Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! I used to think that I hated this holiday, but I’ve come to terms with my gooey, squishy marshmallow interior. For example, I’m wearing a pink/red shirt today! I ordered adorable heart-shaped stitch markers for the shop! And look at these lovely little knit hearts by Susan B. Anderson that I found on Ravelry!
But seriously, I do like Valentine’s Day — I just like to celebrate it my way. No heart-shaped boxes of candy for me, no diamond-studded jewelry, and definitely no trip to the movie theater to watch the latest installment of pre-packaged “romance”. Instead, I’m going to spend quality time with the people I love the most. My mom and sister were my valentines every year when I was growing up, and we always gave each other silly cards and high-end chocolate. (I’m a firm believer in Galentine’s Day, too. True friends are always there for you, and deserve to be celebrated.) Tonight, myself, my family unit, and my most excellent, breakfast-in-bed-making partner are going out for cocktails and tasty appetizers.
This holiday places so much emphasis on a narrow Hallmark definition of love. But I want to encourage all of us to embrace a broader idea of Valentine’s Day. We can celebrate it any way we want — by showing love for ourselves, the planet, our friends, our pets, or humanity in general. With that in mind, I’d like to invite you all to join me in a bit of charitable giving. I’m going to donate the cost of a movie ticket to New Hope for Women, an organization that works against domestic violence in our area. The inspiration for this donation is my frustration with the romanticization of abuse in popular culture. I could talk your ear off about it (and if you want to discuss it with me, let’s grab a drink and talk!) but suffice it to say that I have $10 in my pocket, and would rather give it to New Hope for Women than go watch the glorification of stalking, possessiveness and controlling behavior for 1 hour and 58 minutes.
I don’t know about all of you, but I’ve been feeling pretty down about all of the hatred, death and destruction in the news lately. It’s hard to hear about so much pain across our planet, and feel as though you can’t make a difference. And it’s easy to get caught up in a cycle of anger — anger at injustice, anger at war, anger at the blindness of the world; it’s so easy to add your anger to the enormous pile of anger out there. But anger (and especially anger without positive action) can be an incredibly negative emotion. At the Yarn Market News conference I attended in March, there was a speaker named Tracy Lynn Williams who spoke about the way what we focus on has a way of expanding. What if by reacting with anger to every new tragedy, every new self-serving soundbite from politicians, every new example of discrimination and iniquity, we are perpetuating a cycle of negativity in the universe? I have authors Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett to thank, in part, for this idea — I was recently rereading Good Omens, in which a character takes credit for having designed a highway in the shape of a satanic symbol. They write that “[t]he thousands of motorists who daily fume their way around its serpentine lengths have the same effect as water on a prayer wheel, grinding out an endless fog of low-grade evil”. I’ve started to feel as though the whole world is participating in a similar ritual these days. How can it possibly continue like this? The answer is, it can’t.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t feel outraged when we hear about terrible things happening around us. I’m just arguing that maybe the antidote to all of this hatred and anger isn’t more anger, but instead more love. Love for our friends and neighbors, love for people we’ve never met, love for our planet. Same team, everyone. The good news is that crafting = love. It really does. Just think about it: as we make things, we feel happy. The people who receive the things we make feel loved and cared for. Others are inspired by the things we make, and go on to make things of their own. The love that is knit or crocheted into every stitch of a sweater for a new baby, or a prayer shawl for a grieving friend, or a chemo cap for a complete stranger, is no small thing. Stitch by stitch, we are adding to the love in the world. Even when everything seems dark and terrible and we wonder how we can possibly carry on, we can pick up our projects and build something good. Crafters have the power to choose positive action in the face of anger and helplessness, instead of stewing in negativity. This may seem like a small thing, but think of the millions of knitters and crocheters around the globe who are actively doing their part to “make the world more beautiful”, both literally and figuratively. (Anyone who hasn’t read Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney: you’re missing out.)
If you can do something to offset the hatred in the world today, by all means, do it! If you feel a call to action and can make positive change, don’t wait. But if there are days where you feel your hands are tied, and it’s all too much to deal with, don’t let the miasma of negativity spread unchecked. Grab your needles or hook, and focus on what you enjoy. Meditate on love with every stitch, make something for someone who could do with a boost. Choose to add something positive to the mix.