Thanks to the 1000 things projects, my life is starting to unravel. This is a good thing…
Recently my colleague Michelle Pacansky-Brock posted the above quote to Facebook, and I shared it on my FB wall since I agree with its insights with these qualifications: unraveling can be a release as well as a pull; it can happen at any adult stage of life; and it only goes anywhere if it crystallizes into resolve, as in the resolve to unravel a mystery…one’s life mystery…
One of the reasons I’m embracing the notion of unraveling is because it has a duality which mirrors the duality I’m experiencing as I start to make major changes in my lifestyle as a result of my 1000 things projects.
Unraveling has two main meanings (definitions from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unravel). One is the idea of coming apart, as in disentangling, disengaging, or otherwise causing the separate threads of something to come apart, often with the idea that something’s failing or beginning to fail. Still, unraveling in this sense can be good or bad. Unraveling is bad when something is coming undone that we wanted to keep together or did not want to fail: a sweater, a ball of yarn, a marriage. Unraveling is good when we’re untangling something that we want to untangle: electrical cords, shoelaces, bad habits. Or something that we wanted or needed to fail — whether we knew it or not.
The second meaning of unraveling is to find the correct explanation for something, to clear up (for instance, to unravel a mystery) or to resolve the intricacy, complexity, or obscurity of something. This notion of unraveling can also be good or bad. Clearing up a mystery or finding the correct explanation for something may sound like it’s a positive, but we might not like what we find once the explanation is revealed or the mystery is solved.
What makes the difference between good unraveling and bad unraveling? Part of it is the issue of control: when we think of our lives as unraveling, that’s usually bad, but when we think of unraveling our lives, that can be something altogether different. And of course, it’s impossible to talk about unraveling without talking about raveling. When something is raveled, one of its key characteristics is tightness — knots and tangles that keep things in place because they’re tightly bound together and difficult to loosen. So there are places where we want knots to hold (ties, shoelaces, sailboats) and ones which we want to loosen (power cords, necklaces, muscles). Another key characteristic of the process is patience. As anyone who’s ever unraveled a really tangled rope or a box of power cords or a nagging mystery knows, the process requires more patience than most things we do, I think.
The other important part is also captured by the above quote: a pull (or a release) towards living the life one wants to life, not the life one is supposed to live. This is how my 1000 things projects have produced some unraveling in my life, in both senses of the word:
– They’ve enabled me to loosen a few things that have been knots or tangles in my life, to the point where I can start disengaging myself from them, most notably changes in my consumer behavior — what I buy, how I buy things, and how I use them.
– Getting rid of so many things thoughtfully has also helped me resolve the intricacies, complexities, and obscurities of my relationship with my stuff. It is helping me unravel the mystery of how to build and maintain a healthy relationship with my things.
In upcoming posts, I’ll talk about some of the ways in which my life has started unraveling for good…