Friday, June 4, 2010

Lessons from a Ball of Yarn

When I selected an activity for my elementary school students using a ball of yarn, I was not expecting how much I myself would learn in the process.
The idea was to roll the ball from person to person across a circle of seated children. The result was a web, symbolizing the relationships students have formed in their class throughout the year. Each student said something friendly about the person they rolled the yarn to.
Once the little ones left the room, I ended up with a huge tangle of yarn it took hours to unravel. The complex knot was an illustration of relationships among a network of people, whether it is in a work setting, a family, a church or community. The strings, loops and obstacles stand for different individuals, dyads, triads and clumps within a group.
Here are some things I learned in my attempt to find the straight and narrow:
First instinct is to pull and tug. The stress on individuals tightens the intricate mess. I found it helped to loosen and separate on the whole system, making some space amidst the fray, which was counter-intuitive. It’s best to open things up so I can see my way through.
Even tension and stress on one string can tighten the whole knot back up into a wad where it’s hard to tell who’s who.
I feel like the end of the string. I realize I have to travel back through the mess I’ve been through in order to come out. If I try to run away from the knots, the aforementioned tightening occurs. The way out is through contact with others, not avoidance. Some wringing and twisting can be involved.
It may benefit me to pause and observe where others have been before I attempt to untangle myself from them.
If I take shortcuts, it may look like things are getting better, but it’s “knot”. At times things have to get worse before they get better.
Sometimes I’m just tangled up with myself.
Inevitably, I must navigate through the chaotic center of the tangled mess. There is fear of getting lost. But the hard-won freedom and growth is worth it in the end.


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