31 January 2015



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There's a pun I could make by combining "that word" from The Princess Bride and my word for 2014, but I don't dare. =P Maybe you could guess it! LOL!

At the start of last year, I picked my word because I wanted to start standing up for myself. Twelve months later, I probably am less of a pushover . . . but since I didn't also determine a way to measure this objective, I can't offer much of a progress report. =P What I do have a bunch of related insights that I thought were worth sharing.

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Standing up for yourself means, among other things, speaking up instead of stewing away in silence, resentment, and cowardice--but some people's ideas of speaking up for themselves are just an excuse to complain about everything. I can illustrate the difference with my positive role model (whom I knew about at the start of the year) and my negative role model (who emerged at the halfway point).

The positive role model had just come home after six months of working in a Western country, three months of which she had been overloaded and exhausted. She had thought that she had to agree to do everything she was asked to do--and was worried, besides, that saying no would make her look like the weak link on the team--and soon the work had piled up way over her head. Then one day, before a colleague asked her to do something else, he approached someone else in the office first. And in response to his request, the latter said: "I'm sorry. I can't do that. I already have too much on my plate." What happened next absolutely blew her mind: the first colleague accepted the answer as no big deal and looked for someone else. After that moment, the heroine of our story started saying no when she honestly meant no. It was such an epiphany for her, moreover, when she got back to the Philippines, she appalled her family with her new directness. LOL! But as she told them (and me): "What I learned was that if you don't speak up for yourself, you can't expect anyone else to speak up for you."

My negative role model, on the other hand, is an older relative who expects a certain level of service from the businesses she patronises. And when she doesn't get it, she complains. Several months ago, when she was having a difficult time parking in front of one of her favourite stores, she was really miffed that the new security guard wasn't going out of his way to help her. When she had finally parked, she got out of the car, confronted him about his inattention to her, and asked him how long he had been working there. Now, she hadn't needed to ask: she was at that store regularly and knew that he was new, but she wanted to be a little intimidating. Yes, she also voiced her issues instead of keeping quiet and then feeling bad, but that was actually an example of when people should silently offer it up.

If there is a cardinal virtue at play in both scenarios, it is justice. My positive role model learned how to give what was due without letting anyone take more than what was right, while my negative role model thought she was due a lot more than she actually was.

It's worth adding that I can write things like the previous paragraph because 2014 was also the year I discovered Plato, who is currently my favourite philosopher of all time! (Thanks, Brandon!) I only wish I could remember which of his dialogues I'm actually paraphrasing here. =P (Brandon, it's the one about wealth being a good because it lets us be honest with others and give them their due.)

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Then there was the problem that emerged a few months ago, when I stuck a tentative toe into the world of online dating.

Remember that question I hate getting from strangers? Well, it is the first question all of my "matches" ask me!!! *FACEPALM* When it's not the very first, that's only because they thought it would be more delicate to lead in with, "Can I ask you something?" (Sigh . . .)

The first few times, I ground my teeth and typed a one-sentence explanation, reasoning that since I had chosen a photo that would naturally excite people's curiosity, I could hardly complain if they wanted to ask about it. (In case you're wondering, it's the same one I use on Twitter--where, by the way, no one has ever asked me that question.) But after I did that for several men and got nothing but total silence from some of them, including those who had messaged me first, I decided that it wasn't worth it.

From now on, my two-sentence reply is going to be: "I'm not really comfortable talking about that with someone I haven't even met in real life. I hope you understand."

But I'm not going to take the defensive route by changing my photo. And there are three reasons for that: a) I like being honest; b) it took a long time for me to like the way I look, but now that I've won that struggle, I find that I'm happy with it, and the thought of hiding that happiness is actually offensive to me; and c) a couple of male friends said I looked really nice in that shot. (What? Can't I be a little vain? LOL!)

And if a "match" takes my answer the wrong way, well, my word of 2014 and the timeless principles of justice remind me that I can just stop chatting and block him!

