Monday, March 16, 2009

Worrying about all the wrong things......

This post is going to start with knitting. Yes, I know I have a knitting blog and all, but it really belongs here right now. You'll see. I get around to ringing. It works, too. Trust me.

There is this cast on I have been fighting for over a year. It should be really simple, but it has utterly eluded me. For round shawls, you start by making a loop with the yarn in one hand (not even a knot!) and then you loop back and forth with your needle to pick up your stitches for the cast on. Then, you pull your yarn end and the whole thing tightens up to a perfect little circular cast on, no muss no fuss. There are step by step pictures available on the internet and everything. And last summer, when I decided to cast on for my first circular shawl, I fought this fiddly maneuver countless times before giving up and using another, less perfect cast on. I mean, fought, too. Consulting the website, mimicking the needle path for the wraps, making sure the yarn was draping over my hand just so...

So today when I decided to cast on for another shawl that I am really excited about and clicked the link provided on the pattern for the cast on and was directed to the very same website, my feeling of defeat before I even started was intense and even physical - I felt like all my innards dropped a bit. You know, it's what they call that sinking feeling.

Why, then did I see today what all my careful scrutiny of last year did not reveal even through physical experimentation? I was focusing on entirely the wrong thing. I was focusing on the movement of the needle illustrated and not even thinking about what I was trying to accomplish - casting on! Meaning, that once cast on, my stitches should sit on the needle just as they would with any other cast on, facing the same way and ready to knit. So I sat down now with the goal on getting the yarn on the needle in the correct orientation regardless of what machinations the needle would go through, and got it on the first try.

This is usually where people would type "facepalm".

Except that I had a brainwave right then about my ringing (see? I told you we'd get to it!), so no smacking myself in the head.

I have been focusing on almost all the wrong things with my ringing! To be fair to myself and to those good people I ring with who are teaching me, it really is something I had to figure out for myself, and being as new to ringing as I am, I'm hardly late getting around to it.

In ringing with others I had become so focused on starting well that I had completely disregarded why we ring rounds to start. Not that poor starting is excusable, but before we were to the second pass of rounds I would start in beating up on myself if I wasn't perfect. Not that everyone else didn't need several more rounds of rounds (how do you say that?) to get their timing straight, but I was all tunnel vision when it came to ringing.

I was also coming down with a bad case of method madness. In my new found ability to move places with my bell, I lived in happy anticipation of Plain Hunt, after which I would learn to treble for treble bob methods and then Kent and Oxford would be mine, all mine! (insert maniacal laughter here) Then Stedman, and then who knows?

Focusing on methods when I still can't reliably tenor may have been a tad foolish on my part, but close proximity to more experienced ringers who are able to focus more on methods and less on basic technique has undoubtedly influenced me a bit. But I was at once putting pressure on myself even as I was enjoying the mental challenge, and I didn't really need that right now. I had already realized that I need lots more practice with basic ringing, and the relief I felt at letting method madness go for now really told me it was the right thing to do.

Last Thursday at practice I found myself feeling a little blue that I seemed to have hit a plateau. That night we had 4 visitors to the tower, and while answering a question for one of them I realized that what I was telling her was at complete odds with my feelings of stagnation. It was then I realized that there are no plateaus, just times for different kinds of learning. Some are so internal that I don't recognize them as learning, yet they still build on my base of experience and therefore qualify as learning, leaving me with no other alternative than to accept it. Which is hard. We are taught about plateaus in life, whether in dieting, where you get to a weight you just can't seem to get past, or in exercise, where your body seems to have adapted to an activity level and no longer responds to it positively. There are many other expressions of plateau we accept without question in our lives, and we usually have negative associations with them. Like the term "in a rut" or when you're "going nowhere" in a job or a relationship. We are taught that once you hit a plateau the only thing for it is to get out of it and the usual remedy is to change your relationship with the activity (or person) until you get a better result. The one thing we never think to do is embrace the plateau. Maybe, though, there are no plateaus at all, just a challenge to accept those moments and try to percieve what different types of progress we are making.

The thing about discovering you've been worrying about all the wrong things is that it begins a process of elimination of unprofitable activity. I now have that many fewer things to carry into the tower with me, freeing space up in my mind and body for new information. I must remind myself that there is still plenty of time in my ringing career to worry about all that other stuff, and when I finally get to those issues again I may be more prepared to deal with them in a positive and fruitful way. I just need to relax and reconnect with my inner sponge and soak up as much as I can for where I am now.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Unopposed flexors

I have had real trouble with tendonitis since I started ringing. I haven't spoken of it here, mostly because I would have just been whining about it, but now that I have real information I figured I'd share it.

About the time I began handling the sally I started having a tough time with sore knuckles in my right hand. By the time I began raising and lowering it had progressed to real pain. The kind that woke me up several times a night with my hand so stiff I had to use my other hand to bend my fingers into a closed fist and open and close my hand until it loosened up enough that I could sleep again. Until it woke me up again. And again.

I had mentioned it to my primary care doc during my last physical, and explained the movements of bellringing and how and when the pain would hit. He did not seem concerned, and said my hands were just adjusting to the new activity. I kept ringing, and worked myself up into such a state that I decided to stop ringing until the pain stopped. At that point, both hands were hurting, my sleep was seriously disrupted, and I was having problems all day long. So I went two weeks without ringing, and since my hands were getting better I decided to ring a little at our last Thursday night practice. Everything was going ok until I overpulled a tail stroke and tried to correct on the next handstroke, and BAM!. Lyn watched me ring and tried to help me identify where I was going wrong, but I was so worried about feeling pain, my ringing was really crap. By Sunday morning my right hand was killing me and my husband was getting aggravated with me because I was insisting I could go to the tower and not ring (and we both knew that was complete bullshit), so I grudgingly called out, but I have been really worried that I ultimately would have to give up ringing.

So this morning when I had to get some bloodwork drawn, I took advantage of the situation and readdressed the problem with my doctor and I think we have it licked. This, and the way I handle it, is not the culprit:
And while the pain is in my knuckles, it is because of the flexor tendons constantly working to grasp,

while the extensors are not getting any workout from the activity of bellringing.

So therein lies the problem and the solution. The beauty of it is that I don't have to stop ringing! And being an official word from my doc, even the hub can't object! (Which he only does out of a loving concern, so I don't really mind) What I DO have to do is stretch those flexors and contract the extensors right after ringing, everytime I ring. Because unopposed flexors are a bad thing.

Good. Now I can stop talking about it and just ring. I just figured I'd put it out there for anyone else who might come across this problem in their tower. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go work out my extensors so I can ring like a maniac again!