A rubber band is a useful thing. It can hold a newspaper’s pages together, bundle a sheaf of paper, or even be used as a slingshot. It’s stretchy, comes in a million different colors and sizes, and breaks when pulled too far apart. A rubber band is a simple creation with an infinite array of uses.
Recently I watched my son carefully construct a massive slingshot. He selected three rubber bands of approximately the same thickness and size from our junk drawer, then carefully snipped each in half. He tied them together, end to end, to form a long rubber band snake. Then, he tied the last two ends together to form one extremely long rubber band that had been knotted together.
Next, he picked a plastic Lego figure, and set up the slingshot. Lego Man was going to fly. He secured the front end of the rubber band to a nail he’d hammered onto the railing of the tree house, placed Lego Man in the back of the band, and started pulling. The band stretched downward, sloping at a 45-degree angle. The piece attached to the nail was the apex, and Lego Man was soon lying on the floor.
He adjusted his hold on Lego Man and used his free hand to test the tension on the slingshot. It was taut, and vibrated when he plucked it gently. He gave a little tug to see if there was any more wiggle room, and checked to see that the nail wasn’t cutting into the band. There was no reason to let go of Lego Man if the slingshot was stable; all he had to do was secure Lego Man to the floor and let him stay there, even though the rubber band was ripe to catapult the plastic toy over the fence into the great unknown.
Alas, my son is eight. He could no more NOT see what would happen to Lego Man if he let go of the slingshot than he would turn down a freshly baked cookie. His curiosity was too great, his excitement was palpable, and with a giggle the countdown began.
He let go of the slingshot and Lego Man flew. In a split second it cleared the railing of the tree house and was airborne. We watched the little toy arc over the low bushes in the yard and gain altitude as it flew up, up, up. Finally it reached the apex of the arc and sailed over the fence into the tall weeds behind the house.
Lego Man had a new home. In a moment of finality, a split-second decision to change the course of Lego Man’s life was made and Lego Man would no longer be condemned to lay in a box of toys, unseen and ignored. Maybe the slingshot gave Lego Man a new life in the great unknown, and, like the Velveteen Rabbit, he would enter the next phase of his existence with a new body and purpose. In one fell swoop, my 8-year-old had given altitude to Lego Man and changed the trajectory of his life.
I’ve decided that people are like Lego Man. We lay around in the same habitat for days, weeks, years, even decades, getting used to the same old scenery. We have no perspective, no emotional altitude. The rubber band is a metaphor for the disconnect we feel between who we once thought we were going to be, and our current incarnation. When the rubber band stretches because we’ve gotten farther and farther from our dreams, we’re left sitting on the ground, virtual prisoners of our own loss of momentum as we recede into the slump of stagnation.
Until one day, it all changes. The rubber band cannot be stretched any further. It has reached its limit and is on the verge of breaking. My son had a choice: release the rubber band and send Lego Man on a journey, or watch the band break and feel the disappointment of an opportunity missed. People have the same choice, if not literal then conceptual. When the rubber band between who we are today and who we want to be gets stretched too far, we find that we have a choice to make. We can either let go of the rubber band and remain a victim of our own loss of momentum, or we can hold on to the rubber band and launch ourselves toward a wholly unknown, exciting future that is ours to create.
The moment we decide to fly is exhilarating. It’s breath-taking because of the speed with which things happen. When a person decides to follow their dreams and live fully and freely, the Universe starts sending Love Notes that affirm the decision. Momentum becomes easier when the weight of resistance to living your own truth is suddenly gone.
It’s amazing what a rubber band can do. It arrives at my house wrapped around a newspaper and hours later, is used to send toys flying over the fence. Would that we would all hold tight to our own internal rubber bands. When we hold on to the rubber band we are tethered to our hopes, dreams and possibilities. Don’t ever let go.