* * * * * 

But the big surprise of 2014 was learning that my word for the year had a second equally valid meaning . . .

And I now think it means what I think it means! ;-)

I don't know if can properly explain how much knitting has changed my life. Learning to knit was almost like learning to read--for both are like discovering a new world ripe for exploration. But knitting is more like writing, with an alphabet of knits and purls. And the first message that I wrote with needles and yarn was also that which I most needed to read last year . . .

The best way to stop wanting what others have is to want what you can make for yourself.

If that makes it sound as if I can now make anything I want, well, that's not the case . . . though it would be nice, aye? In reality, my results are very unpredictable. I knit the way I cook, tweaking every pattern as I tweak every recipe. And not everyone is as thrilled as I am with what I come up with--not because it's bad, but because it's just not what they were expecting.

When I manage to knit up something that others do like, they tell me that I should make stuff to sell--and while I accept the compliment, I don't take the advice. For me, the primary joy of knitting is not in making something of value, but in solving a problem. Every new knitting pattern is a "problem" in the sense that I don't know in advance how it's going to work out. And not just because I'm a pattern tweaker--because this is also how I blog! Even if I have a fairly good idea how it's going to look, something will always surprise me--whether it's running out of yarn and needing to improvise (as what happened with my newest slouch) or underestimating how much knitting will stretch and having to create "structural supports" for something (as what happened with another project I'll be blogging about soon!). And it's exciting for me when these things happen. You might say that I get things wrong the first time so that I can have fun getting them right at last!

I'd say that what I have is the grace of wanting what I can make for myself, however flawed it may be. And I do believe that it is a grace because it has been a big help in keeping the tenth commandment. The opposite of "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's branded knitwear" is "Blessed are the knitters, for they shall use what they can make."

And with that, I can properly bid goodbye to 2014 and say, with some surprise, that it was a pretty good year. =)

Image Sources: a) The Princess Bride gif, b) Balls of yarn


Brandon said...

The theme is a certainly a Platonic one, and it comes up in different ways in different dialogues. Are you thinking Eryxias? That's a dialogue entirely about wealth. Of course, the Platonic idea of wealth or gain or profit is not materialistic -- wealth just is what you know how to use in order to get genuinely good things for yourself and others, so real wealth has justice built into it. But similar ideas come up in passing in other dialogues, so maybe you're thinking of another one.

You certainly can't go wrong with Plato; he's relevant to almost everyone and everything in some way.

Sheila said...

I think if a guy can't think of a better first line than that, he doesn't deserve a reply! It shows a lack of awareness of and respect for your feelings. But, I know it doesn't sound *quite* as prying in your culture.

Your "alphabet of knits and purls" reminds me of The Tale of Two Cities ... do you know why?

I couldn't be happier about your newfound love of knitting. Creating is what humans DO, and if we can't we suffer.

Do you have a new word for the new year yet?

Brandon said...

E - I think I've got it: You're almost certainly thinking of Socrates's discussion with Cephalus in Book 1 of the Republic.

Enbrethiliel said...


Brandon -- You're absolutely right! It is from the Republic! =D

Not to cheat any man even unintentionally or play him false, not remaining in debt to a god for some sacrifice or to a man for money, so to depart in fear to that other world—to this result the possession of property contributes not a little.

Sheila -- Two of the men were expats, so they had no excuse! =P I wonder if it's a built-in feature of online dating.

I'll admit that I exaggerated a teensy bit. One fellow waited until the second chat to ask, and he has been the nicest one so far. But if he had asked after I had written this post, I would have gone with my new answer.

I haven't read A Tale of Two Cities yet, but I know about the knitters at the guillotine--one (or more?) of whom was knitting names into her work. If so, that would be some pretty advanced knitting: a problem for me to solve another time. ;-)

The main reason I haven't commented on your post on your new word is that I don't have a word of my own yet! I'm hoping that something really fitting will occur to me soon.