I’m sitting quietly tonight, coming to terms with failure.
Strangely, I’m wrapping the failure as a gift. I don’t want to give this package, but not because I’m dissatisfied with the results. Though I’m rarely happy with my creations, they’re not failures.
Here, for example, are nesting dolls I made for my sons and nieces. I’m not thrilled with the final results.
They’re not what I envisioned, but these dolls are my first try at woodburning, and represent my best attempt at art for people I love, so I’ll accept imperfection.
This, on the other hand, is failure writ large.
Not just the change in pattern. Nor the size. Or the ends I haven’t yet woven.
This was supposed to be a blanket for my husband. He chose the yarn just after we got married 11 years ago. I started the blanket eagerly, happy to be engaged in formal domesticity. I was in grad school and pressed for time, but I knit on trips, at conferences, and in the rare moments Spouse and I watched movies. I knit because I wanted to make him this gift to keep him warm and cozy.
I wanted him to feel loved.
But the project got heavy and I got caught up in other things. I wanted to finish. But life intervened and I slowed down. Then I stopped. Later I wanted to finish so I could free the needles to make a blanket for our baby. But finishing a huge project so I could start another didn’t motivate me enough.
After that I just forgot.
We moved the blanket, on its needles, not even halfway done, from one house to another, four times since our wedding. Each time I found the knitting bag, I wanted to finish this gift. But each time I stumbled upon the unfinished project, I was less interested in doing the work required to make it really beautiful.
Looking back, it’s a convenient metaphor.
I had excuses for dropping the blanket priority. It’s hard to remember the pattern. It’s too heavy. The cats, the baby, the other baby. Work. My book. Housework.
And so it languished.
I was hiding holiday gifts last week and found the 1/3 finished blanket. And I thought, “now that our marriage is over, why pretend? I’m not going to finish this blanket.”
I’m not. I have enough trouble trying to be consistently civil to my parenting partner. There’s no way I’m moving “make a present for my ex” up my long list. I bought him thoughtful gifts at the store this month, because I’m good at gifts and I’m good at kindness. I’ve been his partner for 15 years.
I just never made his blanket.
The trauma, though, of saying goodbye to the blanket is that I feel like a failure.
What if the blanket symbolizes the whole problem? What if decreasing effort and changed priorities are why my marriage died?
What if I had tried harder? What if I had made him feel more loved? Would I have been the wife he needed if I were the sort of Me that finished the blanket? Would that have helped him be the husband I needed?
I cast off this weekend. I wove the loose ends from 12 skeins of yarn today. I trimmed off the extra.
And I wrapped the pathetic, too small blanket and stuck it under the tree. Not to be a jerk. To cement for myself that I’ve stopped trying. That’s a hard thing to admit.
Maybe I stopped too early. Maybe too late. Either way, there’s a physical, heavy, warm reminder of The End under the tree tonight.
And it hurts more than I thought it would. Trying and failing doesn’t hurt like trying, giving up, and thinking later that I didn’t try enough hurts.
Because this lumpy package screams at me about lack of foresight and laziness and stupidity and selfishness.
It represents the worst of what I offered my partner: a promise of love that I didn’t fulfill.
This present says I wasted time and energy by mis-allocating resources. The problem is: I don’t know if I invested too much or not enough.
And I’ll likely never know.