There is only one success – to spend your life in your own way.
– Christopher Morley
Made Him Happy
I know a man who loves to knit. Blankets, quilts, sweaters… he knits them all. Knitting is his hobby, his escape. He could choose another hobby – something a bit more masculine, like restoring vintage cars or hunting. But this man continues to stick with what makes him happy – knitting. Because he discovered knitting when he was only a little boy who didn’t know any better. And now it’s a big part of who he is.
As he grew into his teenage years he was made aware of the fact that knitting wasn’t a common hobby for a boy – that it’s usually a hobby chosen by girls or by “boys who like to wear high heels,” as his older brother used to say. Over time, after being ridiculed by his brother and others, he eventually asked himself a question: “Are the opinions others have about knitting at all relevant to my experience of knitting as a hobby?” And he immediately realized the answer was: “No!” So he kept enjoying the hobby that made him happy.
Stories, Fears, and Expectations
It’s fascinating how we make certain decisions in life. Sometimes we follow our heart and intuition and we choose the thing that makes the most sense to us – that which makes us happy. Other times we follow our fears and expectations, especially those spawned by the culture and society we live in, and we choose whatever we believe will most appease those fears and expectations – that which makes everyone else (or no one at all) happy.
The man who loves to knit remained open minded and stuck to knitting even when he learned about the cultural and societal expectations that suggested he should give it up. But he didn’t always carry forth with this same open minded attitude. For instance, he believed for as long as he could remember that he would someday find the perfect mate. And he knew exactly what she would be like.
The story about her that he inscribed in his head when he was in high school hasn’t changed much since. Nor has it changed since he told me a story about her last year over a cup of coffee. The beginning of the story goes something like this:
I’ve always dreamed that someday I would meet the perfect mate. She would be smart and classy, yet sexy and athletic. And she would be a geek like me. I wouldn’t care what her religious background was, so long as she had an open mind and an honest heart. But she would have to be neat and tidy, because I’m not and I need someone who can balance me out.
And she would love to snuggle, like me. Because I would want to hold her at night, and because we would need to be close so we could fool around and giggle and talk softly to each other. We would talk about people, places, our lives and our future together for hours into the night.
And money wouldn’t matter to either of us because we’d be in love. She’d know it and I’d know it, and we’d be happy with what we had…
The stories that we tell ourselves and each other sound remarkable, don’t they? They romanticize us. They sweep us off our feet. They persuade us to believe that if we dive head first into an intimate relationship, a big financial purchase, greasy foods, imported beers, or whatever it is that temporarily pacifies our worried mind from reality, then we will somehow find what we are truly looking for.
Our obvious dilemma is that reality is not temporary. Reality keeps on coming. That intimate relationship will have our heart blissfully skipping beats until it doesn’t any longer. That big financial purchase will be fun and exciting until it isn’t any longer. Greasy foods and beer will comfort us until they don’t any longer.
Free of Them
The man who loves to knit is aware of the temporary, restrictive nature of the stories we tell ourselves. Because the ending to his story about his perfect mate – the part that comes after the introduction I shared with you above – is about a woman who was amazing – almost perfect – but who didn’t quite fit the mold of the woman from the story he inscribed in his head. And he was unable to give up the perfect woman from his story for the amazing woman sitting in front of him. When she eventually realized this, she moved on.
Now, the man is also starting to move on. He’s slowly rediscovering his true self – the self he knew when he was younger before he started telling himself stories, or buying into the stories, fears and expectations of those who lurk around him. This self was a blank canvas, free to experience and appreciate everything just the way it was, without the burden of a storyline.
And as he slowly rediscovers himself, he struggles with the notion of life without a storyline. Because he can barely remember what life was like when there was no story, no fears, no expectations. But he knows deep down that he once lived in a world free of them. And when he did, he discovered knitting and fell in love with it. It became one of his greatest sources of happiness. And he knows that if he wants to fall in love like that again, he must get back to that story-free world within himself where happiness is found.
Photo by: Sabrina Campagna