Gratitude

This blog is about gratitude. It is raw and honest. 

Warning: you may need tissues and a glass bottle of wine to get through it.

Many of us have plenty of reasons to be unhappy, or even miserable: the tragic loss of a loved one, a painful injury that limits function or even independence, old grudges or fresh animosity between family or friends, feelings of isolation and loneliness. I’m fairly certain that everyone reading this has experienced at least one of these things, and many of you are surviving all of them. Throw in a global pandemic and you have the perfect recipe for fear, anxiety, panic…

There are days I spend feeling bitterly angry, or sorry for myself, or resigned to a lifetime of anguish and despair. Some of you already know my story, but I’ll give a brief summation for those of you who are wondering what I’ve endured in my 38 years that could make me qualified to write about anguish and despair. In 2012, my three year old daughter, Allison, was murdered by her father, who went on to thoroughly beat me, cut off all my hair and attempt to hack off my right foot with a dirty hunting knife, leaving me tied up in the trunk of my car to bleed to death, before going on to burn down my house and commit suicide. 

Take it from me, if I can still find reasons to be grateful, so can you. I promise. I started with the basics: I have a roof over my head, food in my stomach, and a loving husband who holds me when I wake up shaking from night terrors. For a long time, that’s all I could find. When I stumbled into the knitting community, it came with a whole new world of gratitude.

The first year, I had no interest in anything; books, music, and television all felt like irritants, and it was more than exhausting to think about doing anything creative like knitting or writing. I remember the day I picked up needles again as clear as if it were yesterday. Dan (my aforementioned loving husband) had found a way to take time off work for the month of February and was driving us to the Florida Keys for a few weeks. I had already lost my job as a physical therapist because I couldn’t treat patients while I was on crutches and crying throughout the day as every. single. patient. asked me what had happened. The bleak grey winter of New York was wreaking further havoc on my emotions, and my foot and ankle could not handle the cold, let alone walk safely on ice and snow. 

On the way down, Dan got a call that his cousin was expecting twins, and my mind not only woke up, but leapt at the thought of baby knitting. I Googled yarn shops nearby, and the best that I could find was a Michaels. I was suddenly so desperate to knit again that I bought cheap metal needles and acrylic yarn, just so I could cast on immediately. I hadn’t yet discovered Ravelry, but I remembered that my Aunt Margaret had emailed me a hooded baby cardigan pattern from 1977 a few years prior. I just looked for it on Ravelry and found it!!! I dug up the email and realized that I had bought the wrong weight yarn. No worries – I’ve always been good at math, so I changed the stitch counts to accommodate the yarn’s gauge, which I found on the ball band; I didn’t even know swatching for gauge was a thing back then. Ten miles or so down the road, I realized that I had forgotten to buy stitch markers. Not wanting to turn around (if you’ve ever driven Route 1 between Miami and Key West you’ll know that it takes at least half an hour to go ten miles in either direction during the winter months), we pulled into a Home Depot and bought some lightweight washers. Success! I finished two adorable baby sweaters that week and then found a yarn shop right in Key West; the southern-most LYS in the country! (I was very disappointed to learn that the shop closed not long afterwards.) The following week, I found a pile of knitting books at a flea market! The stars were aligned for me to pursue knitting with a vengeance.

When we returned home to NY, I finally opened my shed that was left unscathed by the house fire. My entire stash was in that shed (very well protected in plastic bags inside sealed bins). All my possessions had been lost except a ridiculous amount of yarn (ha! little did I know at the time how not ridiculous my stash was then compared to what it would become) and dozens of wine glasses (souvenirs from wine tasting trips in the Finger Lakes; if you haven’t been, I highly recommend it). Fun fact: I also have a lone All-Clad stock pot that survived the complete conflagration that burned up every other thing I owned. The lid didn’t make it, but wow! that’s a quality pot! 

So, back to gratitude.

This week, I’m especially grateful for the team of doctors who saved my foot and most of its function. Tuesday was the eighth anniversary of my story and I ran eight miles to honor Allie. Eight. Miles. My foot was almost amputated eight years ago, and I just ran eight freaking miles. 

