Monday, May 13, 2013

Simple Pleasures or, My Knitting High OR, How to Avoid Being a Sourpuss

This is a post about self-care, and nothing is more important to self-care than kittens. (Source)
I was chatting with a friend yesterday, who had bought some comic books for the first time in a couple of months.  He said the happiness he gets from purchasing new comics is nearly on par with an orgasm, and he hopes that I have something to get that excited about in my life.

While it's not quite as intensely enjoyable as orgasms, I think one of the most pleasurable things I do in my life is beginning and finishing knitting projects.  And by beginning, I mean walking into a yarn shop and buying materials.

Sure, I'm a social justice-y person who dislikes conspicuous consumerism* and I have plenty of days where I wish capitalism would go burn, but dang if walking out of a local yarn store (LYS) carrying a bag full of yarn, needles, and other things doesn't feel amazing.  It's like a paper bag of potential.  Balls and balls of yarn which, when I pile them on my floor, seem to just scream "Knit us!"

I don't hallucinate, I promise.

Strange blog post opening aside, there is a point to this.

The more I learn about the reality of how sucky the world really is, the harder it is to enjoy things.  I can't be happy seeing Captain Cook's tomb in Westminster Abbey, because he was an utter jerk.  I get royally uncomfortable when my church choir sings "Battle Hymn of the Republic" because I don't consider supporting war to be terribly Christian or... good.  Going out on Saturday to see a movie?  Forget it.  I heard that every single thing showing has rape jokes and the entire main cast of every film is white.

I can see why it's so easy to assume that social justice folks have no sense of humor.  When the entire culture around you is built on and thrives on putting people down, and you're actually aware of that, it's much harder to have fun on a day-to-day basis.

The key is to find things that lift you up, and for me, it's knitting.  While knitting isn't a-political, it's something which is incredibly personal, and therefore something I can choose to politicize or not.  My sweater can't make sexist jokes; a hat with kitty ears can't be racist.  Knitting does not rely on stereotypes or oppression to exist.  All it needs is time and attention.

For whatever reason, knitting gives me a high.  I love the feel of the yarn moving through my fingers; I love laying the piece out and stroking the pattern; right now, I keep looking over at the nearly finished pieces laying on my floor, pinned out to dry after blocking them, because today I'll be sewing them up and hopefully turning multiple football fields' worth of string into a summery top.

So when being a tourist is painful and watching a movie is uncomfortable and beloved YouTubers make me cringe with problematic comments, it's nice to know that there's something that will never make me explode in a feminist rage, except in its defense.

I think there are lots of people who haven't found their sourpuss prevention tactic.  I've written before about Social Justice Sallies, and it occurs to me now that SJ Sallies maybe just haven't found the thing that consistently makes them orgasmically happy.  Being angry can be energizing for a bit, but I know that after a certain point, my head spins and I feel ill and I need to take a break from the internet.  Anger is draining.  Find something that lifts you up and gives back the energy you've lost.

Whether it's knitting, reading comic books, programming, whatever... make sure you have an outlet.  Something that gives you a high, that makes you excited, that you never get tired of doing.  It doesn't need to be profitable, it doesn't need to be quirky or unique.  What matters is that you like it and that it makes you feel better about the world, because the world sucks.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll get back to caressing my newly purchased yarn.

*I still don't know how much this term shows up in secular discourse; mostly I see it in religious contexts where it's used as a foil to a spiritual life (like, "if you don't have religion, you fill the void and define yourself through conspicuous consumerism" or some such weirdness)

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