Yarn Snarls: A Lesson in Dealing with Life Snarls by Barbara Cunnings-Versaevel

Frustration was high as I sat knitting the other morning. Every time I pulled on the yarn, it snarled. For some reason, the inside and outside ends of the yarn were coming from inside. This meant every time I pulled, they tangled and twisted together.

The ensuring mess was a tangle of twists, knots and attached yarn fibres. My project was becoming less than meditation as I silently – and not so silently – voiced my increasing frustration.

What Then?

Breathe. I stopped and just reminded myself to breathe. It came to me that there was a lesson here. How I dealt with this situation reflected in many ways how I deal with life when situations don’t go the way I intend. I’m sure we can all relate. There is the tendency to push through our agenda regardless of the consequences. Not the best of attributes or scenarios.

I remember my Mom saying to me when I was young. Before you say anything, count to ten. That’s the ‘breathe’ element. Stopping to count gives me time to reflect on what is really happening. It gives me an opportunity to be responsive rather than reactive. Options and solutions appear – concepts that get lost when we are in the throes of frustration.

In the case of this issue of the yarn, I was ‘forced’ to stop because to keep on pulling was going to create a much bigger problem. Knitting was not going to happen with any amount of ease until I sorted out the yarn pulling problem.

It was a mess. Quietly I had to slow down my breathing and start looking at what was really happening with the yarn. Why was it snarling and tangling? It took me some time but I eventually, little by little, eased and teased out the twists, threaded yarn back through loopholes, disengaged stuck pieces of yarn, untwisted the two sets of yarn streams and worked very hard at not unravelling the knitting I had sitting on my knitting needles. It was a challenge.

If I pulled hard on the yarn, the knots got tighter and were really hard to unpick. If I yanked on the yarn, whole tangles of yarn emerged from the center of the ball – more and more tangles appeared. If I didn’t take the time to see exactly where the tangle was originating, I just created more tangles.

Doesn’t this sound like life?

If we keep pushing and pulling at a problem demanding in our frustration that it work out our way, not the way it really is, that the situation just gets tenser and more tangled up in emotions. How productive is that? By taking time to gently reveal and uncover the underlying issues that are creating the tangle, allows the opportunity to slowly ease the situation, unwind unreal or unmet expectations, and work towards a solution.

This takes time and patience which I have to admit, I don’t always have. There are days, and then there are days – days when everything is ‘getting on my last nerve’ as my niece is wont to say. I recognize these days by markers – a sleepless night, too much on my plate, not enough time, unreal expectations, bad food choices, etc. Can you identify with me? Don’t we all go there at some time or other? We’re all human and as such not perfect individuals although we’d like to think we are. Right!!!

What Happened?

Well, with time, I eventually unravelled the whole mess and instead of working with the yarn as it came from the store, I wound it up into a ball. Not my usual way of working with a skein of yarn, but the solution that was required in this instance to allow my knitting project to flow with ease. I gave up my unreal expectation and embraced a new solution. The end result was I was happier, the project flowed more smoothly, and I was able to finish the project without losing my temper or enthusiasm for knitting. Knitting is truly in most cases my meditation. Meditation is not supposed to be full of angst.

Life – Does It Work the Same?

If I follow my own advice, yes, taking the time to look at the issue in a different light has often revealed some startling and humbling truths. They are lessons – situations that are uncomfortable but opportunities to grow as a person. These opportunities allow us to rise above the current situations and move forward in a more positive and/or constructive frame of mind.

We always have choice. In the throes of frustration, those choices are not always apparent. When we don’t take the time to go to the root of a situation, we run the risk of making it worse than it needs to be. Then it takes much longer to get back on track. It also helps us get back on track without damaging relationships. Once words are said, they are hard to take back.

There are many such ‘lessons’ in the simple things we do each day. The knitting and yarn situation just struck me as a learning moment. I had choice:

  1. Carry on and keep trying to make that yarn come out smoothly eventually.
  2. Pull harder with the intention that it would pull the yarn into rights and correct itself
  3. Take a look at where the problem was and figure out how to fix it
  4. Change how I usually work with the yarn and go in a different direction
  5. Take the time to fix the yarn problem before I carried on with the knitting project.
  6. And so on . . . .

In all of the above, it would be easy to substitute life for yarn and see how they relate.

One of the biggest issues I’ve encountered after cancer treatment is my diminishing capacity for stress. Learning how to diffuse stress, such as the yarn example, has been a huge part of my recovery process. It’s been an ongoing lesson as life keeps on presenting issues that can trigger stress depending on how I perceive the situation. It’s choice. How am I going to deal with it – go the stress route or take the higher road by choosing a different route to a solution?

Learning is a process. In the beginning, I didn’t always react appropriately and got myself into trouble. As I’ve learned, the process of stopping, rethinking, and reassessing before I act has gotten easier and smoother. As with many skills in life, it is an ongoing process of learning. We will always be on the ‘learning trail’.

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