Showing Up for Yourself

I don’t know why this feels like an unnecessarily hard thing to do. But every time I try, I feel like I break out in sadness.

I am not a stranger to, nor am I afraid of, hard feelings. They teach me something new every time I experience them. So why then does this makes me depressed? Why is it so hard to just show up for myself?

I’ve been thinking about it, and this post is a working thesis on why it seems impossible for me.

Its hard to show up when I feel like I’m Not Worth It

I mean, that’s probably the crux of the problem right there. I’ve lived my entire life telling myself that I’m not worth anything. I’ve internalized every punishment, every criticism and magnified them.

Worthlessness one of those goddam core beliefs that seems to want to weasel its way back into me every time I get better.

I’ve been having nightmares of high school recently- I think a part of the problem is I see my high school self from the outside now. On the outside she looked way more together than she felt. In fact, she was probably a pillar of strength for a lot of people- but at the same time she didn’t have anyone to lean on in return. Only a lot of dashed hopes and teenage angst.

She was told she was worthless without a job. She wasn’t allowed to have negative emotions about her life, because that would be selfish, and yet, she had to absorb everyone else’s bad feelings and give some kind of balm to the problem within her family. So the spiral of shame and codependency started. When someone wouldn’t love her she turned that on herself and doubled it, saying “yes I know Im the worst, please agree with me”.

When I think of her I feel deep love- unfiltered love. God, I wish I could tell my past self that she is worth everything. That she wasn’t as awkward and strange as she thought she was and that some people were just assholes who needed someone to make fun of; that she didn’t have to internalize their torture. (And to get over that guy already, he wasn’t interested and you really don’t need him– you were way out of his league anyway)

When you show up, you have to force yourself to see that you’re actually worth the hard things in life that you work for every day. That you’re worth beauty. That your dreams matter. That you have talent. That you deserve good things.

When you see the kid version of you from the outside and you would NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS think the things you thought about anyone else! Not even your biggest bullies and abusers, why would you think that of you? Why on earth would you give your bullies and abusers more ammo against you?

A part of the reason that showing up for yourself is hard is that we have to realize all the ways that we’ve been toxic and abusive to ourselves. How allowing this negative self thinking has led you to the really frustrating work you have to go through now in order to fucking move on.

How are you neglecting yourself because you don’t feel like you’re worthy of good things?

Here’s a hard truth:

You deserve a good life. You deserve to show up for yourself. You deserve to be happy, healthy, and stable. YOU DESERVE TO TRY YOUR DREAMS. It’s so hard, but guess what, you’re worth it.

Daily Maintenance: A Knitters Guide to Resistance 

Today, I am writing this in chunks of spaces. My office, the children’s museum, the library, my dining room table. This is a normal part of my day. Write in chunks when I can get the time and brain space. One word here- two there. 

Today, I am leaving my house because my children need to be around other children. They don’t know that I’m struggling with the state of things right now. They don’t know that I am on high alert. Looking for the smallest of strangest things. The city we live in is pretty safe, but so were so many other places this week. It feels good to be around other moms with kids the same age. I don’t know these people, but they’re my people. Doing what they need to do for their kids. Hiding their fear for the sake of keeping things kind of normal. Things are not normal though. All of us know that. 

If it’s bad for me, I can imagine how it is for my BIPOC friends right now. People who don’t look European enough to have the benefit of the doubt. Innocent until proven guilty is a right only reserved for the lighter class. When being brown means seven shots in the back for running away. Rights don’t exist for brown people. And that’s seriously depressing- then its infuriating- and it makes me want to storm the temple Jesus style.

What do we do? We don’t have time to raise the next generation of good people. We have to be good people. We need to stop pushing our responsibility to the next generation. We have a mess. We didn’t necessarily create it, but we need to fix it. Now. It’s not time to hole up and cry. I want to, believe me. 

Here are some things I do to keep my head when things are falling apart outside. 

Call Everyone You Can: 

I use the app 5 Calls and Resistbot to make calls to my national representatives. However the scripts they give you can also be used to call your mayor and city counsel. Call the school board near you to make sure they’re not punishing children who can’t pay for lunch. Local politics deserve our attention. We live in a community. We should be able to speak out in the places we pay taxes in. 

