I’m on my knees delving through the contents of our childhood toy cupboard when his cheeky face catches my eye. I lift him up gently, admiring his stripy leather shoes, cute denim dungarees and blue and white gingham shirt. Huge eyes glint naughtily at me underneath a baseball cap, while a mop of curly brown hair frames his grinning freckled face. I smile, remembering the hours of joy he brought me as a child.
Then I see his tangled strings.
“Oh it’s Jack” my sister pipes, glancing in my direction. We’re clearing out our old play room in preparation for our parents’ house move.
I had even forgotten his name.
I remember the elation I felt when my Godfather Charles gave me Jack the puppet. I must have been about nine years old. The prospect of my Godfather coming to stay always gave me a tingle of excitement, not least due to the wonderful presents he gave. A red diabolo juggling toy which I spent ages trying to master; an alluring set of nature books with stunning drawings I would pore over; a pair of huge white china cats whose bright blue eyes stared at me from their preeminent position on the mantelpiece in my bedroom.
I’d be hovering impatiently around the front door awaiting his sparkling clean, leather seated BMW to purr around the corner and draw to a halt. An altogether different beast to our mud splattered 1970’s style farm Land Rover, the once padded back seats long since removed to accommodate sheep and dogs as well as us children. Godfather Charles, an old family friend of my father, was a bachelor and lawyer who lived in London. His city life seemed as exotic to me, growing up on a Northumbrian farm, as his car in our drive.
I had only visited London once. A whirlwind trip of bright lights and excitement. The long-awaited highlight of the visit, a theatre trip to see Annie, the musical. The words of the songs still alive in my head today. And the much anticipated first trip to McDonalds. An encounter we vowed as a family never to repeat. The processed burgers and soggy, tepid chips a marked disappointment after a diet of home-grown meat and vegetables.
When Jack the puppet was unveiled from the beautifully wrapped parcel Charles handed me, my heart could have burst with joy. Of all the wonderful gifts he’d given me, Jack was surely my favourite. I whiled away hours pulling his strings to help him walk, or wave, or dance. Best of all he was mine. A fabulous new toy just for me. A toy that my sisters yearned to play with, but they had to ask me first.
For years Jack had pride of place in the middle shelf of the toy cupboard, his hanger placed neatly beside him. His presence there would always lift my spirits. However, with time his strings got tangled. At first it was one or two and I would try and untangle them myself. Sometimes it would work, but they always seemed to get snarled up again. As my frustration mounted, Jack would no longer be laid gently back on his shelf in pride position as favourite toy. I’d put him away in the cupboard rather more carelessly, which of course caused the strings to cross and tangle all the more. With time Jack was relegated to the far back of the cupboard; smothered by other toys; abandoned.
I set him in my lap and try and loosen the knots, but the strings appear irrecoverably enjoined. I know my son would enjoy Jack, but I’m not sure I can untangle the strings. I try for a while. Perhaps I have made it worse? Yet surely if the strings became tangled, they can become untangled?
I wonder if this is a metaphor for life. Is it that, as children, we have clearer channels to our inner selves to move through our days more gracefully, to live our own truth more playfully, hearts bursting with joy? As we get older does this ability becomes less spontaneous, less clear? Perhaps as our karmas unfold, the strings that hold us true to ourselves gradually tangle. Maybe the expectations of family and society, even of our own minds, can twist our perspective.
We may try and untangle these strings of undue expectation, of misplaced greed, attachment or anger, these complex threads of relationships ourselves. But more often than not, do we not tangle ourselves up more? Is it not usual to bind ourselves to people, to houses, to jobs, to beliefs, societal expectations and perspectives that solidify and shackle us? Until if we’re not careful our true self is shoved further away into the depths of ourselves, as our minds take over running the show. And like Jack the puppet, our true selves, the beautiful souls that we all are, are shoved to the back of the cupboard, smothered by layers of illusion, crushed by our passions and desires. Perhaps, much like I had forgotten Jack’s name, we could even forget that they are there?
I look down at Jack with remorse. I was the girl who had tossed him aside.
I breathe in a breath of gratitude for my inner Beloved. I too have felt my life to be a tangled mess, been frustrated with each new attempt to untangle my karmic threads. How blessed I feel to recognise that I am not the puppeteer of my life. What a relief to know that my only role is to love and play with my inner Beloved as best I can, trusting that His grace will untangle my karmic knots and set me free.
It’s not as easy as I make it sound. It can be pretty uncomfortable, this untangling process. There’s a reason I’ve ignored these knots of pain, or shame or anger for so long. And hey, I’m pretty fond of some of these shackles I’ve created. There’s a security, an ease, of doing or being in the groove one is accustomed to. I feel my resistance continually. My mind wants to fight to take control. To be the one that sorts out my problems, no matter how large or trite. To take credit for being the organiser, the helper, the achiever, the good mother, wife, sister, friend, daughter, teacher. To reign supreme over my being and be the creator of my life. All this fight, this undignified bluster, despite the tangled mess it’s left me in time and again!
Yet when I do surrender to my inner Beloved, when I do let go of the strings of control, and sink deeper into his vast orbit of love, I’m infused with grace. And this is when miracles occur. Through letting go, I’m gifted a stronger connection to my inner self. A clearer perspective; a deeper insight; a simpler resolution; a glimpse into an easier, more joyful, more loving, more truthful way of being.
Much like Jack’s tangled strings, my karmic strings remain far from untwined. But, despite the fight in which my mind persists, I do realise that the only way to be untangled, to become truly free, is to reach deep inside, hand over the control and leave it be. And to do this, to fully let go, one must deeply trust in the inner Beloved and allow his Grace to be the divine orchestrator, the great untangler, the Master Puppeteer.
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