Friday, September 19, 2014

Untangling

One of my capacities is that of untangling. Give me a free moment and the worst pile of knotted threads or yarn that you've ever seen and I will patiently, and somewhat obsessively untangle it. Given the amount of personal insecurity I deal with and the strength of my internal critic, this is one thing I have to hold on to: the ability to attend to and make sense of.
For you see, untangling yarn requires an inordinate amount of patient attention. It is frustrating to be dealt a situation that on the surface, appears impossible. There are many who will not even try to untangle yarn. It is easy to start and give up...it might take months, or years. It will get in the way, and it will be an eyesore of a mess until it is cleaned up.

But give it patient attention and time, and it will start to become less chaotic, smaller. The initial knots must be followed back through the mess and found. Once you have found the source of the knot, or multiple sources, a snowball effect happens. Bring movement and energy to that knot, ask it with your fingers...gently, never forcing. Then, once that is out of the way, the rest of the winding up happens smoothly and quickly.
It can take some time to find your way to that knot, and many times the scissors and trash can are tempting options. But I am stubborn and will not use scissors unless I absolutely have to.
Relationships are like this too. They become knotty, tangled, chaotic. They look impossible to resolve. And many are, and do need scissors. Yet I think what it takes is two people who are willing to follow the thread through to the knot...the tenderest, most tangled, impossibly stubborn place, the place that is holding them back. Once the knot is found and brought to light, it takes incredible patience, asking when what you want to do is tell what to do, and tidying up the chaos. A sincere apology whispered over the knot, a holding of hearts in love, a deliberate placing aside of anger, a conversation full of remorse and even fuller of care for the relationship...these loosen their hold on the threads.
I've seen this method of taming thread on Pinterest. My students love it and it is easy for them to handle. Here, it looks like a mummy!

Transforming is another option. Sometimes a playful re-configuring of the tangled mess is called for (picture coming this weekend!). Sometimes the scissors can be used to prune that which no longer serves the relationship. Take scissors to it, and you can still make something of beauty by adding to it, bringing in the right resources, forgiving and starting over. The thread can't be used in the traditional sense, but it can be used for beauty nonetheless. A playful, think-on-your-feet improvisation can work wonders.
This is my bare minimum standard now for relationship, given my experience. I think women are certainly cultured to give more in a relationship, but why should a man not have or be given the chance to cultivate patient perseverance and courage to face and untangle knots with us? Not the one who so easily gives up and discards you, makes more of a tangled mess, then blames you. The one who sits and cries with you while you grieve and search in your life and makes whole and makes good. That is the one who loves.
I heard once that love is "to stay with". To me, that doesn't necessarily mean a literal "staying with". It means a being present to, a curiosity, a loving compassion towards each other. Where we bring our love, knots untangle.

For further reading:
http://rachel-castagne.wholelifewholeworld.com/2011/02/24/skeleton-woman-the-life-death-life-cycle-of-relationships/
http://candidsparrow.com/2010/12/06/the-skeleton-woman-an-inuit-story/
Before a girl could get married in my village she had to prove that she was patient enough for the task,” she told me. “They would give her a bundle of tangled yarn,” she would say, as we would struggle to untangle wool, or rope or extension cords. She told the story as she wound yarn into balls for knitting. “If she could not untangle the yarn, she could not get married.” I remember that story every time I have something to untangle. I would never settle for a village marriage, but patience is a skill applied to any task worthy of completion. (http://emmarosenthal.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/for-international-womens-day/)

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