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When I was a child, somewhere between ten and twelve years old, I thought I could draw. I decided one evening to do a week’s worth of drawings, all illustrating what pajamas I wore that night to bed. It was done on narrow strips of paper, and I intended to use them as bookmarks. When my father came to tuck me in one night, I showed them to him. It was special to see him because he was always on call at the hospital, so the rarity of the time spent with him made him seem more exotic and special than my mother, who I saw every day. At any rate, I remember showing him the pictures and saying something like “if only I was as pretty as they are.” My father smiled at me and told me that I was one of the prettiest girls he knew. I ducked my head, because I didn’t want him to see my face. You see, I knew he was lying. As young as I was, I knew that neither of my parents thought I was pretty. Nothing about me could ever be pretty, because pretty people were never fat. And I was fat, or at least big for my age, so I wasn’t pretty.

Every day of my young life, I experienced my parents telling themselves and each other, in an infinite number of ways, that fat was bad. They both constantly struggled with their own weight, lauding every loss as a victory, bemoaning every gain as a failure, trying every diet system and nutritional change they could find. My mother brought me to Weight Watchers meetings when she couldn’t find a babysitter, and later to try and get me to agree to join. My father worked out as often as he could manage, and drank only Diet Coke in his efforts to lose (I remember there always being several of the two-liters in the fridge). And when I began to show signs of pudginess, being a sedentary child who was more interested in reading than going outside to play (although I made an admirable effort during recess, despite having very few friends who were willing to play with me), they turned their attention on me. It was not acceptable to be fat, being fat was ugly and lazy and made people not like you, not want to be your friend. I often thought my trouble making friends was because I was so fat and ugly, but I kept that to myself because if I voiced these thoughts my parents would rush to reassure me that I was not ugly, that I was their precious little girl. But their actions told me a very different story, and so I stopped saying it except in frustration and anger when they tried to force healthy food on me, or my mother gave me that look (most people who were fat children know the one I mean, the “we’re with company so I’m not going to say it out loud but stop stuffing your face you lardass” look). The most frustrating thing was that I don’t remember eating lots of bad food. I loved broccoli and celery, relished my mother’s homemade meatballs, piled on the lettuce and olives and tomatoes when we had burritos, and otherwise loved all kinds and varieties of food. As time wore on, my own stubbornness combined with my mother’s efforts to curb or influence my eating habits made me eat more to spite her, to eat more sweets at school when she couldn’t see me, and the situation worsened over time. I was so frustrated and angry and confused about all the stuff that adults told me about food and weight and health. I was fat, so I had to be unhealthy. But every checkup the only thing the doctor said was wrong was my weight. It was okay to eat lots of vegetables, but I should eat less so I could lose weight. Muscle weighs more than fat so you can lose fat but gain weight but being heavy is bad because it means you’re fat. Endless fat camps, workout regimens, and diet efforts made me more and more ashamed of my body and less and less willing to talk about it. My mother threw up her hands in despair because she couldn’t get me to eat anything, so I spent a year in high school eating canned soup, ramen and popcorn for dinner. My parents’ divorce only served to distance me further from my father’s views on weight, and since I saw him less and less often, meant I witnessed the dramatic yo-yo-ing of his weight in a way I never had before, and it alarmed me. Was this my future? Was this what I would spend my entire adult life trying to achieve? The thought terrified me, made me want to run away, and I became even more recalcitrant, less interested in talking about my weight.

Now let me make something clear. What I wrote about above was not my childhood. What I mean is, though I remember this all vividly and clearly and can give you specific examples of times when these things happened, all of it makes up a miniscule percentage of my actual time growing up. A great deal more time was spent at school, reading books, fighting with my older brothers, begging my parents to buy me stuff, obsessing over whatever popular thing my friends all liked, etc. The diet talk, weight obsession, and body image stuff was a much smaller percentage, and my parents interspersed it between affirmations of their love for me, going to school functions, spending holidays together, having my friends over, and all the other wonderful things that good, caring parents do for their children. Mostly my mother, as past blog posts have elaborated further, but the bottom line is that my parents loved me very much. Unconditionally. As an adult, I realize that now, and I cherish it. I was incredibly lucky to have such a good family growing up, who didn’t abuse me physically or emotionally, who encouraged my intellectual curiosity and creativity, who provided every advantage they could, from music lessons to special summer camps to dozens of books, whatever my little heart desired, bordering on being spoiled (yes brother, I see you rolling your eyes there).

