When my kids moved out, I read a lot of advice and information about the Empty Nest Syndrome. I learned that I should look forward, not back, and that I should take on new challenges to help me grow.
So, as part of my “Get over it” therapy I am learning to bake cakes. Its fun!
Fattening, but fun. I made a chocolate cake during the blizzard, and when my daughter and her boyfriend were here for dinner, I made a really tasty peanut butter and chocolate cake. They were good!
Except that they were a little lopsided, which bugged me. And the frosting was great…fluffy, sweet, swirly….but the cakes were a little on the tough side, since I probably beat the batter too much. I’m working toward fluffier cake, with a more tender texture. I’m working toward cakes that stand up straighter. Better, more perfect cakes.
And I’m not only learning to bake, I’m teaching myself how to knit, too! Aren’t you impressed?
For my first project, I bought some yarn and some needles, and found a YouTube knitting video. I cast on way too many stitches, with no idea of what I was going to make. Two weeks later, I had a little lap blanket! TaDa!! Soft, blue and white, pretty warm. It is draped over my nice blue couch right now.
Where every dropped stitch, knot and hole catches my eye a hundred times a day. I’ll keep it, of course, and use it to garner some laughs. But it irritates me to see such imperfection.
Now I am on to my next project. I bought a skein of multicolored yarn, just because it was so lurid and eye popping. Perfect for knitting with a group of fifth graders, right? I thought maybe I’d make a hat for one of my sons (Don’t cringe! They actually like crazy colored knit hats. They do!)
So I bought some “round needles” and tried to learn how to “knit in the round.” H’m.
I tried to keep count of the stitches, but they were really tight and they didn’t slide the way they should. So I pulled them off and started over. Now they were too loose, and they kept slipping off the end, even though they were theoretically knit together. I pulled them off and tried again. Lopsided, lumpy, not even looking like a hat at all. Pulled them off and rewound all that colorful yarn.
OK, I thought, I’ll knit a scarf! So I cast on 50 stitches and got started. The stitches were just right! Stretchy, neat, they kept popping out in beautiful little rows. And the yarn made an incredible pattern! Like a stretchy, kitchy Navaho blanket. I loved it!
Except that it was going to turn out to be a big rectangle, not a scarf. Oops! Too wide, too short.
I pulled them all out and started over. Again.
Now I am almost finished with a nicely shaped, good sized, supremely colorful scarf. But this time there is no lovely pattern. Just a random sprinkling of colors. It looks like this:
I am absolutely not going to start over again. But I’m not sure that anyone will ever wear this…..scarf.
So here I am in my empty nest, baking and knitting. And neither endeavor has produced perfection.
And that’s bugging me.
And the fact that its bugging me is kind of bugging me, you know?
Why do women do this?
We have a funny little habit, we women. We seem to think that if we just try hard enough to eliminate every tiny imperfection in everything that we do, we will gain control over this messy, unpredictable world.
We watch commercials that tell us to clean deeper and more often so that we can wipe out every speck of dust, piece of dirt and invisible germ. They tell us to buy make-up that will “erase tiny imperfections” on our faces. We use “Magic Erasers” to wipe out every smudge or smear that might indicate the presence of actual life in our homes.
And what I’ve noticed, after all these years, is that the harder we work to achieve perfection, the more anxious we become about every tiny flaw. The more we clean the floor, the more each muddy dog print impacts our peace of mind. We get caught in a spiral of chasing the impossible, believing that just one more burst of effort will get us to a place that does not exist.
There is no perfect. There is only real. Humans are flawed, life is messy, we actually don’t have control.
So its time for me to embrace the dropped stitches and the crooked cake. Its time to wrap up in the patternless, randomized scarf and just go with it.
Right after I wipe the muddy paw prints off the floor.