I was reclining on the love seat in my living room last night, with a pit of dread in my stomach and my mind racing with all the things that awaited me back at the office. I couldn’t seem to focus on anything: writing, reading, definitely not meditating although I attempted several times. I also wasn’t motivated to do anything on the mental do-list scrolling through my mind, attempting to savor a sense of leisure in the last lingering hours of my winter break. I realized, ironically, that this state was probably as stressful (or more stressful) than just doing something.
I decided to pray, for other people.
I began thinking about people in 2014 who could really benefit from a reminder of divine presence. Then, I realized, that was all of us. As I was mid-way through a spiritual exercise of surrounding each one with divine love and presence in my mind’s eye, my daughter bounded down the stairs.
I sat up quickly, only then realizing I had been in a very deep contemplative state. My daughter thrust at me a handful of tightly knotted necklaces, their chains and cords fuse together in a huge knot. She was exasperated: “Mom, can you please help…I can’t get them untangled.”
I wasn’t sure how they could have possibly gotten so tangled in the first place, but decided to forego that lecture. “Have you been trying to get them apart?” I asked instead. “Yes” she said, “but I’m making it worse.”
I debated just putting them aside until morning. My monkey-brain had returned and I just couldn’t bear one more thing adding to my to-do list, though. So, I turned on the big overhead light and started working on the necklace knot.
I attempted to see if there was one that could break loose and in doing so, set the others on their way to freedom. That proved to be futile. I tried unhooking them to see if any part could slip free. Again, that proved unsuccessful. They were so firmly wrapped together, I could even tell one from another except for minor variations in the color of the metals. I wondered if they would have to be discarded or cut, but having seen the tearful expression on my daughter’s face, I decided that was not a solution either.
I spent about an hour slowly and deliberately loosening the knots, gently separating the tightest places while not extracting anything. I spread them out before me and the tangle grew larger and larger, filled with places where links overlapped each other and rolled over and over on themselves. Each chain’s own tangles occasionally took in another chain’s chain, fusing the ball even tighter. My wild, racing thoughts stopped swirling and I found myself working through the ins and outs of the tangles. Suddenly, the “peace” charm of a necklace fell out on its chain. Then, a tree of life pendant. The cords of several others began to unfurl and each lovely tween-age accessory found its own space returning.
Her face lit up when I brought them to her room, where she herself was ruminating over school and friends and homework and hormones. We hung them on her jewelry tree and I gave her a hug. She hugged me back and we talked about our favorite parts of the holiday break and what we were looking forward to in the coming weeks and months. She and I both set our alarms for morning, ready to greet the new day for whatever it offered.
Like the chains, we had been freed from our state of fused inertia. We were untangled from things that we thought had bound us, which mostly turned out to be just ourselves.