Have friends: 

This one is hard for me. We move a lot for my partner’s job. It’s depressing to have to start completely over every couple of years. It makes me just want to stay home and lick my wounds. But being a part of a group helps you be a part of something greater. Right now we need community. We need to be out and a part of that community for things to get better. At the very least have someone who is always at the other side of a text- 

Limit Alcohol:

Also a hard one, because I want to drink the days away. But me drinking the days away helps exactly no one. It might give me the courage to blindly rage on social media for 2 hours, but the damage it does to my family and my body is just not worth it. If you need to calm down, maybe start with tea. Start with meditative breathing. 

Hug your kids: 

Seriously. Maybe borrow someone else’s kids (with parental and child permission of course). Life is so hard right now, we could definitely do to spread the love. 

Random Acts of Kindness: 

Look, it might not change anyone’s life, but there’s a reason that the saying, “kindness is courageous” exists. Kindness does not discriminate against color or background or wealth or status. Every single person you meet to, go out of your way to show kindness. Kindness pulls us out of our comfort zones and makes us look at another perspective. So- when you’re out, offer a smile, hold a door, put some spare change in the meter, go back and get that homeless guy a burger, look people in the eye. All you have to do is acknowledge someone’s humanity. 

No human is an alien. And every human needs kindness.

Knitting Meditations: A Guide to Improving Mindfulness While Knitting

Does your knitting feel like meditation to you too?

I know that in my life, I need my knitting. When I knit, I feel the nervousness release out of my hands and into the garment that I’m creating. It’s healing. The energy dissipates back into the Earth, and what happens later is something created with my hands from the chaos that I didn’t know I was feeling. It’s important to have a practice like this. I know that most knitters feel the calm that is created from slowing down and focusing on a project. There have been studies of the mental health benefits of knitting. It’s not new. Sometimes, I feel like if I didn’t have my knitting, I’d be even more lost than ever.

Knitting can be a contemplative practice. Your brain is incredibly active while we knit. Most of us listen to something while working on our projects, whether its a podcast or an audio book. It’s one of those practices that allow our brains to do multiple tasks. Knit- and imagine. For me, this has been incredibly healing. I’ve been able to turn my knitting into “Brandie Cheer Time”. Sometimes, we need the podcasts or audio books, but sometimes it’s healing to knit and give yourself a pep talk. Here are some things I’ve found useful when knitting with a propose.

Knit in Silence

Okay, so this one is easy for me. I am an introvert and NEED some alone quiet time. However, this can be harder than just turning off the TV after the kids have gone to bed. When it’s quiet around you, you’re really able to hear your thoughts. This is the time to tune into what is bothering you, or what is making your heart sing. When I started doing this, I was hearing my negative self talk. If you could hear some of the things my brain was repeating to itself— you’d probably want to give me a hug. (At least, that’s what I wanted to do with myself) I don’t think these things about other people, why is it okay for me to say these things about myself? Well, that’s a long and complicated story. But when you’re listening to your inner dialogue- you can turn to yourself with gentleness and remind yourself that like the project you’re working on that you’re also a work in progress, and with each new row you’re growing into your true self.

Practice Loving Kindness

If you’re really struggling with yourself right now- its okay. Sometimes its hard to stop the negative voice. Sometimes it’s really hard. When you sit down to knit, with the same care and concern you use for your project, I want you to reflect that energy back onto yourself. Whatever love you need, think of that love, and give it to yourself. If all you can do is just knit. Do that. This doesn’t have to be hard. Sometimes the best things we can do for ourselves is say, I’m out of love today, I need to refresh it with my knitting.

Knitting with a Mantra

Sometimes when the day was really long, and I’ve found myself in a negativity spiral, I like to knit while repeating a positive affirmation. I know that it might feel silly to sit and think. “I am worthy of love, I am worthy of love” over and over again, but it does help. It allows you to remove yourself from the negativity. I always end up feeing lighter and more capable. It’s like giving yourself a pep talk. You don’t necessarily have to even believe what you’re saying. You just have to be nice. Eventually, it will help with the automatic negative thinking. And with all the love you’ve been putting into the stitches, it makes for a great yarn hug when you’re done with the garment. I love wearing my hand knits when I’ve been down.

Spread Love Out

I know that this is a lot about love. Bear with me. I do a lot of gift knitting, when I do, I like to think about the person i am knitting for. I like to put my love into it, so they, in turn feel the love from me whenever they wear it. The same way with the prayer shawl idea in many healing circles. We need more love in this world. That’s just a fact. It can feel dark and scary, especially in today’s political climate. Spreading out feelings of love to your family, to your pets and plants, to your house, too your land, to your neighborhood, to your city, to your state, and so on, not only helps raise our spirits, but also helps us realize that we are all in this together- everyone no matter what.

