Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Things I've Learned Lately

  • When I began the 48-Hour Book Challenge I piled up the recent library books on the stairs and just pulled volumes off as they appealed. One that I had also picked up, not for the challenge, was Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitting without Tears. It's one of those books that you hear about all the time. It's not one of the pretty new knitting books with lots of pictures; it's all just practical advice. And I learned that not only did I learn to knit wrong, I purled wrong as well. This sort of makes sense, as she explains it. Somehow my "German" needle-holding technique led to the wrong-way purl, which makes the wrong-way knit almost necessary. So now I know how to purl the right way, it makes knitting the right way easier. Sometimes the secondary technique is actually the one that matters.
  • I'm not good at following the rules right now. So while I did indeed start the notebook described here, I have not yet used it in the way she describes.
  • I think the not-following-rules thing is a function of age. It began just as I entered my forties. I remember one morning standing up to Nick's preschool teacher, who didn't like how long it took us to say good-bye in the mornings ("Y'all linger," she said disapprovingly). I ignored her, figuring I could take as long to say good-bye to my baby as I --and he-- wanted. That didn't bother him, but he did get upset with me when I didn't cross the street at the crosswalk and backtalked the security guard who gave me a hard time about it. I was ok with Nick wanting to follow the rules--that's appropriate for a four-year-old, after all. But I sure wasn't going to let a guy in a uniform tell me I didn't know how to cross an empty street, holding my son's hand.
  • The thing is, I was like Nick long into my adulthood. Rules matter. I like rules: they tell you what's expected, they simplify decision-making, they provide order and continuity in what can be a disordered world.
  • But maybe what I really like--and certainly what Nick liked at that age, and still does--is ritual. The calming certainty that things will be done the same way as before. Nick's good-bye ritual at age three was a fascinating thing to behold (and worth its own essay, another time); one of my favorite things about it was that it seemed such a child-sized reflection of my own need for order and consistency.
  • I've become one of those people who says "when I was your age" or "when I was younger" even "at my age." This, too, is obviously a function of age (middle).
  • When I was younger order mattered to me more. I need to think about this for a while, but I'm seeing the signs everywhere--not just in petty defiance of preschool functionaries, or the refusal to follow directions in a writing book. In unpaid bills and missed deadlines (not so good); in messy creative re-thinkings of previous projects (maybe ok).
  • At a party the other evening I found myself saying "at my age" and being called on it. Turns out no one there believed I was over forty (or at least they were really really flattering me, for no particular reason). I think I might start telling people I'm fifty just to hear the flattery. (Yes, I'm aware of how this one might backfire. So probably not.)


Becca said...

I think I'm still pretty uptight, though my refusal to follow the rules does drive my children crazy, but I totally used to pay every bill on time and meet every deadline, and now...not so much...

Magpie said...

I love that Zimmerman book, but I'm still too scared to make a whole sweater. I'm still on hats! Maybe because I don't like to follow the rules either?

Jody said...

I've had the Zimmerman book on my to-read list for a long time now....

I've noticed in my kids that the rules-concern is partially developmental and partially tempermental. Gemma is going to have to work hard, or grow a lot older, because she stops Freaking Out at any possibility of rules-infraction. And I have to tell you, she did get a little of that from me. But now I wish I still had more of that tendency, because uff da, I think I have none left. And it's tiring, having to force myself to follow some basic rules.