LSS: Untangling knots

She reached into her jewelry box and pulled out a tangle of necklaces.

“What am I going to do with this?” my friend asked with a sense of gloom.

I tried to conceal my glee.

As strange as this may seem, untangling a nest of jewelry knots is one of my favorite things to do. Knots are my cup of tea and have been since I was a kid. Way back then, I figured out the same method I use today.

My knot untangling technique:

Whether it’s a mass of knots or a single snarled strand, I place the necklaces on a flat surface that won’t scratch, making sure I’m in good light. Then, like a surgeon, I assemble my tools — which amount to two straight pins or toothpicks, or one of each. Then I start poking and prodding and gently pulling. Using minimum preparation and that method, getting the knots out is ridiculously easy — and very satisfying.

The most important part really has very little to do with skill. The most important part is to place the necklaces on a flat surface, rather than holding the clump or letting the chains hang. The flat surface takes away the gravity factor of the knotty problem and relieves the pressure that keeps the knots intertwined.

Taking the pressure away from different ends of the predicament is the most important part of getting the knot undone. Once I have the chains flat and spread out, I simply poke around the entanglement with the straight pins and separate the crossed wires, and in a few minutes, the lumps and clumps of chain begin to disappear.

As I worked on my friend’s thicket of gold and silver, I thought about how aspects of untangling knots of cast-aside jewelry have a lot in common with untangling the knots we come across more often.

When pressure is pulling both sides in opposite directions, untangling the predicament is nearly impossible — regardless of the skill or passion to repair the situation. Even if the pressure is relieved from one end, but not the other, the knot just gets tighter and tighter as one end gives and the other end takes in the extra length. The trick lies is figuring out and providing what both ends need to relieve the pressure.

As I worked to untangle the knots in my friend’s necklaces, my thinking went from considering both sides of political arguments and what it would take to relieve the pressures of those disputes to closer to home and the knots my daughters get into with each other.

I wonder if those kinds of knots need simply to have the pressure relieved on both ends. While I know sibling squabbling is, for the most part, just a way of life, I wonder what I can do improve my children’s relationship. Would relieving pressure from each of them help to untangle the knots between them? What is it that they need? Is it something I can provide? Or do I need to do something more for my daughters to realize and find whatever it is they need for themselves, so they can relieve their own pressures?

Sometimes parenting has me in my own personal knots. I vacillate from over-thinking it and trying to orchestrate too much to a laissez faire approach, on the opposite end of the spectrum. Figuring out the amount of pressure to place on kids is the most difficult part of parenting for me. I want my daughters to be self-starters, conscientious and productive. Yet, I also want them to appreciate the value of taking time, on occasion, to do very little and not be in go-mode.

Sadly, untangling the knots between siblings cannot be solved with a level surface and a couple of toothpicks, but I do recognize my responsibility as a knot-surgeon to alleviate the pressure and give them the best space to untangle themselves.

Providing a level playing field or a safe breathing space is really the extent of helping others solve their messes. For any real truce to last, I can’t do it for them. They have to do it for themselves.

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