Sometimes i don’t know what I would do without my knitting.

I know a lot of us feel this way.

I hope that your knitting practice brings you love, and feelings of worthiness. You are worthy. You are connected. You are incredible.

Growth.

Do you ever just enter a period of turbulence? This season has been particularly difficult for me. I posted on my personal social media page about learning to love who I have become, as an adult, wife, mother, human person in the world. I didn’t know that that was the first slipping pebble in the landslide of emotions that have flooded me since then. I told my friends to be prepared for turbulence, but was I ready?

Today, I am dealing with a vulnerability hangover, like Brene Brown calls them. The feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness that started in my childhood bubbled over like a toxic sludge on me last night and it-was-hard. It’s made me realize that I have been living alone for way too long. I have been trying to hold myself up for the sake of not burdening others with my pain. I have also been trying to take care of their emotions. That’s a heavy load to bear. No wonder my energy is all screwed up.

If everyone is happy, no one can be angry with me.

I have taken responsibility for everyone else’s emotional stability, making sure that they’re comfortable, fed, clothed, and happy. But I forgot that I have a responsibility to myself and my own emotional healing. Isn’t that interesting? Why do we do this? It can’t just be a mother thing. I think that this is also a coping skill. If everyone is happy, no one can be angry at me. No one can blame me for their emotional outbursts. What an interesting revelation.

I live in fear of other people’s emotions, whether they’re actually directed at me or not. Most of the time, they’re probably not, like probably 99% of the time. My three year old can’t control his outbursts, it hurts when he tells me that I’m not his friend, but I don’t let it bother me. However I live in fear of being a disappointment. That fear is paralyzing- so it turns into a self fulfilling prophecy. Dudes, it’s a miracle that I made it through grad school.

That’s why you haven’t seen much updating from me in this shop. I am committed to Spruce Knits and Spruce Fiber Co, but I am also exhausted from a brain that questions every decision that I make and judges every little false step. My brain won’t allow me to be anything less than perfect. It’s really frustrating. Knitting has been my salvation in many ways and I think that I need to keep it as the mindfulness and stress reliever that it always has been. I love the knitting community, but I am still looking to see where I fit in. If I fit in at all. I’m not going anywhere, just slowing down and being completely intentional about where I am in my healing and where I am with my ability to cope with stress.

I am not typing this to make any excuses for myself or have anyone feel bad for me, this is just my truth right now. I live with an often debilitating mental illness- one that was caused by childhood trauma. I “know” that I will be okay, but dang these emotions freaking hurt. I don’t know how to properly sit down with them yet and accept them. For the most part life has been kind to me, but the hard years were the formative ones. I am learning what it means to let shit go.

I am coming back here to document this process. For those crafters who also struggle with Depression and PTSD or whatever chronic thing you might have, know that i’m in this forest too. We shouldn’t have to live our struggles out in the shadows- from our families or our selves or our social circles. I am not crazy. And if I was, who cares? I am here doing my work so that my children don’t end up with the same trauma i did.

For tonight, let’s rest.

Finding Stillness

I’ve been thinking a lot about stillness this month. 

My life feels like a series of snapshots that end up moving in a chaotic fashion. Every day is pretty structured, but do I ever get time to be still? I mean, really still. With a three year old and a one year old? Most of the time I am keeping up with diapers and deadlines. There’s not much stillness in my life. 

When I chose to do this challenge of knitting strictly from my stash this year, I didn’t realize that it would bring stillness. I haven’t taken great care of my yarn since we’ve moved. I haven’t had time to browse, to smell, to feel the skeins and hanks. In the time I’ve had, I’ve noticed myself going to the closet where my stash is stored and just looking. Admiring. I may have accumulated my stash out of a state of sadness, but each piece still holds a bit of love. Each piece has a purpose. 

I‘ve had many moments of discontent where I wish I had more sweater quantities, more naturally dyed, more fingering weight, more worsted- exc. 

But for the most part, I love my stash. I love the opportunity to make something beautiful out of nothing. That was probably the point of all the purchases in the first place. In my postpartum haze, I needed something tangible to create. To show that I have purpose. 

That’s what we find in the stillness. After the anxiety, the disappointment, and discontent fade away there is our purpose. We belong just because we exist. Nothing more. We can create something magical out of the loose threads of our lives. 

It’s agony for me to slow down and be still. I continuously want to move forward- to find success in busyness. I’ve never found success in that. So I must learn to be still.