So the question is, if I had such a wonderful childhood, filled with as much happiness as any person can reasonably expect from this life, why is it that I mostly remember this one thing, this bad thing that shaped my body image and self-esteem, that warped my thinking to the all-encompassing “fact” that Fat Is Bad? Why do I focus solely on the thing that held me back when other girls my age were experimenting with makeup and learning to flirt with boys and otherwise expressing their feminine sexuality? I can’t answer that. And I can’t tell you what my parents could have done differently, not really.

But I encourage you, each of you who is a parent, who wants to become a parent, who witnesses children in need, I encourage you to think about this. What does your own body image say to your children, past, present, or future? Does the fact that when you look in the mirror, you grimace in disgust or anger, comment on how fat your thighs look, does that weigh more heavily on your child’s mind than your daily affirmations of love for them? Do they hear you tell them that you think they’re beautiful, and know in their heart that it has to be a lie, because you can’t love them when they look like you?

I don’t have an answer. I work every day to fix the damage that my wonderful, loving parents unwillingly and unknowingly did. And I know that I’m lucky, a lot luckier than many others. But if my parents had grown up in a world that embraced their bodies no matter what, had celebrated them even if they gained a few pounds from working a desk job or having a baby, I might be a very different person today. Fat hatred and fat shaming is a societal problem, and parents alone can’t fix it. When your child looks into their mirror, what do you want them to see?

Delilah

Earlier this week, something tragic happened to a friend of mine. She was killed in a car accident. I am not ready to talk about it yet. So instead, I’m going to post some pictures of my cats.

This is my Senesino, big fat kitty boy.

Sen was my first cat ever, I adopted him from my cousin’s wife (at the time she had four cats, two of them have since died, leaving her with just one left). He wasn’t happy there, he’s a bit of a nervous fellow, and he was cooped up in a basement with three other cats, and every few hours my cousin’s toddler would go downstairs and run around screaming after the cats. I think Sen knew I could take him away from all that, because the first time I met him, he climbed into my lap and started purring loudly. My cousin and his wife were looking to get rid of three of the cats at that time, so everyone was happy with the arrangement, especially Sen.

This is Delilah, my black kitty, being a silly longcat on the window perch.

Last Spring, after starting to finally feel settled into my apartment, my job, and my life, I decided that I should adopt another cat. At first I considered a kitten, but after some thought I realized that a kitten was not the right fit, as I was working full-time and wouldn’t be able to adequately supervise a baby/toddler cat. I went to a local cat shelter that I found online, the Ohio Alleycat Resource, and spent a sweet afternoon meeting all their kitties.

This was taken right after a marathon grooming session. She likes to groom herself, then take a break to groom my head, then go back to grooming herself.

I went home and thought on it, and I kept thinking about the little skinny black cat, barely a year old, who kept licking my hand. She was so sweet, and she was being bullied by some of the other cats, and I’ve always wanted a kitty who licked (I know, I’m weird). So when I went back, having narrowed it down to four female black cats, I waffled a bit, but I knew Delilah was the one for me.

Now she’s starting to pay attention to the flashy thing that’s being pointed at her.

She was a nervous little thing at first, way more nervous than Sen had ever been. She had to be scruffed and shoved into the carrier to come home with me, and once I let her loose in my bedroom (with the door shut so Sen couldn’t come in), she ran under my bed and hid there. I left her alone for a little bit, allowed her to get used to things. I left water and food out, and every time I went into the room I would softly call her name, and eventually she started answering me. By the end of the evening, she would come out of hiding to be petted for a moment, and take a couple bites of food. And give me the sweet little licks she does.

Mom, seriously?

She was a skinny, frightened thing for a long time. It’s only recently, more than a year after I adopted her, that she’s started to relax and act comfortable. She and Sen were on shaky ground for a long time, but they seem to have set an uneasy truce, at least for now. They still sometimes wrestle, but there’s very rarely any serious vocalizing or fighting, so I am happy.