When I’m having a bad day, which is more common that I tend to admit, I try to think of a few things I’m grateful for, and I write them down. For me, the writing is crucial; I think it emphasizes the importance of the act, not to mention that I’m a notebook and glitter pen junkie. I didn’t come to this gratitude idea on my own – I have to give credit to Rachel Hollis and her book, Girl, Wash Your Face for letting me in on the secret. There is actual scientific evidence from credible research studies supporting the theory that recognizing and acknowledging your gratitude can actually help to decrease depression and anxiety! Don’t go flushing your meds though; I’m also extremely grateful for modern pharmacology and its ability to improve brain chemistry and keep things balanced.

Knitting is the saving of life.” 

– Virginia Woolf (who sadly took her own life)

I’m so grateful to be part of this incredible knitting community. I have met so many wonderful people, and I’ve been inspired by an endless number of survival stories. More than that, I credit the encouragement from my fellow knitters with saving my life, more than once. For years, I was reluctant to share my story, but every time I do I’m astounded by the response to my vulnerability. If I can inspire even one woman to leave an abusive relationship, or to dig herself out of the pit of despair and back to living her life, then it is completely worth the tears streaming down my face as I write this.

I’m grateful for the cocktail hour brainstorm with Becky that led us on the crazy journey to publish a magazine. I’m grateful for the skepticism-turned-support from our families. Their skepticism drove us to prove them wrong, and their support helps drive us to continue through the hard times.

I’m so grateful for all of you who are reading this; each one of you has helped support this adventure that is Nomadic Knits.

I hope that you can find a piece of gratitude today, and every day.

xo

Melissa

Allison Elizabeth 2008 – 2012

 

8 Comments. Leave new

  • Marilyn Wheatley
    May 25, 2020 7:33 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. You are an amazing, strong woman. We never know what we can handle until we are faced with the unimaginable. You rose to the challenge and you are an inspiration.

    Reply
  • Thank you for sharing for what I hope is the hardest time in your life. Your story has made me look at my life in a different way. Winter in the northeast (and its darkness) has always been my nemesis in my adult life. Your resilience is a true testament of hope and light in the darkest of days. I wish you nothing but love and hope (and endless knitting -the best therapy) in your journey through life. Hope to see you again soon ❤️ So love your magazines and can’t wait to see more 😘

    Reply
  • Thank you for sharing your story. Makes me appreciate mine thru all the ups and downs I’ve had the last 74 years. We are all survivors no matter the reasons. Bless you. B

    Reply
  • Cherie Hudson
    May 25, 2020 9:38 pm

    There not even words I can come up with to express what I’m feeling from reading this. Heart breaking to the nth degree but so beautiful how you have survived and thrived. I wish I was a writer and express myself better. I had no idea this happened to you and I am so, so sorry. Thank you for being strong and sharing.
    With so much love,
    Cherie KW

    Reply
  • As always, you speak directly to my heart when you write. Just before she passed away, I interviewed my grandmother for an assignment for medical school. She described the darkest time in her life in the early 1950s when she gave birth to her daughter with Down’s Syndrome. From the lens in 2020 that doesn’t seem quite so devastating but for her at the time it came with a multitude of other implications. She described that every day she woke up and did exactly what you said, she tried to make a list of things she was grateful for. One day, all she could think of was that she was thankful that her father immigrated to the United States from Germany. I will always remember sitting at the kitchen table and having that conversation with her mere months before she would pass away from metastatic breast cancer, and every time I feel the need to combat negative feelings and anxiety I go back to that advice. I’m so thankful I got to meet you in person and I hope that next season we will get to have a couple of hours tonight together. Keep on changing lives with every pattern and essay you write.

    Reply
  • We are swimming through the mud of a child with a substance abuse problem. Your story brought me to my knees.
    Thank you…for some perspective and giving me the ability to look forward with a little less dispair.

    Reply
  • Cassondra Rizzardi
    May 26, 2020 12:09 am

    Oh my goodness Melissa, I had no idea. Thank you for bravely sharing your tragedy and your hope with us. I am so sorry for your loss. There are no words. You have inspired a deeper sense of gratefulness in me. And one thing I am grateful for is meeting you and Becky. I’m sending you my love. ♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡

    Reply
  • Nancy Dickson
    May 26, 2020 6:10 am

    Thank you for your sharing your story of horror, despair, gratitude, resilience, love, and the power of knitting! May your life ahead be smooth with only minimal frogging!

    Reply

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