During the pandemic, I’ve been doing a lot of coloring. It feels weird to say that out loud because I’ve never really enjoyed coloring, even as a kid. In fact, when adult coloring books were all the rage a few years ago, I never swayed from my lackluster view of coloring. I stuck with the relaxation tool that had always worked wonderfully for me — reading books.
As the news got worse about COVID- 19 and social media became a drain, my brain could not concentrate on anything, especially words on a page. I struggled to read books I would normally devour in a day. And writing? Forget it. No thoughts stayed long enough in my brain to even transfer to a page. With all the worry swirling in my brain, what would I share with people that would be meaningful?
“I’m scared out of my mind and fear has stolen all my words,” says Heather.
How’s that for an opening line? I was stuck in an awful panic mode.
Then a friend sent me a card in the mail. Tucked inside her note was a folded coloring sheet. She had already colored half of it and asked me to color the other half, then return to her. I was instantly smitten with the idea.
I borrowed my kid’s markers and started to color immediately. I found it calmed the thoughts swirling, even for a little bit, and I could easily listen to music while I worked. Time flew by. I finished that coloring sheet, started another, then decided to send a few half-colored sheets to other people in my life.
As the weeks of shelter-in-place continued, I dug out old coloring books my kids had stuffed in drawers, and printed out new coloring sheets I found online. Some were simple, many were complex works of art.
It kept me busy and focused on something other than the worry consuming me. I even started to feel bad for the judgmental thoughts I had about adult coloring because this was fun. This was relaxing. This was keeping me sane.
Reflecting back, I think the reason I never enjoyed coloring is that it always seemed unproductive to me. You color. You finish. And then what? You’re stuck with a coloring sheet you save in a box or throw in the recycling.
It’s the same way with puzzles. You spend all that time sorting the pieces, putting them in place, and then you’re done. It all goes back in the box to start all over again, if you can find all the pieces. Where’s the fun in that?
The problem is that I’m all about the end goal. I take little joy in the process to get there, which is common for those who run really hard at an exhausting pace. Except then I lost my schedule, my control, my perfect vision of the end goal (stupid pandemic!), which led to an utter shutdown of the constants in my life.
I kept going through the daily motions, but my lack of concentration was the tell-tale sign of the fear creeping in. I was forced to be present in the moment because this was the only thing that was certain.
As it turns out, I really like to color. I like the creativity and concentration it gives me. I also like only coloring part of the page and then trusting people in my life — kids and adults alike — to finish the masterpiece. It may not be perfect, but it’s still beautiful.
It’s also a reminder, I guess, that I am not in control. The Lord knows how much I want to be, but I am not. It took a pandemic and a coloring sheet in the mail to remind me.
Stay colorful, dear friends. We are all in this together. It’s messy and uncertain, but it’s ours.