Me and my pretty girl, even if she does look annoyed. ;D

Delilah is still nervous about some things. She’s skittish when I’m walking, because a few times she’s darted in front of my feet and accidentally been kicked (not hard, of course, and I feel awful every time). She prefers to be on my bed or another piece of furniture to be approached, if she’s on the ground she will often jump up to a higher point. She’s still terrified of strangers, although if they’re not noisy she will warm up to them over time.

She loves lying on the bed and getting black hair all over my white sheet.

She’s made leaps and bounds since she first got here though. And I love it when she climbs up on the chair behind my head and starts purring, wrapping her tail around my neck (which is like a kitty hug), and grooming my hair.

She also loves exposing her belly to me and rolling around cutely.

She meows squeakily when I talk to her, or if she wants to get my attention. She jumps on the bed when I lie down at bedtime and wants to snuggle with me. She still approaches Sen and presents her head for his forceful grooming, even though he was a jerk to her in the past.

See mom? Aren’t I cute? Give me pettins nao.

She’s a glossy, slightly pudgy, beautiful black cat, and I feel so lucky to have her in my life. Lately, more than ever, I’m so very glad to have two purr-machines to share my joys and sorrows with. Things can’t look too dark when you have a sweet kitty purring in your ear. Happiness is the feeling of soft fur under your hands, and the gaze of an animal that loves you completely, no matter what.

This is me with my newly-cut hair.

Most of you have probably seen this already, but for those who haven’t, I present Today’s Stupid Shit: Republican Nominee Chris Collins says People Don’t Die from Breast or Prostate Cancer Anymore.

This is how I feel when I read stupid shit like this.

The blog post linked contains all the pertinent facts regarding the mortality rates of breast and prostate cancer, which is roughly 70,000 people per year. People diagnosed with either have a roughly 1 in 4 chance of dying within the first five years, not to mention all the people who have recurrences after that (as this XKCD comic illustrates).

This is me attempting to figure out the thought process behind this level of stupid.

So all those people who have survived cancer, and all the loved ones of people who have died from cancer, are now sending a hearty “FUCK YOU” to Mr. Collins. And make sure to vote against him, if you have the chance. Because regardless of party lines, anyone who actually says something that stupid needs to not be in charge of a house plant, let alone any part of our government.

Revelations

This is how I look, right now.

And here is my “what, seriously?” look.

Wow. About six months since my last post here, and suddenly today I find myself compelled to post. Let me tell you what’s been going on with me.

I still work at the same job I had last time, no worries. Other than some minor annoyances now and then, it’s a decent job, and I like having a steady paycheck that almost pays all my bills. ;) I don’t really want for anything, is the key. And that’s all that needs to be said about that.

As for why I haven’t been blogging, well, it fell off my radar in a big way. First, I ended up losing track of my LiveJournal account, and then my life just got too busy to mess with blogging period. Honestly, the main portion of it was that I am on my computer all day at work, and when I get home I usually just feel like watching Netflix and playing games on my iPad or knitting. Checking a bunch of other stuff online and spending a bunch of time typing online stopped being a priority for me. I still have a website I visit regularly, Ravelry.com, and I have an amazing group of friends there, especially in one particular group, who are supportive, amazing, loving, kind, and basically everything I could want in an online group of friends. Which is not to say I’ve never had online friends like that (holy shit no, my LJ friends were totally all that), it’s just that I sort of traded in one group for another, without planning to. So, um, yeah.

As for why I’m typing this right now? Why I’m returning to a blog that was, for all intents and purposes, dead? That’s because of one of those online friends.

When I first started this blog, way back in June 2010, I was extremely heavy into Size Acceptance, but I wasn’t all there with my relationship with my body. This blog was a way for me to become more in touch with my body, in a way that allowed me to look at it from both the outside, with the pictures, and the inside, with the writing. I could post pictures of myself, to become more accustomed to how I actually look (rather than the internal fantasy of “the thin, pretty Chelsea”), and to learn more about myself. And by the time the year was over, I had done a lot of that. So much so, that I felt I was sort of done with this project. I moved on, not looking back, except for a couple half-hearted attempts to post for the sake of my friends who were still reading. And until today I was okay with that.

