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Knitting A Sweater Sideways

by The Publishers
June 7, 2019

Publishers' Note: With a little encouragement, Dianne Nault submitted the following essay, “Knitting a Sweater Sideways.”  After our initial reading, we knew we had to share it.  It is the season of retirements (although they can happen anytime), each providing its beneficiary a different picture of the future.  Ms. Nault’s essay provides readers an interesting “visual” of hers.

Publishers' Note: With a little encouragement, Dianne Nault submitted the following essay, “Knitting a Sweater Sideways.”  After our initial reading, we knew we had to share it.  It is the season of retirements (although they can happen anytime), each providing its beneficiary a different picture of the future.  Ms. Nault’s essay provides readers an interesting “visual” of hers.

Of course, no one expects their life to go off in such odd directions.  No, we’d rather envision an orderly progression of events all connected by that elusive “common thread”.  Knit one, purl two and a pattern is begun.  The yarn unwinds, the needles clacking together, and the piece continues…here and there a flourish of cables or an inch of shocking pink just to keep it interesting.  But then we return to the steady, more traditional stitches, an increase here or a decrease there to give the pattern some shape.  A pattern…consistent, predictable, even symmetric, my life as it was meant to be.

Certainly, my life started out simply enough, much loved first child of hard-working middle-class parents.  A tried and true pattern emerged: carefree childhood, busy school years, happy marriage, children and grandchildren.  So, when did the pattern change?  When did I slip a few stitches and hoped no one would notice the flaw?  And if I left a few loose threads dangling here or there, it wouldn’t mean the whole piece would unravel, or would it?

In hindsight, what drew me to the knitting pattern book was the word EASY written in bold, black letters on the cover.  Inside the selection of sweaters seemed to boast of their simplicity and their easy directions.  Just what I was looking for:  nothing to strain my ability to focus or to follow through to completion.  After all, I am retired now and who needs the extra challenge, right?  Aren’t these supposed to be my “golden years?”  And how many times in the past had I begun something only to lose interest or to give up in frustration before the conclusion?  Never been much of a risk-taker.  No, easy was definitely the way to go.

But what seems “easy” to one person may be quite different to another.  Being retired is like knitting a sweater sideways.  It made me look at my life from a whole new perspective and I was suddenly feeling a little disoriented.  The established pattern of my life had changed dramatically and the new directions took me out of my comfort zone.   

I would need to rethink my perception of what is easy and what is a challenge.  “Knit left to right, back to front and don’t forget to continue the pattern as you work across the rows,” the book of instructions said.  But in retirement, the challenge is that the only pattern is often no pattern at all.  For the first time in many years, my days are not committed to maintaining a schedule or abiding by someone else’s rules.  Is that freeing or frightening?

Maybe what seems like a challenge is just life pushing us in a new direction, turning and twisting us around like the cable stitches in a sweater.  At first the twisting of the yarn seems to interrupt the easy flow of the pattern and may even seem like an unwelcome intrusion but these new stitches are also what give the piece vitality. 

It has taken me more than a year to give up the notion that my life does not need to be filled in with pre- programmed obligations and that it is okay to let the day unfurl like a new skein of yarn.  I have even found new energy in deviating from the given pattern and testing out a new stitch or two:  taking Zumba lessons, painting Van Gogh’s irises, joining a writing group… why not?!  Maybe life is meant to be lived sideways or even upside down to make us appreciate the uniqueness in all of us.  Eventually our own special pattern will emerge and if it doesn’t please you, keep making alterations until it does.  It just takes that first stitch.  So pick up those needles!  Knit one, purl two and don’t look back.

Dianne M. Nault

 

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Comments (3)

Loved reading this article. Knitting is a new activity for me and usually involves ripping out as much as knitting and purling. So happy to see who contributed the article! Will be watching for more articles! Have a wonderful summer!

- Ellen Ahern | 6/8/19 12:19 AM

The first thing I noticed when I retired was that I was constantly busy doing all the things I had put off when I could use work as an excuse for doing that. They are things I still don't want to deal with, and it seems to take twice as long to do jobs that were once unnoticed routine. Yet I am glad I wake up in the morning, especially since I can take my time doing it. I guess I work as hard as I did before retirement, but nobody pays me for what I do - - -

beats the remaining alternative.

- john Losch | 6/7/19 8:51 PM

So enjoyed reading this, Dianne! Perfect description of retirement!

- Susan Conway | 6/7/19 10:52 AM

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