Thursday, December 23, 2010

Knit, Purl, Philosophize

I've heard that many people get into this profession to work on their own stuff, but I got into it because I like art and psychology. However, it turned out to be a parallel process because since I put together my portfolio and applied to the program, I lost my brother and both parents. Most things about experiencing a lot of deaths are terrible, but there are some parts that aren't so bad... or maybe they are also pretty horrendous, but really important lessons.

I became aware of this impermanence train that is life earlier than some. Did you ever regret not knowing at the moment how awesome it was to be a kid and get to color in school, take piano lessons every week and spend three months a year in a swimming pool and on roller skates? Instead you probably spent your kid time thinking about how great it would be to grow up, have your own money and never have to listen to a single teacher again. Sometimes I feel like that kid, except I know how totally radical it is to be living this life right now every single moment. When you lose a lot of people, especially a sibling or maybe a friend around your age, you might think, holy crap life is short. What am I gonna do with this thing to make it meaningful? At least that's what I thought about.

In spite of life opening a can of whoop ass on me the last three years, I feel that overall, I'm extremely lucky. I'm lucky I was trying to get into this profession when I started, because when I thought about what makes my life meaningful, the perfect career was simultaneously falling in my lap.

Here's what I want out of life... Even though we're small and insignificant in the universe, I want the world to be a little better while I'm in it. If I can make something just a tiny bit prettier and someone a little happier, I consider my life well lived. I don't expect perfection, but an overall higher score in the gee-it-was-great-you-existed column.

That being said, allow me to get to the knitting portion of this post. Here's some handmade/hand-dyed yarn I was knitting today which sent me spinning on this whole thing...

The last thing my mother taught me was how to knit. She had taught me when I was little, but it didn't take, so she taught me again as she was dying. After she died, I knit. A lot. I knit so much I didn't even know what to do with the stuff. I donated some of it. My favorite organization is Spirit Jump. It works like this: you sign up, you get emails about people who have cancer and feel down, you make or buy them something, you send it. The receivers get a surprise (or probably a series of surprises) in the mail and the senders get major feelgood points.

Know what makes me feel even better? Anonymous giving. Sneak-up-on-someone-who-never-sees-it-coming-giving. Stealthy-ninja giving. Making-people-feel-good-without-seeing-a-result-or-even-getting-thanks giving. Know why? Because it's fun and way more real.

And what does this have to do with art therapy? Tons! We often work with people who have lost their way and are traveling on the what's-the-point-of-all-this-pain train. They need help finding the transfer station. Challenge people to make something and send it to someone. Help them knit some squares and combine them to create a blanket for a homeless shelter or nursing home. Get them to make some origami and drop it in strangers' purses (in a safe way and place -- no need to go around getting patients slapped).

It can be the season of giving all year.

Here's a related video someone shared with me yesterday...


  1. You, Wendy are an amazing woman.

  2. I'm so pleased I added my latest book to my list of likes. 'Little Windows into Art Therapy'. As it brought me to your blog. I'm a gona hav to sign up as a follower now. You have inspired me.
    I have been in mental health for 7 years and now want to get into Art Therapy. I am about to be redeployed as my day centre is being closed down and I am to be moved to a rehab unit. Great, especially if I get to do Art Therapy. I will be checking in on you again. Bye for now

  3. Hi Dorothy! I'm so flattered you checked out my blog. I just recommended your book to someone who is interested in art therapy this week. It was one of the first art therapy inspirations for me.