I haven’t been aware that I count stuff, but lately the realization that counting is a regular and frequent activity of mine, has been cause for pause. Why do I count and what does it all add up to?
As a knitter/crocheter, counting offers a sense of safety, confidence, security and well-being. You may feel this is overstated a bit. But it is true that when my stitch count matches that of the pattern, a sense that all must surely be well is won. Take socks: 64 stitches for an average adult size sock is the magic number to cast on, to knit for round after round, and even return to after a crazy jaunt around the heel. Even the half and quarter numbers, 32 and 16, provide that feel of security and confidence when you’ve slipped and knitted your way up the heel flap. Count…count…count again and if your numbers are right, you’re safe in moving forward, shoulders can be lowered, and that sense of ease and well-being returns. I’m totally serious when I say that this is precisely what I do in life as well as in knitting. I count. And if the counting adds up, I feel that same sense of well-being and safety.
I probably count many of the same things others count – dollars in my bank account, hours/minutes on the clock, speed on the odometer, number of snacks in the pantry, how much food is in the fridge, miles I walked for exercise, servings of veggies and fruit in a day, hours of sleep, etc.
But I also count things that many might not – carbs for my T1D daughter as well as how many blood sugar highs and lows she has in a day, how many ostomy bags I have left before I need to order more, number of students in my classes, number of paintings/drawings of any worth or value for an art show, and how many fiber projects I have begun and are still in a state of incompletion.
The thing about all this counting is not so much that I count, or that I keep a running tally. The issue at hand is what meaning I’m attaching to the numbers once I’ve counted.
Every now and then, a knitting/crochet student will declare something about their personality, character, or mental ability when their stitch count has gone awry. “I’ll never get this right!” “I’m just not creative!” “I don’t have what it takes for this!” “I’m just not cut out for this kind of detail!” “I’m an old dog who can’t learn new tricks!” I gently remind them that the wayward stitch (or stitches) has absolutely no bearing on their character or abilities. Finding 63 stitches on your needles instead of 64 doesn’t mean you’re a dumb person nor that you are incapable of knitting. It simply means that a stitch has been lost somehow and it can be found fairly easily and fixed in a few different ways. Would that I’d listen to my own instruction as I’m counting the rest of my life.
Maybe its being 51, that strange crossroads of life where counting and taking stock seems to be a turnstile we all march through on the way to our mature years. Maybe it’s watching my children grow up, go to college, get married and begin their adult lives that has me assessing the many years of parenting, looking for and trying to count something I might have to show for all those years. Same with years of making art, writing, knitting and crocheting. Is there anything in my life quantifiable? Countable? Verifiable? It certainly isn’t in the bank account. And it isn’t in medals or awards on the mantel (not that I would even display them there if I had them).
What we choose to count AND the meaning we attach to it can drive us crazy, hurl us into sadness or even depression. I’m learning that there’s something flawed with my counting. I need to take care not to stitch up meaning in the counting. I need to focus more on process, not on product. Yes. Helpful. But I woke up this morning with these words, more helpful words, running through my mind:
“The only thing that counts is faith
expressing itself in love.”
Ahhhh…..yes, this is solid. Even though I’m sure I could twist and mar the meaning of this verse by trying to count the times I’ve had “a faith that expressed itself in love”, I do recognize that this is NOT what the verse is saying here. Faith is the point. Being certain of things we cannot see or count. Living full and rich lives without counting our wallets as the determiner of that richness. Faith to believe that even if whatever we’re counting doesn’t add up, that we are loved just for who we are and not because we’ve got 64 stitches on our sock needles or for any other of our quantifiable assets. And to express the love we have received to others in whatever ways we can find, whether they are countable or not.
Faith and love…unquantifiable, uncountable… that’s where I’d like to live today and tomorrow and the rest of my days.
Even in my knitting. 🙂