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How To Start Bouncing Back After A Prolonged Setback

Open Your Mind and Allow Your First Step To Be Imperfect


Tips to help with your journey to thriving while living with chronic illness

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I knitted a sweater.  It’s not 100% ugly, but it’s a little bit ugly.  I gave it my best shot, but it’s definitely botched in spots—It’s got some holes in it, some stitching errors, and a neckline that’s not quite right.  It showcases a bunch of mistakes…some made because I didn’t know enough to not make them in the first place, and others because I didn’t know enough to know how to fix them.  It’s a loose-knit sweater just to throw on for the beach, so the flaws may not be so glaring in that setting; but, I also figure that they really don’t matter, anyway.  The main thing was that I attempted to make the sweater at all.

I never thought I’d try to knit a sweater.  In fact, I think I’d pretty much vowed that I’d never do it because I had no interest whatsoever in ending up with something that looks like this thing does.  Although I’ve changed it up a bit before to knit some cool scarves, I usually just stick to the teddy bears that I make for underprivileged kids because they’re important to me and they only require the basic knit stitch, which I’ve mastered.  The sweater idea emerged because I desperately needed a different new “win” to get me unfrozen after a 7-month stretch of MS setbacks. 

From past experience, I’d learned that doing something creative reconnects me with my inner power, and doing something very different can snap me out of a rut.  I decided to up the ante and try something that wasn’t likely to turn out perfect or anywhere even close to it. That’s a bold step for anybody with the “Type A” perfectionist tendencies that I’ve got.  I felt that not having the pressure to do it “right” and being able to detach from the outcome might be just what I needed to break the inertia.  I chose trying a slightly-scary knitting project as my way to get myself moving again and hopefully score a win.

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Allowing myself to be imperfect was going to be my path to getting unstuck—And tackling what I previously considered a you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me idea of making a sweater was going to be my way out (This is why one can never say “never,” right?).

It worked, too.  I began by practicing and finally getting the hang of the purl stitch, then started small by making some spa items for myself and friends, and then a super-fancy washcloth (which was too advanced for me and doesn’t look great, but is still a win).  I then moved on to the beach sweater…an “easy” pattern, which is a level above “beginner,” but looked simple enough that maybe I could swing it. 

In addition to just trying to get the stitches right, it required my learning how to work with circular needles, how to wrangle a large garment, and how to do several new techniques to finish the piece.  I’d say that I managed to do those things right a good 80% of the time; which I truly believe is pretty great for my first attempt to do something like this in spite of a tiny Type-A pixie on my shoulder saying that an 80% is a B-minus grade.


The main takeaway here is that it doesn’t matter that I couldn’t do it perfectly.  What matters is that I gave it a shot to try and get the win that I wanted and needed.  That goal win was to successfully get unfrozen, and I’m so grateful that I got it.  However, I also racked up a bunch of other wins, too: The wins of having tried something new and different; of self-kindness and empowerment from allowing myself to be imperfect; of the tangible result of a garment I can wear on the beach, along with the inner satisfaction and pride of knowing that I’d made it myself; AND of allowing myself to start where I was, and start shedding the “Type A” trauma for “imperfectly” having gotten frozen for so many months while I wasn’t well.  It turns out that last win was related to and just as important as my goal win in some huge ways (but that’s a lesson for another day and possibly even an entire course). 

We learn, rack up wins, and make progress by taking action and doing something—And we get the win even if we do that thing imperfectly!  Our imperfection in the process doesn’t take away our chance for progress. I can use this lesson if I want to keep improving my knitting skills, in my efforts at physical rehabilitation, in continuing to create a more empowered life with MS, and in whatever else I may want to accomplish.  Who knows what kinds of awesome wins I might be able to achieve by this time next year in spite of having some stumbles and bumbles along the way? 

An imperfect first step may just turn out to be the perfect one to help you bounce back.

Is there something that you want to do, but just can’t seem to start? How do you feel about taking an imperfect shot at making a decision or taking a first step just to get moving?


Tips to help with your journey to thriving while living with chronic illness