Saturday, April 13, 2013

Making Fun in Bad Times

Just now I wrote four paragraphs and accidentally hit an unknown key and it disappeared. That's the theme of the past two months-put in a lot of effort for nothing. I took two chemo treatments that didn't work and had side effects; I put time and attention into a man who clams up under pressure; I began exercising only to find that a flare made it impossible; I prepared a pile of beautiful baby room accessories and clothing and cannot begin the market on time (you can see examples below).

I am in limbo, fighting a flare without specific meds for it. I rarely leave the house due to pain and lack of energy and frequent infection. I can't start the market with my comrades next Sunday. I have prepared and prepared and I can't carry on until something ends this.

I'm still coming to terms with the rituximab failure. Four years ago, that medicine was like a miracle. In a lot of ways it liberated me, making me healthy enough to get out of the house, be with friends and family, build a market business instead of just existing on the internet. Now, one bad treatment cycle and my doctor has stopped it. The next medication choice leads us into uncharted territory.

Today I recognized that creeping self-pity and overwhelming sadness and chose some activities to fight it. I re-read Knit 2 Together, Patterns and Stories for Serious Knitting Fun. Tracey Ullman and Mel Clark put some unusual patterns and fun narrative together, and they seem better and more useful to me now that the first time I read it. I have lots more knitting knowledge and experience and more appreciation for elegant construction and a sense of design humor.

I also pulled out a box of Seinfeld dvds, and I'm going to work my way through several seasons. It is perfect for a knitting accompaniment. There's no action for me to look up and follow. Conversation is the whole show-what happened or didn't happen or should have happened, nothing too banal or trivial to discuss. In my family, where each one's opinion is too important to keep to oneself, this sounds very familiar, and the show makes me laugh like a crazy person.

I have a crockpot of my favorite flageolet beans. Interesting food is more important when you eat alone at home day after day. It's a cheap luxury and one of the few ways I can impact my disease right now.

I've promised myself to keep writing when things are bad. This account should always be about the totality of having this damn disease, not just the triumphal moments.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Slavery Knitting Heritage

Yesterday I picked up a book that's been on my shelf for a long time and began to read. Mighty Rough Times, I Tell You, edited by Andrea Sutcliffe, is a compilation of narratives by former slaves. In the 1920s and 1930s there were a couple of projects designed to get first-hand accounts of slave life by interviewing former slaves who were at least 10 years old by the time of the Civil War. The aim was to record the responses to a standard questionnaire and amass a bank of information from those who knew the institution of slavery best. This could be compared to the Worldwide Shoah Memoirs Collection of Holocaust survivors narratives.

The narratives in Mighty Rough Times, I Tell You were obtained from slaves who resided in Tennessee, and they feel pretty close to home as I read names of towns and rivers that are thoroughly familiar. Tennessee was initially an abolitionist state, and even after 1830 slavery did not exist to the extent that it did in other southern states. That didn't make it any more palatable or less cruel, as the individuals in this book describe.

Early in the book, a woman named Precilla Gray is interviewed. She was raised in Williamson County and passed around to several members of the same family. Describing her first "mistress":   "My first mistress had three looms and we had to make clothes for everyone...I was taught to weave, card, spin, and knit..." as well as to do rough field work. Under Missus Snythia, "soon as the chillun was seven years old, they started them knitting...We wore yarn hoods, shawls, and pantalets, which was knit things that come from your shoe tops to above your knees...When the Civil War was starting...I had to knit socks and helps make soldiers' coats."

I picked this book with the grudging feeling that I was getting into something that would be completely unpleasant. It is exciting to find this knitting connection and bits of information about what African-Americans in slavery times were knitting. For instance, who knew that leg warmers (pantalets) were around before the 1970s made them popular outside the ballet world. I have peeked ahead (yes, I know!) and I see the word knitting coming up again. The piece of my past history that began with slavery has some dreadful, evil, inhuman detritus, but it also has knitting!