Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Doing Hard Things

I was reading something recently (I can't remember what it was--a book? a magazine? a blog post?) in which a mother told her child whenever (he? she? they?) struggled with something, "You can do hard things."

A few months ago, when I first picked up a crochet hook, to try to make little rock cozies, having only ever crocheted a hat, it was hard.

I had always thought of crochet as knitting's easy kid sister, but I found not only my yarn twisting up in tangles, but my brain, too. Knitting I understood--you put a row of loops on a needle, as wide as you want your finished product, and add loops to the loops until it is as long as you want your finished product. You can increase or decrease, join to make a round, but it's easy to see that what's below the needles is what you've already finished, and the blank space above the needles is what you have left to do. It's all very, ahem, linear. Also, I grew up in the home of a knitter, and though I didn't teach myself to knit until after I'd moved away, I had seen sweaters and socks and hats and mittens grow on knitting needles my whole life.

Meanwhile crochet (at least what I was trying to do with it) went around in a circle, and there was no needle marking clearly, this is where I am, that down there is where I have been, up there is where I need to go. And the directions were confusing (why did single crochet involve two steps, double crochet three, triple crochet four? Eventually I figured out that the first step was just creating a loop, not actually making a stitch). I started and discarded. Started and discarded. The whole time, I felt my dendrites growing, my synapses snapping, my myelin sheaths thickening. I figured out hook gauges (the number goes up as the size goes down) and yarn gauges (ditto). I finally found the right sized hook (it had to be bought in a package of ten) to go with the right sized thread (#12 perle cotton). I tried different sets of directions that explained things differently (and more clearly, for my brain).

I tried and tried again, and finally figured it out (I still have to look things up--like half a double crochet--and I can't just wing it, making up my own pattern as I go along, but then again I can't do that with knitting, either).

I think I've successfully staved off at least a year or two of Alzheimer's disease with the mental effort I put into it (take that, Sudoku!). And now, when my kids struggle with something that is challenging--drawing or spelling or piano or baseball--I can tell them honestly, "You can do hard things. And it will feel so good when you do."

(More stones here, here, here, and here)


  1. Your results were well worth the struggle. I'm trying to learn guitar and I don't know what's worse, my aching fingertips or jumbled brain. One day, I hope for a song as pretty as those uncrackable eggs.

  2. Thanks, Rachel. Now music is just totally beyond me...I watch my kid play his guitar and that alone jumbles my mind. Good for you for sticking with it!

  3. I need to learn how to do this right, if only to make beautiful rocks like these. They're so pretty!

  4. Thanks, Meryl. You can do it. It just takes the right tools, a clear pattern, good light, persistence, and saying "Mother-F****r" a lot.


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