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Gathered Around Me

I’m still working on my Marley shawl, but my Gather, another Andrea Mowry design, is now complete.  It isn’t easy to stand outside in a wool/ linen shawl right now.  It’s not easy to stand outside, period.  I toughed it out for these pics, then ran in the house flinging the shawl from my body as if it were on fire.  Obviously that’s not a reflection on Andrea’s pattern.  That, I love.  It is so cool in the Madelinetosh Optic colorway, paired with a black tonal.  This shawl also saw me through a hard time.

Knitting is just knitting, I know that.  But there aren’t many things we do today to distract ourselves from hard times that are creative and positive.  Even going for a run can be stressful for my body, if I’m already under a ton of stress.  Subconsciously checking my phone every few seconds wouldn’t be super healthy either.  I mean, talking to someone can help… up to a point.  There comes a time in the grief process where there is nothing left to say and you just need to get through the day.  So, to have a distraction that produces good things, both physically and mentally, is a gift.

Details:  I used US size 3 needles and 3 skeins of Madelinetosh Dandelion in the Optic base, along with 2 skeins of Hawthorne Fingering Kettle Dye in Blackbird.  The difference in fiber make-up of the two yarns doesn’t hurt a thing.  The linen/flax content of the Dandelion just adds more visual interest to the garter sections.  I’ve been wanting to use an Optic colorway for so long.  I stalk the Madelinetosh website looking at all of the various versions, often on sale.  The Hawthorne in Blackbird did rub off on my hands a bit while knitting.  I didn’t bother putting vinegar in the soak bath with it, but that would have been the more adult thing to do.

There were no modifications, just hours of garter stitch, with a little lace here and there.  It was the low-key thing I needed to work on when my brain and heart hurt.  I worked on it like a robot for a week after the funeral.  If you make things regularly, you know how therapeutic this can be.  I am feeling much better, by the way.  The initial shock of unexpectedly losing a loved one has passed and the sharpest pain has dulled some.

I appreciate all of the kind and loving things you, my friends, said to me here, on Ravelry, and on Instagram.  And this got me thinking about something I’d like your input on.  We had a conversation in Bible study Sunday about comforting others, based on 2 Corinthians 1:1-7, where Paul tells the new church in Corinth that sometimes we suffer like Christ did, but one good outcome of it, other than drawing us closer to Him for comfort, is that we can then comfort other people with the level of comfort we received from Him.

The question I posed was do you feel we are so disconnected from the people around us, due to our connection to the internet and busy lives, that we aren’t available to be there as much to offer true comfort to hurting people we know.  I asked this after watching most of the young adults enter the room and immediately look at their phones.  Their heads down and engrossed, unless someone spoke to them, as they sat beside one another in a large circle.  I’d never really noticed that before.  It seemed like a ritualistic way to avoid the awkwardness of confrontation.  Or maybe it’s just ritual when our bodies stop moving, to check Twitter or whatever.  I suppose sitting beside people you know and have grown up with at church could feel confrontational at times.  Hmm, this makes it seem as if we are less aware of the people around us, and so would be less likely to comfort them.

There were a few opinions offered in the group.  Some thought that we are too busy to really be there for other people.  Most didn’t answer at all- they are a quiet group.  Someone else said that we pursue online friendships as if they are real, then when we are in need, those people can’t comfort us because it’s not true friendship. That’s what I wanted to ask you guys about.  I think that could be true, depending on how genuine we are online, but is it always?

In my experience, online friendships have been very meaningful.  Most of the sympathy shown to me when I lost my grandmother came from online friends, not the real life kind.  Don’t get me wrong, the people in my real life who were there for me, were truly there for me.  There were several phone conversations, when I was feeling shocked, guilty, and devastated that I wouldn’t trade for anything, and seeing them at the funeral was so encouraging.  All of these sweet people made me feel very loved.  But, the compassion shown to me online, though it is from people who didn’t know my grandmother, seemed no less heartfelt.  These friends offered words of sympathy and love that surprised me when I sat down, the day after the funeral, and lethargically pulled out my phone.

There is power in words.  If our connectedness with the world steals some of our focus from the world around us and makes it difficult to relate to people up close, then at least one benefit is that we can be friends to people we wouldn’t have otherwise have been able to befriend when we are online.   But certainly we can manage to be mentally present for both.

I don’t consider loneliness a big problem now, but there was a stretch of years where I was definitely lonely at times.  It was post-Ravelry, pre-instagram, if you need a reference.  Caring for elderly people who felt bad, raising teenagers,  and having a husband who likes to work a lot can be lonely.  I am very into nurtured relationship.  It’s the best part about being in a family and, at that time, it didn’t easily happen.  There were lots of tasks for me, but often very little  communication or even eye contact.  I know, the housewife’s lament, right?

With God’s help, I found my way through that time.  I also started getting into knit-alongs and finding the warmth of community there.  We talked about all sorts of things from the mundane to the serious, all while learning to make stuff.  I knew people were listening to me because they were posting in answer.  And I was getting some of the back and forth of thoughtful conversation that I felt was missing in my life.  It was nice.

I think there are several online friends that I could call out of the blue and say, “I’m in your city, want to grab lunch?” and they’d be happy to do so.  I know of several who are hurting right now like I was in July and they are really in my prayers each day.  Sure, it would be great if we lived down the street from one another, but since I know few people on my street, this is at least something.  

(ravelry, instagram, and flickr)

Anyway, that’s what my Gather shawl makes me think of.  Rather than the heartache of those days, I think of the kindness of friends gathering around me, virtually, and I feel blessed.

What do you guys think?  Are social media friendships as good as “the real thing” or do they fall short?   Or is it just a question of who you choose for friends- online and locally?

Other posts about this shawl are here and here.

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