Then today, one of my online friends, one of the people I’ve looked on as a sister, a comrade-in-arms, a shoulder to cry on, she posted something that broke my heart.

She posted that she had never looked in the mirror and smiled. That she couldn’t find a single thing about her body she liked. That despite all the work she’s done to get fit, she still feels like a huge pile of fat.

This is one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. She doesn’t live far from me, and actually just today I decided that she and I and some other people in Ohio should meet up this summer, because I bet we would have a blast. And they agreed, and we set a date. But what she said just kept eating away at me. And I felt I had to say something.

I’ve seen pictures of this woman, and I think she’s beautiful. Not because of the size of her body, that has nothing to do with it. Because in those pictures I see the face of the vibrant, intelligent, funny person I’ve gotten to know over the past several months. Because in those pictures, she is living her life, not just posing awkwardly in a frozen frame, but enjoying herself, smiling, laughing, singing, and in those pictures I can see that beauty in her.

Because of this blog, I got to a much better place with my body. And I was happy with that, for a while. I dropped out of the Size Acceptance scene, because I was busy, I said, because while I still believe in it, I wasn’t so vehement as I had been at first. I still believe strongly in it, of course. It’s become part of my personality, that I am a proud fat woman who doesn’t apologize for being fat, who takes exception to diet talk from anyone that might imply she’s not okay how she is, who advocates for her own health and well-being. But I let it stop there. And now, today, I’m ashamed of that. I’m ashamed that I allowed myself to stop after feeling better about my body. After accepting and then loving my fat ass, my love handles, my huge thighs and feet and hands. Then I dropped it, and I moved on with my life.

Today I got a wake-up call that there are still women in this world who hate their bodies, and many of them are women I care about. Today I am facing up to the fact that women I know, women I love, women in my family and in my friends and in my workplace, still hate themselves for not being good enough, whatever the fuck “good enough” is. These aren’t some anonymous women I don’t know, women I’ll never meet. Of course I knew there were women out there who still felt that way, but I was living in a happy little fantasy that they were not women I knew. And today that fantasy went away. I faced it down and I dismissed it, with a wake-up call courtesy of my friend’s statement.

I don’t know what I’m going to do about it yet. When I first discovered Size Acceptance, I argued with my friends and family until I was blue in the face to get them to understand what it was to me, what it meant, that I could finally love myself as I am, that I could be a fat woman and still be beautiful, sexy, intelligent, valued, and everything else I know I am. But obviously that wasn’t enough. And now it’s come to this.

No, don’t worry, I’m not going to pin anyone to the ground and force them to hear my Feminist Size Acceptance Manifesto. I won’t say a word to anyone who doesn’t want to hear it. I’m not an evangelist, and I’m not in charge of making anyone accept themselves. What I can do, is add myself to the list of blogs that call out injustices, that talk about the pain of being different, that share stories of triumph and loss, that bring relevant stories to the intelligent women (and men) who want to read them, and ponder on what they mean. My voice may be small, but adding it to the roar can’t hurt.

Maybe I’ll fail. Maybe this will be the last post I ever make here. Maybe I’ll disappear again and you won’t hear any more about this. Or maybe this will re-kindle my blogging fire. We’ll just have to wait and see.

So, last night, I met this guy.

He was very handsome, with a hint of Asian ancestry, long, jet-black hair, and a killer smile. We hit it off immediately and I gave him my phone number. A few days later, he called me and we went on a date. Oh man, it was a really awesome date, too, although I hardly remember anything about it other than gazing into his eyes and laughing at his jokes.

After a few weeks and a whirlwind romance where I fell head over heels in love with him, he told me he wanted to show me something. He took me to a dark cave in the woods. I was thinking, “okay, perhaps some spooky makeout time and some cool glowing moss”. Instead, he led me deeper and deeper into the cave, which was almost suspiciously devoid of bats. Finally, he stopped near an underground waterfall and turned to look at me.

That’s when I found out my boyfriend was Prince of the Spider-People.

Hundreds of enormous spiders came into the cavern, from nowhere. When I say enormous, I’m not saying “size of my palm”, I’m saying “size of a grown human being”. Despite not normally being afraid of spiders, I panicked. I screamed and ran blindly out of the cavern, dodging giant spiders and sometimes jumping over them with the speed of a demented Mario to escape the hellish place. I didn’t stop running until I was back at my home and safely behind locked doors.

