There are a couple things I’ve learned from knitting that I think are applicable as general life lessons:
Lesson 1: Every little bit counts–one stitch follows another follows another, and eventually you have something beautiful.
Lesson 2: Nothing ever works right the first time.
Seriously, me starting a new project always goes something like this:
1) Obtain skein of yarn. Pretty, pretty yarn.
2) Wind yarn from skein to ball.
3) Do a quick swatch to make sure yarn does what it’s supposed to with whatever size needles I have lying around. (As most of my knitting is either lace or for people who aren’t yet born, exact size tends not to matter hugely, so I’m really more concerned with getting drape and stitch definition I can live with than checking that I have the exact right number of stitches per inch once the thing is washed and blocked.)
4) Unravel swatch and cast on for the real thing.
5) Knit for a while.
6) Decide that something isn’t working, unravel project, and cast on again.
Step 6 is absolutely integral to the knitting process. I don’t know why, but it is. And that’s the beauty of knitting–it’s so easy to start over, once you’re used to it. Of course, it does take some getting used to. I’ve been teaching Mark to knit in fits and starts, and the first time I ripped out his few inches of garter stitch so he could keep practising with the same ball of yarn, he looked at me like I’d just stomped on a kitten.
In other situations, Mark is a huge fan of the do-over. Our arguments usually come equipped with ‘pause’ and ‘rewind’ buttons–the impulse to stop halfway through saying something absolutely ridiculous in its grumpiness and suggest that we backtrack and try the conversation over again, or, in extreme cases, crawl back into bed and go through the whole waking up thing again, now with 75% less irritation at the world. Not that we get it absolutely right the second time through, either, but usually we get it better.
You can guess where this is going, right?
Yeah. I’m calling a do-over on Passover this year. I tried it for about fifteen hours, it just wasn’t working, so I’m starting again. Sure, it’s still freaking snowing (no, I am not getting over that anytime soon), but isn’t that just a really great excuse to hang out in the kitchen where it’s warm? And, yeah, it’ll probably be another year before I set eyes on my favourite seder plate, but why not mix things up a bit this year? There’s plenty of awesome alternatives floating around the internet that I never try (like this, or this). Pesach is all about doing the best you can at the last minute–you grab what you can on your way out the door, and trust it’ll be enough to sustain you in the wilderness.
Of course, ritual and do-overs don’t usually go together very well. There’s a close relationship between liturgy and theatre; once you’re in ritual space, once you have the audience engaged (even if that audience is just you), then the show must go on. Interruptions, punctures in the fourth wall, risk shattering the fragile truce between the liturgical narrative and the will to disbelief. And the impulse to start over feeds into a dangerous drive towards perfectionism–start over once, and you risk doing it again and again and again, never moving on because you still haven’t gotten it absolutely right. But ‘risk’ is not the same as ‘guarantee’. If there’s room in liturgy for ‘not perfect but good enough’ (which is, I think, the vast majority of liturgy), then there should also be room for ‘not good enough, so let’s try this again.’ Just as long as you remember Lesson 1, and keep moving generally forward, one stitch at a time.