Tightly Wound: When it all goes SPROING

Music does not exist without tension. 

However, too much tension quickly deteriorates into chaos.


>Someone< very near to this computer right now, **** might **** have recently learned that it is possible to destroy a guitar string by over winding it >coughcoughcoughmeculpacoughcoughcough.< That person may have even followed the YouTube instructions for her particular guitar, and yet…

That person maaaaay have also ruined TWO strings before she figured it out. Some of us specialize in learning things the hard way. 

Learning forward

As I have said many times in this space, there is no such thing as failure; only learning.  So here’s what I learned: If you don’t put a new guitar string on the right way, it will completely sproing. The outer wrapping untwists and stretches, leaving a worthless mess of wire where a guitar string used to be. 

I also learned that sproing is, in fact, one of those things that is named by the sound it makes – an onomatopoeia. Just in case there was any question, the sound you want to hear when you’re restringing a guitar is definitely not >SPROING.< 

But wait!  There’s still more!

Not only did I learn how to sproing a string, I also learned that when you take strings off of a guitar, even when they are not yet worn, and put them back on a guitar, (for instance, because you are now completely without an E and A string after accidentally destroying the new ones,) those old strings will not hold a pitch. They’re tired. They need to be re-tired. It just ain’t happenin. 

I’m happy to report that I did figure it out. I had to order new strings, but my Taylor is now sporting a full set of well-strung Elixir Nanoweb light strings, and, I’m a whole lot better at restringing guitars.

Life lessons from a guitar

By now you’re probably wondering if I have forgotten that this is not a guitar blog, but rather, a wellness blog. A picture is worth a thousand words. Please look closely at the picture attached to this article. 

Do you see yourself?

Have you ever found that you were wound so tightly that it seemed you might never again be able to play, make something beautiful, function as intended?  I know I’ve felt that way. 

Gimme some slack!

My first mistake with the guitar strings was putting too much of the string through the tuning post before I started winding it. The string needs to wrap around the post about three times before you get it to the pitch you want. If you put too much through, you might get about half way around once before you get close to the pitch that string is supposed to make. If you keep winding… SPROING! It is a hideous sound.

When we don’t build downtime, play time, connection time, rest time, creativity time, self-care time into our days, the tension of the day will ratchet us up too quickly.  Before you know it we might find ourselves yelling at inanimate objects, resenting our livelihoods or doing things that work against our wellness goals in order to relieve the tension. 

We over-drink, over-eat, over-sleep, choose inertia over exercise, skip our meditation time, bury ourselves in our phones instead of talking with people who matter to us. We are trying to recover from SPROING, and we don’t have much energy left for anything else.

The demands that shorten our slack

Feeling trapped in our circumstances can shorten our slack as well. “I have to …” fill in the blanks. My clients can attest that one of the things I say enough times to be annoying is, “There are no shoulds, have to’s or musts. There are only choices.”

I can hear you now: “I have to go to my job!” I can hear your mind tumbling will all of the worst-case consequences of not going to work. No, you really don’t have to go. If you choose not to, you might very well get fired, but you have full freedom to make that choice. 

“I have to listen when my partner needs to talk! It’s not like I can say, ‘I don’t have it in me to listen to your problems right now.’” Beloveds, there are Four Answers for a reason. Saying that you honestly can’t be your partner’s listening ear in that moment is a whole lot more loving and kind than pretending to listen when you really don’t have it in you. You risk sproinging not only yourself, but your relationship as well when you obey the myth of “have to” in this instance.

Tension good, sproing bad

Carrying around the myth that we “have to” do this, that, or the other thing winds us far too tightly. We become a SPROING waiting to happen. If instead we are conscious about choosing what we do and don’t do on a case-by-case basis, we might find that on a given day we really need to rest more than we need to work. We might figure out that taking a day off will not cost us our jobs after all. When we refuse to obey the “should” of being available to our loved ones on demand, we are much more able to really be there for them at another time. 

Making these kinds of conscious choices creates a kind of tension, but not a bad one. If guitar strings have no tension at all, they do not play music. 

When my daughter was very young, she made it clear that my normal pace was completely sproinging her out.  She would look up at me tearful and say, “One time at a time, Mommy!” Her wisdom endures to this day. No should’s.  No have to’s. No musts.  

Not being a SPROINGED string makes us much more effective on our jobs, in our relationships and in our lives. Making intentional choices is one way to get there.

Déjà vu all over again

There is a clear and present sproing danger in all that happened and didn’t happen in 2020. We really have to commit to “one time at a time” on this one if we are to resist secondary trauma.  

“Secondary trauma” is what happens when we start having trauma symptoms from listening to someone else’s trauma, from being an empathy sponge around a person or a community that has been traumatized, and even sometimes from recalling our own past traumas. Our bodies react as if those things are happening to us in this moment.  That’s a lot of SPROING right there. 

Cursing Shonda Rhimes and Ava DuVernay

As some people know, I have a love-hate relationship with television producer, Shonda Rhimes. She loves to kill off my favorite characters, so I end up cursing her regularly. At the same time, she and her team often do such an amazing job of looking at the subtle nuances of human struggles, I can’t help but to love her. Ava DuVernay is another profoundly talented producer who has the ability to run my heart through the ringer, looking at life through the eyes of complex characters in complicated situations.

I hate them both. I love them both. And now, they’ve got me having to be intentional about not acquiring secondary trauma. 

No no nonononononooo…

Many of our favorite television shows went on COVID-necessary filming hiatus last year. Many have since been able to resume production and are now covering the painful issues of 2020. I knew I was in trouble when I started repeating “No no nononononononono…” loudly at my screen while watching one of my faves. 

Fortunately, I felt the residue of my SPROING moments from 2020 and took care of myself by turning the show off, at least for then. When I did go back, I went back with all of my anti-trauma tools firmly in place.  I was solid enough to appreciate the art without getting harmed all over again. Pay attention, friends.  It’s really easy to get sucked in without realizing we are harming ourselves.

What are you made of?

Life is harder for a guitar string then it is for us. Guitar strings are made out of no-longer-organic material. They do not regenerate. Once they are sproinged, they do not come back. 

Fortunately, we are organic. Our cells regenerate. Most of the time, we are able to either heal completely or heal well enough to play again.  We can avoid the sproing to begin with by making sure we have lots of slack, by not winding ourselves too tightly with shoulds, have to’s and musts, by taking “one time at a time,” and by avoiding secondary trauma. 

If we find that we have already sproinged, we can heal our cells by engaging in more slack, and then by creating just enough healthy tension in our lives to make some music.  Let’s fill this next movement of our lives with some amazing sounds. 


If you’re having trouble avoiding or healing from sproing, contact Tiffany here!