A few days later, his sister came to see me at work. She was very angry, and told me that I had broken his heart, and the entire spider kingdom now hated me and vowed to kill me on sight. After my “OMG GIANT SPIDERS” panic had finally subsided, I had begun to feel guilty about leaving him behind and wondered if I’d done the right thing. I broke down and cried to her that I still loved him, but I’d been so afraid of all these giant spiders hurting me. She looked shocked and told me none of them wanted to hurt me that night, but rather to welcome me to the family as their prince’s future wife. I asked her if she thought I could set things right, and she told me she wasn’t sure, because now they all wanted to kill me. But she told me her brother was heartbroken without me, and that she would do everything in her power to take me back to the cave to explain to the other spiders that I had panicked, and really loved their prince.

That night, she and I went back to the cave. It was even darker than before, and there was some sort of red glow coming up from the depths, so it almost made me feel like I was entering the mouth of hell. It wasn’t far into the cavern when the spiders came out and saw me. I tried to tell them, with the princess’ help, that I had come back to make things right, that I loved their prince and wanted to be with him, but they wouldn’t listen. They bound me and gagged me and started beating some strange drum, preparing a ritualistic and possibly gruesome death for me. The princess had disappeared, and so I closed my eyes and wept silently at the end of my life, and the loss of my beloved.

The princess raced to the chamber where her brother had sat in quiet contemplation since the night I ran away. He had hardly spoken to anyone, or eaten, and his face was tired and withdrawn. She told him that I had come back with her, that I loved him more than my life, and that the spider-people were preparing to kill me for my betrayal. A fire seemed to light him from within, and he threw on a ceremonial robe and raced with his sister back toward the entrance of the cavern, hoping that he would still be in time to save me.

A wicked, twisted blade was being sharpened not far from where I sat, bound and helpless. I could hear them sharpening it, and my stomach rose into my throat, but I kept my eyes tightly shut and waited for death. Suddenly, a powerful voice broke through the drumming, and the spider-people stopped and bowed down to their prince. I opened my eyes and saw him standing before me, and he reached down and untied me, the greatest tenderness in his eyes. He quietly asked me if what his sister had told him was true. With tears in my eyes, I threw my arms around him and told him I wanted to stay with him forever.

The next night, we were married. The spider-people wove an incredible silk wedding dress for me, and my betrothed wore his finest silk robes. It was the happiest day of my life.

—————————–

In case you hadn’t figured it out yet, that was a dream I had last night. XD My subconscious is a bizarre place! There was also a bit near the end where I asked him to show me his spider form on our wedding night, then I got a little scared and he had to comfort me, but it didn’t flow well with the story so I left it out. And also, there were a bunch more dreams after that one, but they were more disjointed and didn’t have a proper plot, so they’re not worth writing down.

Catharsis

Lately, I’ve been feeling very ambivalent about the online community I spend most of my time on. I think it’s about time I attempted to articulate why.

As you guys know, I’m an avid knitter. I am an active member of Ravelry.com, and in fact spend a fair portion of my time there, reading and making posts on the forums, looking up fun patterns, chatting in the chat rooms. In general, I usually feel welcome and at ease there. But lately, I’ve started feeling stifled in terms of my expression, and I can’t figure out what to do to fix the situation.

For starters, I realize I have very strong opinions about things, and I want to make those opinions known. That’s a large portion of why I started blogging, because my opinions demand to be shared, and I feel strongly that I need to spread the word about things I consider important. I also realize that I can sometimes be off-putting to people because of the intensity of my emotions and opinions, which is why I try to “rein it in” in public places, like my job or a forum like Ravelry. But sometimes, I just feel like I have to speak up.

There are a couple groups I spend a LOT of time in, on Ravelry. No names, because I don’t like rubber-necking, but my Rav-based readers will likely recognize them immediately (and I ask you not to name them in comments either). One of them is a haven of support that I consider a welcoming place for crafters of all kinds, and the other is a fan community that regularly challenges its members to craft in new and exciting ways. And most of the time, I am very happy in those groups. I spend some time in other groups as well (several animal groups, and a couple lifestyle groups, as well as running a book club group which is still in its infancy), but these two places are my main homes on Rav, the places I check first thing in the morning and right before bed, the places where I make the majority of my posts and have the majority of my friends.

