level of difficulty

Life is kind of like knitting.  Knitting patterns are marked in terms of “level of difficulty” and can be absolutely fiendish and at times soul shattering.  What this  meant in practice, for me anyway, was being able to estimate exactly how soon I’d burst into tears at the realization that it wasn’t a yarnover THERE or the always sobering realization that I could not, unlike everyone else at the stitch and bitch, do ANYTHING ELSE while knitting.   Be that as it may, I did progress and got to the point where I could manage something that was at a 3 needle out of five level of difficulty.  No intarsia need apply.  In my copious spare time I still imagine knitting a lace pattern shawl- probably while performing some other Herculean feat such as vacuuming.

Anyway, this morning’s guidance was: See the other person’s point of view.  Oddly, I had woken up being in full awareness of another person’s point of view.  It was an instance where a long standing condition makes an individual behave in a certain way, a way that one might find Massively Irritating if one were not paying attention.  What I realized in today’s waking moment, however, was that I felt what that other person felt at those times.  I felt in myself that irritating behavior coming up, saw what the origin of it was, and thought:  Good Heavens.  If this were a knitting pattern  I’d be getting to a virtual Alice Starmore level of difficulty.  If you knit you will know what I mean.  If you don’t, just picture it as an Olympic level of accomplishment.

Just like knitting, daily life presents all these opportunities to learn and hone one’s skills.    It does, eventually, simplify things in actual life, this learning.  I’m still not sure about knitting ever getting any easier.  Perhaps though, in knitting it is easier to see where you simply must start over or make an adjustment.  (Notwithstanding the possibility of the unintended dog sized sweater vest result….)  In this particular case today, what I saw quite clearly was that this other individual’s irritating behavior was, guess what, precisely like MY irritating behavior given the same stimulus.  We feel the same; we just don’t respond the same way.  Maybe this is the rudimentary skeleton of compassion- if we both feel the same way, how is that- what’s it really like?  What makes me feel calmer in the face of all this?  How can I keep my energy and focus on forward movement rather than reactivity and tail chasing?   Perhaps what it also is to a great extent is changing our perception of time.

When we’re irritated or in a hurry or in whatever distraction has us sucked up, when something appears to impede us, we get irritated.  I don’t have time for this, sort of thing.  We push the irritating thing aside without acknowledging it truly, and this is where the trouble starts to look like one of those tiny little pellets you put in a glass of water and it becomes an expanding dinosaur whose snout quickly rises up and out above the lip of the glass.  Our sense of time gets distorted, things become abrupt and abrasive.

But what is it we really don’t have time for?  In truth it is all the to-ing and fro-ing that we probably REALLY don’t have time for.  Vanity, pride, acquisitiveness, mean spiritedness, probably all are things we don’t really have time for.  What we do, and must, have time for is paying attention to each other- in fact, it is often the case for me that if I just stop and pay attention the whole megilla gets taken care of much more easily and swiftly that it ever does when “I don’t have time for this”.

As it happens, I am the sort of person who then thinks, well, what about axe murderers, rapists, and vicious capitalists? I spent a long time pursuing that line of thought and found that in the end,  I was still stuck in a reactive position because I was expecting a particular sort of result.  Like expecting a tomato to sprout from a patch of poison oak, I was just SURE that I could “help”.  One of the important reasons we must pay attention to each other, though, is to ascertain who we should NOT be paying attention to.  Kindness and humility are essential, always, but also essential is the learning of where to put the focus.  Where the focus is placed can be what keeps a person from going off the deep end- the simple act of blinking and looking somewhere else. Not in an attempt to ignore what is happening or “make it” some way it isn’t, but just breaking up the thought train a bit.    We are, as my teacher said, human BEings, not human DOings.  And we can be aware, and kind, and better to each other.

It’s odd, to swing between feelings of competence and blithering idiocy, watching the world go by like some completely insane combo shooting gallery/ merry go round.  What is the point?  The point is to give up the grandiose, I think.  As in, I know I will never manage a Starmore pattern.  BUT.  I can knit a darn good, serviceable little thingy to keep you warm, and that is progress.  Even if it is to a higher and thus dauntingly unknown level of difficulty, however discouraging it seems at times and especially how little it seems an individual can do….these are all the illusions we have to pass through and conquer.  What matters is what each of us does, how we live our lives.   The things that happen that cause difficulties are always to show us a better way, a more inclusive way.  I’m hoping that the places I fail in this endeavor at least bear the stamp of having tried to work it through to the end of the pattern.

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