by Golnaz, BSc, London, UK
Have you ever played a game of jackstraws (also known as pick-up-sticks), where you start with a tangled pile of thin sticks and the players attempt in turn to remove a single stick without disturbing the whole pile? Moving just one stick tends to disturb the whole lot and, sometimes, odd sticks will fall away from the pile making them easy to get to.
I have created a complicated life for myself that resembles a jackstraw pile.
The multitude of sticks are perfectly colour coded to me, representing:
- ideals of how things should be – expectations I put on myself, others and situations
- beliefs about things – creating a blindness to any alternative possibilities
- protections for past hurts – even long after the hurts are forgotten
- loyalties towards institutions – some of these not even consciously chosen.
The list goes on and on, deeper into the stack.
Looking around me, everyone has their own pile going. People seem more comfortable with others of a similar pile, even comparing and admiring each other’s sticks. Often in relationships two or more piles seem partially linked and when one person moves one of their own sticks, the other’s sticks can wobble and at times cause upset.
Recently I have witnessed people who have a very simple way of living, with piles that have become small and tidy. And then there are also a few individuals that don’t even seem to have a pile to negotiate life through. Wow – now that is something my heart feels is worth exploring further: the possibility of a small or even no pile.
I was inspired to begin to detangle my pile stick by stick. A ‘stick’ I chose first was my living environment, which for some time now I have felt has not been in keeping with the current me. Yet every time I had started to make a change – started to pull that stick – I stalled: at times I even got so tired I fell asleep, then abandoned the task and instead numbed myself to the niggling knowing that all was not well… removing sticks can be tricky. I decided to call in reinforcements – a friend to assist with this intense process.
Major panic and apprehension came before the arrival of my stick removal assistant. At different stages, while I examined my unconscious relationship with items in my home and considered letting them go, I felt overwhelmed by what was going on in my body. This overwhelm had stopped me many times before and it was an immense support to have someone lovingly nudge me along, supporting me to keep drawing that stick out of the pile.
Oh my word, I could feel all my sticks during this process. It was surreal but I noticed whenever the pile was about to be disturbed, I felt rigid, as if I was pinned down with the force of my sticks.
As sticks started to wobble in the pile, I had the opportunity to see more of their colour and energy and start to remove them too. A few significant sticks so far have been:
- My ‘other people’s reactions’ stick – I was holding on to many objects because I did not want to upset another person. These included items that once belonged to another family member, or had been a present. By holding on to these, I was in effect withholding my true feelings from everyone.
- My ‘old identity’ stick – these objects were connected to past praise and admiration. For example, I used to make pretty, colourful cards – although I mainly use e-cards now, all the unused bits and pieces for making coloured cards had been carefully stored. I knew I was not going to go there again, but somehow had not been willing to close that chapter.
- My ‘just-in-case!’ stick – I may need it later. This stick does not even belong in my pile. I have never been in a position where I lacked anything physical, so there is no logical reason for it. My parents however, lived through a world war and have every excuse to hold this belief. This is one of my parent’s sticks!!! But I have been running with it in my pile for all these years.
So far I have taken a few baby steps – considering the size of the project at hand – letting things go from my living environment. But words cannot express how huge each baby step has been, what I chose to face in each step, and the massive free space it has created within me – a space far greater than the one created in my home.