And here I’m going to broach the delicate topic, which has led to some drama for me before. In the past few months, one of these groups has instituted a new rule that any discussion of parenting or children in a negative light will lead to the topic being deleted and the posters being warned. This was a direct result of past discussions that grew heated, but this rule is beginning to feel stifling to me. Even the most gentle discussion of parenting seems to turn into “us against them” and makes me feel alienated and attacked for my child-free status, and I don’t even engage in the discussions myself anymore (it’s just not worth the drama and hurt feelings). Even people who imply that perhaps not all children are perfect and perhaps parenting is a job not all people do well get a verbal smack-down, it seems, and then a moderator pops in and tells them to cool it. I don’t want to go into whether the rule is harsh or not, or whether it should be broken, or any of that. All I want to highlight here is how I feel. Because this is my blog, and I feel I am justified in talking about how these discussions have made me feel. And alienated, frustrated, and hurt are my main feelings. I feel like my viewpoint as a member of that group is now considered lesser, that my voice is diminished because of my childfree status (which I can’t even mention for fear of breaking the rule), and that really bothers me. This is a place where I’ve grown a lot, learned a lot about myself and my relationships with other people, and I feel like part of that group has turned its back on me because of this. I struggle with the decision whether to leave the group outright (which I would do quietly, with nary a peep, because I do hate it when people publicly flounce), or stay and hope that this ends up blowing over and keep a low profile in the meantime. I don’t want to go, because I love the group, and most of the people in it (there isn’t anyone I really despise, and only one or two members who I mildly dislike, everyone else is either “neutral” or “OMG BEST PERSON EVAR”), but I still feel alienated and unrepresented as an individual.

The other group does not have that problem. There are plenty of parents in it, and lots of discussion of children, but no one is judgemental about the childfree and they’re very welcoming. No, the problem that I seem to be having in the other group is that of boundaries.

Boundaries are things that I have trouble with at the best of times, to be honest. As a small child through my teen years, I had no concept of “personal space” and would often hug people who I hardly knew if they looked friendly or in need of a hug. It wasn’t until high school when I had a rude awakening (being told by a friend that she was uncomfortable being hugged by me right after I came out to her as bisexual) that I began to withdraw and now I hardly feel comfortable touching anyone unless they touch me first. But that’s another discussion. Physical boundaries, emotional boundaries, boundaries of “appropriate topics of discussion”, these are things that have never made much sense to me. Perhaps it’s just because of my poor social skills, but I don’t really feel like there should be any separation between subjects, except in terms of comfort (such as not discussing rape with a rape victim) or very personal things (such as sex and personal relationships, unless mutually agreed upon by both parties).

So in this other group, which is a group with teenage members (and thus marked as mild language only, which I have no problem with), I’ve run up a couple times against boundaries that I wasn’t even aware of. Things like discussing my budding interest in energy manipulation or possible non-neurotypical disorders seems to make other people uncomfortable, and I end up getting a very gentle nudge from the moderators to perhaps not discuss the topic anymore (and they’re very nice about it, I never feel like I’ve been shouted at or shut down). What frustrates me is that I feel like I keep bumping up against invisible walls around discussion topics that I’m not supposed to talk about, and I have no idea where they are or how to avoid them. The fact is, being a bisexual size acceptance activist who is learning about energy manipulation and has a strong emotional investment in various social justice issues is who I am. My life is not the same as a lot of people’s lives (just the law of averages, population being a bell curve, I’m usually on the margin), so these things don’t feel odd or out of place to me, but I keep introducing a topic and then learning that it’s not something they normally discuss. As a result, it’s made me skittish about what to talk about there. I really like all the people in the group (really, I don’t even mildly dislike any of them so far, they’re all so nice) and I want to be an active member, but I feel like there’s only so much I can say about my knitting before I start repeating myself, and other topics are potentially off-limits so I don’t want to try to talk about them. So then I end up posting stupid one-line things like “hi, I’m bored, what’s up” and no one cares to read that all the time.

