"Don't cling to a mistake just because you've spent a lot of time making it."

1/10/19, 11:22 AM

By: Julie Rockefeller

Social media is the perfect vehicle for the dissemination of aphorisms. "Like" and "Share" are such simple responses, and we have become so well-conditioned to receiving information in sound-bite-sized portions, that we seem content to take our wisdom by the teaspoonful, swallowing fast before clicking or swiping onward.

mistake.jpgA good aphorism is pithy and packs a punch. It must contain a noun or verb that hooks you, niggling and worming its way into your psyche. Your gaze must be forced inward, if only for a moment.

In the above example, "cling" is the operative word. Paired with "mistake",  its power doubles. Neither word is positively value-loaded. We don't want to fail and we don't like to be seen as grasping or clutching. We prefer to be sure and strong, correct and independent. 

A good aphorism must resonate universally. It can't be true for only some of the people some of the time. Everyone must accept its authority, and imperative statements are more effective than conditional promises. That way we are left to speculate about the negative consequences, to envision for ourselves  the dangers of non-compliance, and we suffer more from imagination than reality.

By my standards, then, this aphorism is a good one.

But who cares? What is she going on about here this morning, you might be asking by now. Baseball is the metaphor for life, not knitting, you might be thinking.

All I can say is that the concrete lessons learned by knitting every day help me develop coping strategies that are useful in real life.  And when this aphorism appeared in my social media stream this morning, it triggered an extended flood of anamneses, both knitting and otherwise.

Here's what I know: mistakes are never welcome, and the more time I've invested in a project the less likely I am to want to give up on it. In that sense, I do cling to mistakes, long after I realize I should let go, because I hate to admit the failure.

Near the beginning I have no problem starting over and over, or even deciding that it will never work out the way I had hoped. It's no big deal then to give up and choose something else to work on.

But there's nothing worse than the sinking feeling that comes with finding a structural flaw late in a project. Immediately I start thinking of all the ways I can fix it so that no one will know but me. Or I rationalize that the accidental occurrence is better anyway. And all the while I am experiencing these doubts and reservations, I keep on knitting, throwing good  work after bad.

Never once has continuing on like that led to a happy ending. The only way to get over bad mistakes is divestiture, as painful as that can be.  From experience I know that I will feel better once the tough decision is made, but still I hate to let go. 

When I finally give in, the process of ripping the bad work out is a cleansing one, and I feel my spirits begin to lift, though there is always much sighing along the path from sad to satisfied.

Rewound, resting neatly in my workbasket, the yarn no longer reproaches me. It re-assumes its potential, which potential I know I have the power to tap.