one experience.
Yes, it is all a part of our life. But - it is a piece of life. We are the ones who have to choose how to relate each new experience to the whole. We do that as we take those pieces and look at them completely. With my sweater, I could have taken out parts where the tension was too tight. I could have readjusted the tension, and made those rows into a neat, orderly pattern. Similarly, in each emotional experience, we can adjust the tension. We decide whether we are going to believe a negative message someone sent. Will we believe that “we are stupid,” or that “we are not good enough?”
It takes time, and it takes a desire to think things through, but it is important to remember that we are in charge, and that understanding our own emotions allows us to build the life we want.