Note from Karie: I’m currently very busy working on my forthcoming book, so over the next few weeks you will read a series of guest posts on creativity, making and identity penned by some very awesome people. You are in for a real treat as they explore our shared world of making. This week we are joined by Benjamin G. Wilson, a writer and performer living between Manchester and Cornwall.
His novel, Dispatch from the City of Orgies, is a ‘magic-realist memoir of sexual violence, drug use, and being in love’ set during the east London ‘Grindr Murders’ of 2014-15. It is currently in development with Penguin Random House as part of their Write Now scheme. On his blog he writes and makes zines about being being queer, witchcraft, mental health and politics.
Benjamin is one of the smartest people I have ever met and I always enjoy his writing (and his art — the woodcut is also by Benjamin). I hope you will enjoy this piece too.
My grandmother had beautiful, clever hands. My christening gown, knitted in cheap acrylic 4-ply, has a baroque ostentation. Tiny nups on a base of lace. I think about her hands a lot. I think about how arthritis bent the fingers backwards, how her medication made the skin paper thin. She was 67 when she died. She’d been ill for a long time. Her gravestone reads ‘pain courageously borne’.
I am 30. People keep telling me this is young. And it is. But if I live as long as my grandmother, I’ve lived half my life already. My hands already hurt in the mornings. If I knit until I’m 60, I’ve done more than half of my knitting already. My grandmother could not knit at 60.
I used to dance. Not just in clubs, but in studios. Half an hour of stretches and then two hours of feeling inadequate. A tutor told me I danced like a potato, so I stopped training. My mother, who is in her early 50s, struggles to dance at all. Her joints hurt. If I go to a club now, I feel the dance in my body three days later. Knees and neck feeling misaligned. If my joints are like my mothers, then I’ve done significantly more than half of the dancing my life will contain.
Even if I live till 90, even if this is as old as my body ever feels, I’ve done more than a third. There will come a point where there is more behind me than there is in front. It is a cliché, one that will annoy genuinely middle aged people, but I have hit 30, and now I am thinking about death. If these things bother me, if I want to do more, then why don’t I? If these things are important, why not make time?
The things for which I make time, take time. Time is limited. I’ve become picky. How can there be time to knit when I am dying? How can there be time not to?
I used to knit for money. I write now. Knitting being the only career from which a job as a writer looks the more stable option. I can write a thousand words an hour, my photocopier can replicate far more. I can manage only 80 stitches a minute. And when I sit down to knit, or do my stretches between stints at the desk, I feel time moving past me like a river. I feel my body, with its soft band at the middle and its unexpected grey hairs and its gentle aching at every hour. My doctor has told me ‘this is just what 30 year old bodies feel like’.
And I think ‘there isn’t much time left, enjoy it.’
And I think ‘there isn’t much time left, don’t waste it.’ And I look at my wool, and I feel the music in my body, and it’s difficult to decide what wasted time means.