When my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2001 and was going in for surgery to have it removed, I immediately knew I wanted to fly down to be with her.
But I was 6 months newly sober, so it was daunting to fly across the country, leaving behind my support system. But more frightening than that was the fear that my mother would die while on the table, or that they would find more cancer than they could treat.
It was a challenging time.
I knew that I would be experiencing many emotions as I navigated her illness and surgery, and I really wanted to deal with them in healthy ways, not fall back into old coping behaviors.
Someone suggested to me that I take up knitting as something to occupy my hands and eat up some of the extra energy (aka anxiety) that I would be experiencing.
Thankfully, I took their advice, bought some knitting supplies and took them down with me. And as I waited for her to come through the surgery, I began to knit.
My mom had been the one to teach me how to knit in the first place, so it felt really right to sit and knit, waiting for those awful hours to hear how the surgery went. Anyone who has gone through it knows how difficult that waiting can be.
I only remembered one stitch, but that was enough. I had no pattern, so I just started knitting a row about the width of a muffler and took it from there.
Thankfully, my mother came through the surgery very well. I moved back into her hospital room, and the knitting came with me. In fact, it would continue to be my sober companion for the rest of her hospital stay and afterwards as she recovered at home, because I ended up staying longer than I had planned.
My mother had her surgery on September 10, 2001. We were both sleeping in her hospital room that next morning, when a friend of hers called my mother and told her to put on the news. We watched together as my adopted home city was terrorized.
In shock, I immediately did two things: I went to a meeting and then I went to donate blood.
Then, I went back to the hospital, where knitting became a lifeline again as my world was rocked from its axis a second time.
I was so desperate to get back to NYC, but could not leave until they allowed flights again. I knitted with fervor through those days following 9-11, as I helped my parents take my mom back home and settled her in.
And then finally, I was able to return home to NYC, and my knitting accompanied me on the plane and through the weeks as our city began to heal.
Eventually, I stopped knitting…though from time to time I will pick it up again when the proverbial sh*t hits the fan or I feel that I need it as a way to stay calm under duress. I guess that is just the nature of my relationship to it. I am grateful it is there for me when I need it.
I still have that piece of knitting from that time when my world was rocked to its core. It is a very, very long muffler-type knitted piece that is a bit misshapen and not at all suited for anything. But it stands as a reminder to me that there is always a way to show up and consciously move through even the hardest of times. That I can survive anything, be of service and even be creative even as my world is falling apart.