The Messy First Rows

Photo: The Hellen C. McLellan Reading Room at the Hudson Library here in Massachusetts. It’s the cutest little reading room I’ve ever seen and I just had to stop and take a photo of it. I led a write-in at the library on Saturday morning and had a lovely time there. We didn’t hold the event in this room because there is a very strict code of silence in there. We were in a sweet little study room just across the hall instead.

One of the things that I love and loathe about crafting is the opening stitches. Be it quilting, embroidery, but especially knitting, the opening stitches and the first handfold of rows thereafter can be a scary experience. You see, in knitting, you “cast on” stitches… putting a certain numbers of beginning loops on the needle. This is exciting. The yarn is between your fingers, the color is delighting your eyes, your heart is aflutter because something new has started, and you’re meticulous because the number of stitches matters. If you’re like me, you verify your stitch count 3 times before you get started.

But then you start row one.

Row one usually sucks.

It’s awkward because there is no heft to the fabric. The stitches get twisted around the needle, and it’s very possible to drop a stitch. Row two is no better. The worst part, especially if you’re starting an unfamiliar pattern, especially a complex one, is that you can’t see where you’re going because you have nothing to compare it all to. Inevitably, there is the freezing thought: I’ve totally screwed this up already. It takes many, many rows… 10 to 20… to get that heft so the fabric will hand and not twist, and to have a pattern that you can look over with the eye and know you’re doing right or wrong.

I’m writing all this because the same goes with any project, really. Not just knitting, but also community building, or program-creation… The first steps are glorious, but there is a very scary moment before takeoff when there is a very real bit of doubt: am I doing this right? Am I actually going to make it?

In the last few months, I’ve cast-on a whole bunch of stitches on many sets of needles. The MetroWest Writer’s Guild, two book clubs, a new class offering through Community Ed, my own writing group, and now a new job at my local bookstore. A lot and a lot and a lot. A whole hell of a lot of learning, for sure. I’ve learned MailChimp and Facebook Groups and Discord and Photoshop and Illustrator… I’m learning a lot and executing on new things. But there have been failures and slow moments. There have been times when I thought I was crazy to try.

But then two Black women joined me for my first Well-Read Black Girl Book Club on Saturday night and I’m near to bursting with joy from spending two hours with them. We’re committed to building the group and reading good books and simply enjoying the fellowship of community. We really need it. I really need it.

And my MetroWest Writer’s Guild is 30 members strong and we have a new Discord server and 3 people came to my Write-in in Hudson, and we’ve linked up with another local writing group.

And the students in my class are improving so much I almost cried last week. Our last class is next Thursday. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye.

And a woman in my writing group had her piece published in the Boston Globe a few weeks ago.

And I’ve been emailing with some of my most favorite authors and will get to meet them at my local bookstore. And I get a discount on books. And I am now reading 2 books a month, which is crazy and awesome.

I’m writing all this because I think that building great things takes time… and the pace of it all is what it is. We see the successes, the meteoric rises, the astronomical heights that people achieve… and we dream, and dream… and sometimes we decide that we simply cannot do as others have done. This is not wholly untrue: you cannot be who another person is. There is only one them as there is only one you. And their pace is not your pace. It’s your path to walk, your destination to get to. It is hard, so hard, to be patient and to simply keep working toward the goal and trust that you’ll get somewhere.

In the Rector Search, we’ve been reminded over and over again to pray. To stop and pray and let the Holy Spirit be part of the process. Ask. Trust. Receive. This has been the motto. Ask for what we want. Trust that we’ve been heard. Receive the blessing as it comes. In my own head, I’ve often added work to the line. Ask. Trust(Work). Receive. I think prayer is a verb. I think that trusting doesn’t mean waiting. So I’m doing the work, trusting that the Holy Spirit is going to meet me somewhere along the way. What I’ve been seeing around me lately is a bit of the grace, what the work has earned me, even if it’s not quite where I want to be.

It’s the opening rows of a new week. Perhaps you put something new on your own needles. Maybe you’re already found your rhythm and achieved a bit of helpful heft. Or maybe you’re in that scary moment where you’re wondering if it’s all about to fall to pieces. Ask for what you want. Ask for anything. Speak into the universe whatever it is that you seek. Then do the work it takes to get it, trusting that you’ve been heard. May we each get to Friday having received something. It might not be the entirety of what we’re looking for, but may we have something, anything to show for what we’ve done.

I’m so grateful to start another week with you, Dear Reader. Until Friday, do that good, good work, and take care.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Trish says:

    I love the comparison of casting on and starting any new venture. It’s true. In both I love the idea phase, but the early stages of the actual doing are usually unpleasant.

    I’m proud of you for all you are exploring and growing into. It’s a beautiful thing to watch.

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