There I was, knitting happily away on a freeform piece I was going to felt into a bowl, both cats curled in my lap. Life was luscious until the Usefulness Tyrant in my head stomped into my awareness and demanded: What the hell are you doing with this lumpy pile of yarn? And why are you doing this?
I look down at the teal yarn and my happiness deflated like a pricked balloon. Ssssssssssssssssssss.
Taking up the Usefulness Tyrant’s line of interrogation, I echoed, Yeah, why? This isn’t earning me any money. It’s not useful. It probably won’t be pretty (my first felted bowl was a tad misshapen. Friends kindly suggested I could use it for a hat “or something.”)
I lamely argued back that perhaps my felted bowls are Spiritual or Healing or at least Transformative. I convinced no one. The truth is I love to make them just because I love to make them.
All joy gone, I threw the pre-bowl in the back of my closet (I’m hoping all my unfinished projects there make good insulation). And there it languished until Mother’s Day, when Irene The Wonderful Mother-in-Law (mum of The Wonderful Husband) came over in all her 4’10” British splendor.
A former professional weaver, she asked what projects I was playing with. I told her with a sigh about my aborted pre-bowl.
"Oh those kinds of projects!" Irene chortled. "I have clothes I wove just because I wanted to see what they'd look like. It doesn't matter to me that I've hardly worn them, because I had such a good time making them up."
Hmmph, I thought, while I ate the Cadbury milk chocolate she had brought (I told you she's The Wonderful Mother-in-Law). Methinks she doesn’t have a Usefulness Tyrant rampaging through her head.
After she left, I picked up my needles again and asked myself a very courageous (at least for me) question: What if I could romp with my needles and yarn making something up simply for the sheer joy it?
Years ago my small daughter could work herself into a frenzy: Why? she'd ask me about something. Why, Mom? Why? Why? Sometimes I'd finally have to respond, “Just because, sweetie.”
Maybe, I realized as I happily clicked away with my bamboo needles, felt bowls are a Just Because in my life.
It’s like there's some wiser part of me that knows that creativity and play are as essential to my wellbeing as oxygen.
So this part is patiently thrumming her fingers while I’m getting my panties in a major twist trying to figure out why I love making these bowls: Is it because I'm needing more "containing" in my life? No? Well, is it because I'm going to become a professional fiber artist? No? Well, is it because-
This wiser self lovingly bends over me and murmurs, “Just because, sweetie.”
I create felt bowls Just Because, for the sheer joy of it. They don’t save the planet, simplify my life, reduce my carbon footprint, or banish my cellulite.
Just Because the creating of them makes my being dance from ear to ear, as poet Theodore Roethke writes.
That’s it. And that’s enough, sisters. That’s enough.
So now I’m gleefully knitting my third Just Because bowl, and contemplating other Just Becauses in my life (and how little space I’ve made for them): roughhousing with The Wonderful Husband; just sitting in the garden; dancing, just to dance; curling up for a whole afternoon with cats and chicklit.
I stood at the kitchen sink this morning in warm suds up to my wrists, happily squishing my soon-to-be-felted bowl. Who knows why I love this squishing? Who cares? I squeezed out the mass of knitting, shaped it like clay into a bowl, and realized that there was no place else in the world I'd rather be, and nothing else I'd rather be doing.
So many of us post-50 women are starving for this Just Because playtime. After decades of putting our own happiness last on that list (after kids, work, carpools, taking care of anyone and everyone), we feel we have to justify to that Usefulness Tyrant in our heads anything we’re gonna do for our sweet selves, just for the simple delight of it.
So sisters, I invite you to frolic with your Just Becauses. Play with putting your own sweet self at the top of your List. Just Because.
And if your Usefulness Tyrant needs help in letting go, here's some great research:
1. Happiness — your happiness — is infectious. A recent study found that when an individual becomes happy, the network effect can be measured up to three degrees. Listen up, sisters: this means that your good spirits trigger a chain reaction that benefits not only your friends, but your friends' friends, and their friends' friends' friends. WOWZER! The effect lasts for up to one year. Just think: your happiness from your Just Because playtime will light up several hundred people for a looong time. How's that for an ROI? I love imagining my squishing/felting joy rippling out into the world, blessing everyone it tickles.
2. Another recent major study discovered something we all already know: that play is more important for kid’s emotional and physical health than “physical exercise.” I bet if they had extended the upper age of the participants from 12 to 70, they would have kept on finding the same great thing to be true.
What is it that, in the doing of it, you feel your being dance from ear to ear and your life sing in your veins? (and yes, the dancing and singing can be on the quiet, contented, post-50 side ;-) )
What if you need no other “why” than your own delight?
And no other reason than Just Because?
And what other time is there, always, than Now?