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Guidepost #6 - Cultivating Creativity - How Knitting Saved my Life

I grew up in a small town down the street from my grandma and grandpa.  I stayed with them if my parents went away, I dropped in on my school lunch hour as they were so close and visits at the kitchen table or on the porch were part of my every day life.  Pipe tobacco and sunlight soap; the slippered shuffle/waddle of too many horsey ride for his many grandchildren; sandpaper kisses on the cheek; busy hand--fixing, fishing, tinkering, typing, learning, macramé, shell animals--my grandpa.  Pink curlered snow white hair, velvet cheeks, busy hands tying aprons, stirring, fixing, knitting, crochet, fussing--my grandma. 

My Nana and Grandpa lived a ten minute drive away and I spent probably more time with them as they were younger and for 8 years, their only grandchild.  Powder and hairspray, hustle and bustle, chatter, chatter, ceramics, swimming, bowling, skating, baseball, basketball, knitting, crochet, macramé, cooking.  My Nana was a whirlwind---  inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame in London, Ontario for her achievements with the 1945 London Shamrocks Basketball Team provincial championship season.  Brute, hair cream, teller of tales, patient hands painting and transforming.   My grandfather created doll furniture from pop cans, bending the metal into intricate spiraled tables and chairs, painted and wove lawn chair seats.  A treasure trove of bins filled the enormous walk-in closet shelves----felt, sparkles, sequins, needles, pins, fabric, paint, pop cans, Styrofoam balls, yarn and threads.  It was decadent!

So I grew up spending quality time  my grandparents ---painting, and making puppets from felt.  They taught me how to sew and knit and macramé.  How to bake cakes, cookies and other treats; and how seemingly ordinary things could become something else if you jut learn to look at them in a different way. And their houses were filled with their finished products and by extension--so was ours. 

I was able to keep my love of art alive through elementary school and high school with the encouragement of some great teachers but creativity gave way to homework, friends, dances and by the end of university I only baked occasionally and was focused on the "accomplishments-and-acquisitions track" as Brene Brown calls it.  This drive to conform and compete took over and with my grandparents gone, my only role model would have been my parents who had been on that track running full steam since I was born. 

Get stuff.  Get more stuff.  Make sure people see your stuff.  Go places.  Be there. Join stuff.  Meet people.

Perform---excell---exceeed---complete---compare---need more---repeat. 

Guidepost #6 resonated with me when Brown wrote about her own experiences with conformity and comparison at the expense of creativity.  She writes:

When people asked me about crafting or creating, I relied on the standard, "I am not the creative type."  On the inside I was really thinking, Who has time for painting and scrapbooking and photography, when the real work of achieving and accomplishing needs to be done?"...I thought of creating for the sake of creating as self-indulgent at best and flaky at worst.

Like her, I believe everyone is creative....they just either choose to use their creativity or they don't. It could be dancing or singing in the car, painting, building, Photoshop, or putting together an amazing outfit.  It is the one unique contribution you can make to the world and it keeps you in touch with you--what makes you unique--and unique can't be compared to others which can help slow down the feeling that we need to compete and achieve something the same or better than everyone else.

So I thank my grandparents---all of them---for putting this love of creating and crafting in my life.  Many times it has taken a backseat to what I have thought was more important.   

When I was hospitalized one of the nurses said she had some knitting needles and that night, she would be in the common room, with a movie on, kitting with a few other patients. At the appointed time I forced myself to leave my room and peeked my head in the door.  Inside, three patients were absorbed in needles and yarn and the nurse smiled and beckoned me in.  She handed me the needed, a row already cast on, and we reviewed the basics.  Within minutes I had remembered most of it and sat happily working my way row by row.  It felt amazing.  It didn't matter that I was not making anything---it was the process of creating that opened a door to so many parts of my brain and heart that had been locked away. 

That weekend on my "day pass" home, I bought my own needles and wool and started to knit at home.  I had to leave them there (remember, no pointy objects in the mental health ward!) but the creative spark had been ignited and my fingers itched to hold the needles once more. 

In the ADTP program following my discharge we had a "craft" hour each week.  I remember a friend of mine who had been through the program telling me she felt so stupid painting a tiny bird house or gluing foam stars on a flower pot, so I shared her skepticism when my turn at crafts came around.  However, it only took 5 minutes before I found myself painting again.  It had been forever since I had painted and I began looking forward to craft hour.  One week another patient and I exchanged knitting for crochet skills....and the creativity spark burst into a flame. 

Before the end of the ADTP program, I knit a scarf for each of the four people who started the program the same day I did.  As I presented them I told them that none of the scarves were perfect---just like us, but each one represented the process we have been through--and each one was now beautiful and unique and special. 

Since then, I have purchased many needles, patterns and yarn types. I have been to the Creative Festival this past spring and look forward to the one in October in downtown Toronto.  My ADTP crafts are here and there around the house always a reminder that being creative provides me with such joy that I can't let the flame go out again.  Time to be creative needs to rank up there with eat and sleep for me.  I need to write, I need to knit and bake and draw and color and paint. These things nurture my soul.

If I hadn't been in the hospital I may never have picked up those needles and rekindled that flame that my grandparents had nurtured in me when I was little.  I am more than a job. I am more than a mom or a spouse.  I am a unique ME.  I love Dorian for prompting me to knit in the hospital. I think she is my guardian angle put there in that place, at that time, to give me what I needed most - a way back in-to me--to gratitude--to joy--to the creative spirit within.  xoxo


  1. Oh, Brigid. I just loved this! It so resonates with me. Creating is truely healing to the soul.


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