Forrest Gump’s mama may have said life is like a box of chocolates, however, a more realistic analogy may be that life is like a string of twisted, tangled Christmas lights.
We all have all kept boxes of tangled, twisted Christmas lights as if magically the light strings would be untangled the next year. Go ahead, just admit it. No judgment from me. For years, I kept twisted, tangled strings of Christmas lights, hauled them out, tried to untangle them, got frustrated, tossed them aside, and finally jumped in the car to go buy more. I kept the twisted, tangled messes, however. It’s the definition of insanity: repeating something over and over again expecting a different outcome.
Just like tangled, twisted strings of Christmas lights, human lives are messy. We tend to repeat the same patterns over and over again, but we don’t see the patterns. Every time we repeat the patterns without seeing the damage left in their wakes, we add more twists or tangles to the messiness. When we try to untangle the mess, we do the same thing we do with tangled Christmas lights. We tug and pull at the tangled, twisted messiness to no avail because we focus on one small section of string, one issue or problem, instead of the whole.
What can we do? Take a step back to look at the whole. By doing so, we are looking at the twisted mess of our lives from a different perspective, from the whole, and when we do, patterns begin to emerge. Finding the patterns that lead to untangling the mess requires us to analyze the patterns of behavior and decide what our response will be. And, there are only two choices. We can ignore the patterns and continue down the same roads hoping the patterns will magically change or decide to change the patterns.
Change is hard, however. Change is uncomfortable, takes time, and is often frustrating. A lot of times it feels like situations are getting worse before the tunnel twists and we see the light at the end of the tunnel. And, there is a light at the end of the tunnel if we stay focused.
I have actually untangled a twisted string of Christmas lights. It took time and patience and, at times, I walked away for a moment or two to refresh my perspective. Likewise, I have taken that all-important step back to identify unhealthy patterns and then set about untangling the unhealthy patterns that did not serve me well. The more tangles we remove, the easier untwisting the remainder becomes. I am not perfect, but my life is less messy and I am less stressed, and more content.
Forrest Gump’s mama was right – life can be like a box of chocolates. The worst that can happen is that we spit out the chocolates we don’t like. Untangle the Christmas lights first, then dig into the box of chocolates…..