Individually, these two issues aren’t a huge deal. They don’t really impact my whole life, because my internet life is not the entirety of my existence. If I was only dealing with one of them, I’d probably just shrug and wait it out and hang out in other groups for the duration. But because both are happening simultaneously, with the two groups I spend the most time in, I’m starting to feel very frustrated by the whole thing. It’s a cumulative thing, bouncing from one to the other until I feel like my head’s going to explode because of the pent-up emotions that I don’t feel like I can express in either place. I try to go to other groups to decompress, but most of my other groups are quiet, and since every post can be viewed by anyone on Rav, I worry that venting someplace else could create drama in the main group, even if I’m vague. Plus, I don’t want to be the girl who complains constantly in one group while showing a blank emotionless face in the other. I just want to be me. x.x

Again, this blog post is sort of making this a bigger issue than it really is. In the long term, I probably won’t even remember all this a few years down the road (or heck, possibly even a few months), and since the internet is pretty fluid, most other people probably won’t remember it either. I just feel like I need to articulate how I feel, so I don’t keep growing more and more frustrated and end up exploding at someone who doesn’t deserve it. Blogging is my pressure valve. :D

And that is all I have to say about that.

A Learning Experience

Hey gang! Long time, not post, eh? Honestly I’ll be amazed if more than two people even read this, but I gotta start somewhere, right? ;D Oh, and here’s a pic of how I look right now, ’cause I got my hair cut even shorter so I gotta show it!

Hey, that's me!

Anywho, here’s my first Real Blog Post of 2012. It’s about an experience I had recently with someone I work with (all names are fake, for privacy reasons), and my knitting. Please enjoy.

More than a year ago, the temp agency I was working for got me an assignment at a large insurance company in downtown Cincinnati. Originally my job was pretty simple. Using a simple desk scanner to scan insurance applications into the company’s system. The catch was that the department I was going to be working in was more than 6 months behind on this duty, so they were hiring me to make up the difference. Essentially, I was a glorified secretary, but that was about on par with other things I’d done as a temp, so it didn’t bother me. It was a paycheck, and since the scanner took forever I had plenty of down time to scribble story ideas in my notebook and daydream about cute super heroes (or whoever I was crushing on at the time).

Of course, as usual, I was painfully shy around the new people I was working with. I already have a tendency to be very reserved with people I don’t know, and that tendency had only increased during my time as a temp, working with people I might not see ever again once the temp job was finished. It took me at least a week to say more than two words to my coworkers, except when I had to ask for help, which I only did when absolutely necessary. Gradually, I began to make friends with them, at least to the extent of a casual working relationship. One of them, though, was a bit more friendly than the others. We’ll call her Mary.

From the beginning, Mary was very nice to me. She was a bit older than me, perhaps around my mother’s age, and so I think she felt some kind of urge to watch out for me. She surreptitiously warned me when the bosses were in a bad mood, chatted happily about her life and her family, and over all made me feel a lot more comfortable than I otherwise would have been. When the company asked if I had any interest in being hired on full-time, she confided in me that she and the other ladies in the department were impressed by my hard work and politeness, and when they’d been asked how they liked me, they heartily endorsed my being hired on. Indeed, after I was hired, I ended up being moved to a different cubicle, which was right behind Mary’s. Every day from then on we would chat when it was slow, talk about this and that. She gave me some good advice about dating back when I met my ex-boyfriend, and during the relationship that followed. She also helped cheer me up when I felt sad about having to dump him. All in all, she’s a good coworker and a good friend, and having her there makes what can sometimes be a tedious job more bearable.

Now, any of you who know me, know that I have a problem trying to give people too much. I think it’s partly a deep-seated urge that I’m still trying to conquer, to make people like me by doing them kindnesses. The problem is, lots of people will take advantage of that, so I’ve gotten burned over the years. Still, after a while at my job, being in Mary’s company and benefiting from her friendship and experienced advice, I felt the urge to pay her back. She isn’t much for sweets, so my usual tactic of “drown them in cookies/muffins/cake” wouldn’t work with her. After I finished one of my first shawls and took it to work, she ooohed and aahed over it, complimented it, talked about how lovely it was, and I knew then that I wanted to knit her a shawl.

