I’ve finally reached the point of not tearing everything out.
This is going to be a cowl (aka a neckwarmer), like a warm, woolly scarf but without the annoying dangly bits that fall off your shoulder and catch on things.
I’m not knitting to make things, though. I’m doing it for meditation.
I find it more calming and, so far, better for mindfulness than “listening to the silence” type meditation. When I just sit and breathe the drunken monkey in my head tends to overcome my every effort to sober and quiet it. On the other hand, sitting and counting the pattern while my hands move — 1-2-3-4, purl-2-3-knit, 1-2-3-4, knit-2-3-purl, is guaranteed to keep me in the moment and gradually instill calm.
Kinda nice that it’s also producing something someone will appreciate long about January.
I aimed (and still do) to post from the hermitage about the things going through my mind, the things I’m finding and the things I’m feeling. The last few days I’ve been aching to do exactly that, but it’s all seemed too internal, too inconclusive, too scattered, to “me-oriented,” and frankly too damn whiny to foist upon you.
The other day, while a lot of us were talking about how we once felt (and perhaps still feel) like aliens in the world, Ellendra posted a link about Otherkin — people who believe (or claim to) that they aren’t really human. On first look, there’s a lot to laugh at. I mean, seriously, you think you’re an elf or a fairy or a dragon in human form? You’ve been reading too many fantasy novels.
Still, I found I couldn’t — and didn’t want — to get the concept out of my mind.
For some of us, the sense that we have or had (especially as children or teens) of being fundamentally unlike other people is so pervasive, so deep, and so sincere that there must be something to it. Despite my skepticism and downright scorn, I found I couldn’t get the idea of Otherkin out of my mind.
Maybe the sense of alienness so many of us have felt is just a normal consequence of the old human tragedy: we are born alone and die alone. Or maybe it’s normal in that we perceive our differences from others more strongly than we perceive the things we have in common. (And certainly daily life within institutions — family, tribe, school, church, workplace — is designed to pick out and often painfully emphasize everything that’s non-conforming, even the most small and otherwise unimportant traits, beliefs, appearances, or behaviors.)
Equally certainly, if our more “normal” parents and peers and preachers and teachers don’t feel alien themselves, they desperately, deeply fear the aliens among them. Why else is it so vital to so many that everyone else be more like them? Why do so many insist so urgently that we must dress like them, enjoy the music they enjoy, share their political opinions, believe their religious beliefs, and live their lifestyles?
So in a sense, they’re acknowledging and validating the very thing so many of us have suspected and felt about ourselves. We are alien.
It’s not that big a step from there to conclude you’re really an elf. Never mind that coming to such an unprovable and unlikely conclusion is just another form of striving to belong, another myth to explain away unexplainable human isolation. A myth to make us feel more important and less alone. An explanation, however facile, that keeps us from having to face The Void.
After days of mental muddle, of frustration and an embarrassing amount of self pity, this morning I came out on the other side with an insight. It’s still fairly formless and I haven’t yet found the relationship between this thought and the sense of otherness (though I’m absolutely certain it’s there just under the surface).
It’s about trajectories and patterns.
This cable knitting I’m so entranced with. It’s longer-term trajectories, woven about with smaller, shorter, but intricate patterns. You can see that.
Life is the same, but much harder to see. We launch ourselves (or are launched) on long-term trajectories at major moments. Our heart gets broken and we decide “never again.” We choose medical school over the arts or arts over engineering. A hit-and-run driver inflicts life-altering injuries. We move to another country. We get cancer. We marry. We drop out and bum around the world. We commit a crime whose effects can never be undone. We enter a monastery. We produce a child. We throw caution to the winds and get up on a stage to sing and dance and find it leads us to a whole new life.
Then around the big trajectory, all the little patterns develop. All the smaller choices and events that come from and with the trajectory we chose or that was inflicted upon us.
As with knitting, both the trajectories and the patterns emerge only with time. Unlike knitting, that takes years — decades — lifetimes. Unlike knitting, the trajectories and patterns tend to be chaotic. And unlike knitting, it’s impossible to determine them in advance.
Sometimes you don’t even know when you’re launching (or being launched) onto a major trajectory. Sometimes it’s obvious, with a big decision or event. Other times you don’t even realize that some tiny event or decision was a life-changer until years later. Or you recognize that some big event has changed your life, but only years later do you understand that it changed you in far different ways than you could have anticipated.
One realization I came to is that, at two crucial points in my life, I chose wrong trajectories.
This isn’t about regrets, of which (as the song says) I’ve got a few but too few to mention. This isn’t about the everyday dumb or lazy choices that made me less outwardly successful than I hoped to be. This is about times when I had choices to become — for want of a better word — more my real self. And I chose instead to fit in. Or rather to blend in, even when I felt anything but blended inside.
The first (and biggest) of these choices came when I was 18. I took the “safe” path. And part of me says it was the wisest path. It was the responsible, adult trajectory. The other trajectory (any of the “less safe” choices) might have led to anything from being locked up in the nut ward to early death. On the other hand, making something other than the “safe, responsible, adult” choice might also have led to a bolder, more creative life.
I will never know.
Of course, this is common stuff. The stuff of plenty of science-fictional or fantasy speculations. The stuff of millions of lives. The standard “what if?”
Still … what if I’d acknowledged at 18 that my alienness was real, that I was Otherkin, that I was with but not of “normal” human beings, and damn any notions to the contrary, no matter how “safe,” “normal,” or otherwise tempting?