I am a noticer. Noticer. Is that even a word? It should be a word. Maybe it will be a word someday.

Let me rephrase…I am someone who notices things. I love to observe and to see the patterns that show up in ideas, people, relationships, activities, books, podcasts, teevee, etc.

For me, this pandemic has created the space and given me the time to notice things that I might otherwise not have noticed or might not have wanted to notice. There have definitely been things that I have noticed during this time that I would have preferred to remain blissfully ignorant of or too distracted to bother with. But, for the most part, I have been pleasantly surprised by what I have noticed. This was especially apparent to me during Operation Dishcloth, where learning to knit and then actually knitting led me to noticing so many things.

When I started my knitting learning journey (thanks YouTube), my intent was to learn something new. Oh, and to make some dishcloths. I was in dire need of new dishcloths. As an aside, have you noticed that store-bought dishcloths kinda suck? They may look nice, but their absorption ability is dismal. I digress. Yes, my intent was to learn something new. And in the end, I learned more than just how to knit. Here’s my recap on the purls of wisdom that I learned during Operation Dishcloth.

Knit 1, Purl 1 – It’s hard to remember when I didn’t know how to do something. You know, like tying my shoes, swimming, or driving a car. All of those activities are second nature now but there was a time when I didn’t know how to do any of them. When I am in the process of learning, I am acutely aware that I am learning (fumbling) and then one day (hopefully), I get to a level of unconscious competence. That is the hope. But it is hard to know when it actually happens. With Operation Dishcloth, I knew exactly when I started to feel competent with the knit stitch. Dishcloth #1 was misshapen and had several random holes, dishcloth #2 also had holes and was crudely finished (I will see how long it stays in tact), and then at some point during dishcloth #5, I started to get it (and swear less). Seeing a physical manifestation of my learning was a great way to track and celebrate my progress.

Knit 2, Purl 2 – The feeling of creating or making something is super satisfying. This is something that I started to realize a few years ago when we started our podcast, Don’t Be a Jerk at Work. How did I get this far in life and not already know this?

Knit 3, Purl 3 – Patience is a practice. I’d like to think that I am generally a patient person. And I am. Until I’m not. Learning to knit reminded me that it is important to create a pause and take a break when I’m frustrated. Recognizing my frustration signals and disrupting that frustration gave me time to get my thoughts and feelings under control so that I could carry on. I’m happy to report that my patience paid off and after two weeks, I have 12 new dishcloths to show for it!

Knit 4, Purl 4 – It’s not about perfection. This purl of wisdom can be stitched together with Knit 1, Purl 1: it’s hard to remember when I didn’t know how to do something. The things that we know how to do take work and practice. Making the effort, being consistent and disciplined, and doing a little each day is how I see the most learning, growth, and change. For me, knitting a little each day (okay, several hours each day) helped me to start seeing myself as a knitter.

Knit 5, Purl 5 – I’m not too old to learn something new. As adults, it seems like we have few opportunities to learn new things. For sure, the busyness of life can easily take over and I also think that many of us feel like learning new things is for young people. As I write this, I am 3 months away from my 50th birthday. Oof, it feels jarring to even write that. And it should NOT feel jarring to write that. Or say it. This tells me that I need to do the work to accept and celebrate 50 years and what that means to me. Learning to knit was a reminder that 1) I can still learn new things and 2) If I am fortunate to stay on my plan of living to 100, then I still have a LOT of years left to learn things. I don’t want to stay exactly the same for the next 50 years!

Knit 6, Purl 6 – Knitting is all about getting the optimal tension. Finding the optimal tension in knitting is a great metaphor for finding the optimal tension I need to get things done in general. When my to-do list is too long and I am overly scheduled, I often feel like I’m starting a million things but never finishing anything. On the flip side, when I don’t have enough on my plate, I tend to dilly dally around until I feel some pressure (real or perceived) to get to it. Basically, I need the “right” amount of tension to do my best work…and to knit my best dishcloth!

Knit 7, Purl 7 – Optimal tension gets me to a FLOW STATE! By dishcloth #5, I was definitely “in the zone” while knitting. Getting to this state while knitting has been a game changer for me during these COVID times. First, it calmed my mind and helped me to recognize that I needed to calm my mind. I think that I have been feeling a low-level of constant stress for the past 8 months and because it was low-level, I stopped noticing it. And second, it created space in my mind to come up with new ideas or solve problems I’d be thinking about. I actually mapped out this new blog series while knitting a dishcloth. Once I realized that this was happening, I also realized that I had to find the right time to interrupt that flow to write things down. I don’t want to waste a good flow state. Now, when I have something that I need to mull over, I say to myself, “I’m going to knit on it.”

Casting off now! Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear from you…what have you taken the time to notice during these COVID times? What has pleasantly surprised you?