A few weeks later, pretending to be browsing knitting patterns for myself, I brought up a few and asked her opinion of them. She chose a lovely shawl by the same designer who had made the pattern for the one she’d been impressed by, said she liked the colors in one of the model photos (dark purple and grey), and that was that. On my next paycheck, I ordered the yarn and resolved to cast on for the shawl as soon as I received it.

I started the shawl in the first week of October, hoping that I could finish it by Christmas and give it to Mary. Unfortunately, I did not foresee that my birthday gift of a new iPad 2 at the end of the month would cut into my knitting time so badly that I hardly worked on anything throughout the rest of November and December. I struggled, telling myself (as only a master procrastinator can) that I still had time, that the shawl would be finished, that I would work on it as much as possible. And yet time went forward, a few rows were knit, and my iPad games progressed much faster than the shawl did.

Finally, right before the time off I had scheduled for Christmas, I came in to work one day and found a bag on my desk. Mary had bought me a Christmas present, and I was wracked with guilt that the shawl was not done. I blurted out that I was making her something, and it would be done by the time we both got back from vacation. She smiled and thanked me, and things went on.

Unfortunately, the shawl didn’t get finished. And after she’d come back from her time off (which was longer than mine, her having more seniority in the company), I kept guiltily silent, until she asked me about it. She jokingly chided me, and I felt betrayed and angry, because teasing is something I still haven’t learned to take very well. I went home and asked the opinion of my online knitting friends on Ravelry. They helped me calm down and see it had only been teasing, and so work continued on the shawl. I wanted to finish it as quickly as possible, and I’d managed to shrug off the lure of the iPad well enough to at least work on it in the evenings.

Finally, last week, it was nearly done. Tuesday night I realized I had only a few rows until I could cast off, and the next day I told Mary that she would have it on Friday. But she sighed, told me it wasn’t worth it, and made me feel even worse than her light teasing had. I returned to my online knitting friends, upset and ready to throw in the towel, telling them I was going to finish it because I couldn’t stand the sight of it anymore, and give it to her and then wash my hands of the whole affair. Thankfully, one of the wisest people I know on Ravelry helped me see that her response hadn’t been related to me or the shawl at all, but rather other experiences in her life that were making her feel down. I realized that what she had said was something I would have said, back when I was horribly depressed all the time and felt worthless. She wasn’t telling me that my shawl was a waste of time, she was saying that she wasn’t worth the effort.

Wednesday night, I finished it, washed it, pinned it out, and left it to dry by my running box fan. On Thursday night, I took pictures, wove in the last trailing ends, and carefully packed it in tissue paper and a nice little bag. I put one of my Knitterella Gift Tags on it (the blue one) and filled our names out in the to/from lines.

On Friday morning, after unwrapping myself from the winter layers and setting my things down on my desk, I put the bag on her desk. I watched out of the corner of my eye while she finished a task she’d been involved in, then slowly unpacked the bag. At first, she didn’t say anything, and my heart sank. After all the work I had put in, she didn’t like it, and I felt like I was an utter failure. Then, she put it around her shoulders, stood up, and came over and hugged me tightly. Then she walked all around the office, showing it off to all our coworkers, and bragging about how I had made her such a lovely thing. So all was well in the world, the gift was well-received, and I glowed from the praise.

Still, a lesson was learned. The only person I craft unconditionally for is my mother, because she cherishes everything I make for her and uses it as it’s supposed to be used. She doesn’t make offhand comments that make me feel like a failure, because she knows how I would take them. Mary is a wonderful person, a good coworker and a good friend. But she doesn’t know me as well as she could, or else she would’ve known how her comments would’ve made me feel. And knitting something like a shawl, I put so much of myself into it that it isn’t worth doing if the person may not like it.

I knew, academically, the emotional risks I was setting myself up for, taking on this project. But I don’t think I was prepared for how much they would affect me. Perhaps one day, I might knit Mary something else. Something small and simple that I don’t think much about, something that only takes me a weekend or so to finish. Or perhaps I won’t.

What I know is, I’m knitting myself one of these shawls, in entirely different colors, because her’s looks really awesome, and I love the pattern. :D

All pinned out and dry.

 

Hanging on the back of my desk chair.

 

I think it looks great, don't you?

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