In a way, I have to chuckle. In a way, not so much. Unraveling life’s knots can be a delicate dance between precision and frustration. Unraveling knotted and tangled shoestrings, necklaces, electrical cords, Christmas tree lights, garden hoses, dog leashes, and so much more is not my greatest skill set. With particularly messy knots, I tend to sigh and tell myself, “I’ll get back to this a little later.” But my little later often turns into an even larger contortion.
With all that is going on in our messy world right now, we can also get our bloomers in a twist over external and internal voices tying us up in knots. The knot of other people’s opinions, predictions, and advice can ball up in our life. You know, the messages that dip and loop and fray and tighten in our thoughts.
Couldn’t, Shouldn’t, Can’t
These restrictive internal conversations may sound like:
Couldn’ts “I couldn’t imagine making it much longer through this stay-at-home order. Oh, I couldn’t be brave like that. No, I couldn’t volunteer. I couldn’t handle that relationship. . . .”
Shouldn’ts “I shouldn’t worry about my finances in this COVID-19 pandemic. Oh, I shouldn’t say how I really feel. I shouldn’t be so impatient. Well, I shouldn’t really care.”
Can’ts “I can’t do this quarantine stuff anymore. Nope, I can’t switch careers. I can’t say “no” to my kids. Heavens, I can’t speak in front of others. Man, I can’t stay consistent with exercise. I can’t live without . . . .
As I write you, I feel a bunch of couldn’ts, shouldn’ts, and cant’s rumbling together to form a knotted lump in my mind. I just learned this morning that when I fell onto the street on a morning walk a few weeks ago, I broke two and possibly three bones in my right wrist. (I didn’t seek medical help right away because my wrist didn’t look swollen and didn’t immediately throb. Later I thought I was suffering through a tough case of tendonitis.)
I am right-handed. I communicate via a keyboard for a living. My right arm is in a cast from just below the elbow to my palm. Rats!
Secret to Unraveling Our Messes
My current knotted mess of concerns and fears include:
Couldn’ts “Why couldn’t I have escaped injury? I was being so careful and stepped away from all the black ice.”
Shouldn’ts “I shouldn’t express how bummed I am about my broken wrist when so many people are suffering through COVID right now.”
Can’ts “I can’t figure out a speedy way to type just yet. I hate being slowed down.
Stop the jumbled thinking madness! My friend Dr. Helen McIntosh shares a secret for identifying the stinkin’ thinkin’ and unknotting our messy internal messaging with truth. In her Messages to Myself book, Dr. Helen advises we learn to reframe our couldn’ts, shouldn’ts, cant’s, and other negative thinking. So let me reframe my examples above.
Couldn’ts I wish I could have escaped injury, but the truth is my fall was an accident. My collie girl didn’t understand that I was stepping into the street to avoid the ice. We tangled up and I fell. Dealing with this pain and recovery is not easy, but I am now on the road to recovery. Shouldn’ts I may feel like I shouldn’t share my disappointment, but the truth is breaking a bone is never fun. The truth is many are suffering through COVID and a bunch of other struggles right now. It is OK to be honest and express my own disappointment. I just don’t have to get stuck in self-pity. Can’ts I have a new learning curve to climb to adjust to this cast. The truth is, I can still type and without pain. I just typed this whole blog even though it took me longer. But look, I’m almost done!
Solving Jumbled Messes
So now about those jumbled electrical cords, Christmas tree lights, and necklaces. Patience, my friend. Patience. I’m right there with you. The truth is, we may not get them all untangled quickly, but bit by bit they will straighten out.
And maybe, we can ask for help from our family and friends who actually like solving these jumbled messes. If you’re one of them, let me know. I have some knotted necklaces just waiting for your unraveling skills.