Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Letting Go of Baggage

Everyone has their "baggage."  It can be anything from memories of a bad childhood to a reluctance to let go of simple things we regret.

A few years ago I read a wonderful book called "Knitting: A Novel" by Anne Bartlett. 

It's currently available at Amazon, or you can pick it up at your local library. 

Now, I know how to knit but I would not call myself a knitter by any means.  It's one of those things I like the idea of but I don't have the stamina to actually knit anything.  Accomplished knitters are amazing, and I really have to give them credit for creating such beauty with a couple of pointy sticks and some yarn.

The reason I'm bringing up this book isn't because of the knitting angle, it has to do with the way one of the main characters handles her mistakes.  I don't want to go into too much detail about the plot but it has to do with two widows, one a professor-type, Sandra,  and the other an eccentric but extremely talented knitter, Martha.

Sandra is impressed with Martha's talent and decides to mount an exhibition of her work.  So, she is constantly hassling Martha about getting things done.  The fact is that Sandra doesn't realize how fragile Martha is and how much her art means to her.  To her it's something to be displayed, but to Martha it's much deeper than that.

So, Sandra gets frustrated and Martha starts to fall apart under the pressure.

The most interesting thing about Martha is that she always carries these big heavy bags around with her.  The bags are mentioned but not really explained until it comes out that whenever Martha makes a knitting mistake, she puts it in one of the bags.  Her penance for making a mistake is to carry those heavy bags with her everywhere she goes. 

It's a literal representation of what many of us do, except in our case the baggage is in our heads or tucked away inside a closet somewhere.

This aspect of the novel has haunted me ever since.  Everyone talks about "baggage" but to see it so explicity shown as a bag you can open up and look at was enlightening to me.  After all, what was it but pieces of unfinished knitting, and yet it held such power over Martha.

When I think of how baggage affects me as a quilter I think back on those projects I bought fabric for but never made, or got halfway done with and set aside, never to finish.  We choose what to put in our "bags" and the thought of carrying around all that unused fabric and old patchwork does not appeal to me at all. 

A couple of years ago I purged my fabric stash in a huge way.  I got rid of several large boxes of odds and ends, unfinished quilt tops and blocks.  I gave them to a quilt guild a friend of my mother's belonged to and they went about using the fabric and blocks to make charity quilts and to sell at their bazaar.  I feel a lot less guilty about those unfinished projects now. 

That doesn't mean that there aren't times when I flash back to a project I wish I'd finished, or get on my own case about fabric that needs to be used.  The guilt never completely goes away.

However, carrying it around with me all the time seems like a huge waste of energy.  I think it's time to lay those bags down.

Let go and lighten up!



vivian said...

Great post! I have moved my stash from room to room and I find fabric I cannot remember buying. I think it's time to get rid of a lot of it!

pk said...

Thank You.