knotty knitting

Back when I was still living in Chicago and working full-time, I would spend most of my lunch hours in the lobby of the 900 North Michigan building, eating a packed lunch and knitting. As I sat there one day, a woman approached me and asked if I was good at untangling jewelry. I looked at her with a blank stare, needles poised, yarn dangling, no idea what she was asking me.

She had a tangled necklace and thought, since I knit, I would be good at untangling things. Well, I hadn’t really thought about it. My idea of jewelry is my wedding ring and maybe some earrings, not much to tangle. But, as it turns out, I’m quite good at untangling jewelry, and rope and all kinds of other “knotty” things. I’m guessing anyone that’s ever spent an unreasonable amount of money on a single skein of yarn is good at untangling knots. We’d much rather spend hours untangling than cut out even a single inch of our precious yarn.

The key to untangling these things is simple. Knots of this kind are usually not “knots” at all. They are usually yarn (or chain) twisted back on itself and then unceremoniously pulled and tugged until they lock up on us. The key to untangling is to gently pull the pieces away from each other until they almost magically fall apart. At first it looks as though you’ve just made a tangle into a giant, swiss-cheese-looking, wad of yarn but if you keep pulling, gently, you will find things start to break free. You never have to “untie” anything.

It occurs to me now that, this is the patience one needs to knit. It’s not the patience to “do” it but the patience to “undo” it. Sometimes you have to undo knots and sometimes you have to undo the knitting and sometimes you have to undo some learning or some behavior but, in any case, undoing things takes infinitely more patience than doing them in the first place. The kind of patience that allows us to step back and look at a situation (yarn related or otherwise)  from a distance and then gently disengage the layers, one by one,  until whatever is holding the core of the issue together simply falls apart.

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