Sometimes I dream about the shows I've been watching or the books I've been reading before I go to sleep. I've even been known to dream that I'm still working after coming home from a late shift, the beep of the drive thru permeating my soul. But I've never dreamed a crochet pattern before.
Last night I was trying to figure out a shell stitch for a mermaid tail I'm planning to make for a Christmas present for my daughter. I kept consulting the pattern, one of the first chart-style patterns I've ever used. Instead of writing out the words, the author of the pattern draws a picture. This is especially useful if you're planning on using a pattern from the other side of the Atlantic; a double crochet in the US is called a treble crochet in the UK, and a US single crochet is a UK double crochet. (Who knows what they call a single crochet over there... and where slip stitches come into it.) This particular pattern was from across the pond, so instead of trying to figure out as I read, I used the picture, with its ovals, plus signs, and Orthodox crosses.
As I worked, I feverishly tried to make sense of what I was seeing; to make the picture into a tangible thing with yarn. I had to understand the symbols on the page, translate them from "someone else"-ish into "me"-ish. I had to make the pattern my own. I worked hard at this until my eyes were drooping. I set the yarn and the three rows or so onto my bedside table.
And the pattern entered my dreams.
I was still seeing a crochet pattern, only I knew that it wasn't a pattern for a mermaid tail. It was a person. It was a person in crochet pattern form, and I was struggling to understand it. Why had it been written that particular way, and was there anything I could do to change it, to help it, to make it better? I tried to understand it while trying to remember that because it wasn't me that I shouldn't place the same expectations on it that I had for myself. It was a different person, with different experiences in life, and it didn't see the world the way I did. I wondered if we would understand each other better if there was a way for me to show it how I saw the world, so it could understand my point of view, and if I could see the reasons why it saw the world the way it did, if that would help me understand why it did the things it did.
It was a weird dream.
Maybe what I should take from it is that getting to know someone new is like trying to read a crochet pattern. First you have to figure out the style of writing used by the person who wrote it, and only then will the information it's trying to convey make sense. Like we don't realize that we're all speaking different languages. It sounds like the same words we speak, but we don't have the same experiences as the person speaking the words, so we can't know what those words really mean to them.
The statement "the dog died today" could mean many different things depending on who said it, who heard it, and the dog in question. Maybe both people hated the dog because it stole their dessert every day and then pooped on their beds. Maybe the dog was their best friend from childhood and had suffered a long illness. Maybe the dog had just turned up on their doorstep a day earlier smelling like it had been rolling in week-dead goose.
Every situation, every word, every interaction is different for every person participating in it. We have to translate if we want to understand. And sometimes it's hard. Sometimes it takes a lot of time. Sometimes we want to give up.
But if we don't try to understand, we'll never know. If we put in the effort, the time, if we're willing to learn and see the world through someone else's eyes, then we may end up with something beautiful.
A mermaid tail.
Or a friend.