My ALS Strategy to Avoid Being a ‘UFO’: I’m a Work in Progress

Unfinished knitting and crocheting projects give this columnist an idea

Dagmar Munn avatar

by Dagmar Munn |

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I’m always surprised how something simple and totally unrelated to ALS can change my perspective about living with the disease. For example, who knew that a bag full of unfinished knitting and crocheting projects could lift me out of a temporary mental funk, return me to feeling positive and hopeful, and restore my humorous outlook on life?

But it did. And I’m having so much fun with my new mental game that I think it might help you, too. Here’s what happened:

The UFO bag

Lurking on the floor near my sewing machine is a large canvas bag where I put my “UFOs.” (That’s knitting and crocheting slang for unfinished projects.) Mine is a jumble of projects I quit working on because they were either too challenging or time-consuming, or they weren’t turning out as I’d hoped.

Recently, my week wasn’t going well. I had a long to-do list and faced frequent interruptions. Plus, I’d grown tired of my current evening knitting project. So into the UFO bag it went.

But as I peered into the bag, the thought suddenly struck me that it was like a waiting room of sorts, not much different than the concept of an ALS waiting room I previously wrote about. The ALS waiting room is how I describe the mental space that many with the disease retreat to when they feel cast aside, frustrated, tired of waiting for help, and ready to give up.

Hmm. Perhaps they are ALS UFOs?

Following the parallels being drawn in my mind, I thought, “What’s the opposite of being a UFO?” In knitting and crocheting slang, that’s a “WIP,” or work in progress.

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No matter what the daily challenges are, I consider myself a long-term work in progress, and I liked that mental image. It gave me permission to have days when I get a lot done, including all my exercise routines. It also allows for the days when it feels like an uphill battle and I have to adapt and be flexible or start all over again.

When knitting, I often modify the printed pattern of my scarf or shawl to accommodate the yarn I own or to better fit my needs. It’s the same with ALS when I know I can adapt, learn, and survive.

Don’t be a UFO

We all have times of frustration and discouragement, but maybe my mental image of being a work in progress will help change your perspective, as it did for me. Just call me WIP Dagmar!

More ideas and inspiration can be found in the column “How to Build Your Own ALS Stress Toolkit.” We’re all learning how to live well while living with ALS.

Note: ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ALS News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ALS.


Donna E urgoiti avatar

Donna E urgoiti

Dear Dagmar,

Hooray, ALS Whip is now my New Years mantra! Thank you so much and happy new year!

Dagmar Munn avatar

Dagmar Munn

Thank you Donna ;-) Best wishes to you!

Ann Marks avatar

Ann Marks

Hi Dagmar, I am finding your posts to be a source of hope and optimism. Really down about the speed with which my ALS seems to be progressing though I was only diagnosed in October. The symptoms began in July. Started with a cane and now in a wheelchair. Knowing you were diagnosed long ago but you keep powering forward and it does inspire hopefulness. Thank you and please keep posting.

Dagmar Munn avatar

Dagmar Munn

Ann, thank you for your kind words. I'm so happy that what I write is helpful for you. ALS is so darn different in each person! The only thing we can rejoice in sharing is keeping an open, positive attitude, and reaching out to help each other through the challenges. Best wishes to you!

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