Coloring books are stressful.
You know the ones—the coloring books that are made-for-grown-up-people, the ones with page after page of line drawings with intricate patterns and hand-drawn details and lots of little tiny bits for meditative coloring. Those ones.
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I picked up a couple of wintery ones to try in December, thinking that anti-stress holiday coloring sounded BRILLIANT. I was going to be blissed-out all season long. This was anti-stress-planning genius!
Things did not turn out quite that way.
First of all, pine needles do not look very pine needle-y all colored lime green, even if that is the only green you can find.
Then some of the little patterns are so small, there’s no such thing as “coloring inside the lines.” How would you even do that? What do you color with, a toothpick? And there are so many teensy shapes that you NEVER FINISH COLORING.
I probably just have the wrong colored pencils.
(I am conveniently overlooking the fact that this is not my first go-round with Coloring Stress. There was, for example, that time I went to my friend Bonnie’s house to listen to a podcast together, and picked up one of the spare coloring books she’d set out. I wound up hunched over my paper, desperately trying to color all the curlicues yellow before the podcast ended. I have no idea what the podcast was about, I forgot to listen to any of it.)
For a recovering perfectionist…
For a recovering perfectionist, all those swirls and crisscrosses and leafy shapes are not an invitation to be meditative, they are an invitation to be obsessive.
Are my triangles colored evenly, not sketchily? Am I even supposed to color this edge piece? I didn’t put a bunch of clashing colors next to each other, did I? OH WAIT I DID. And now there’s too much red everywhere! What happened to my carefully planned color scheme?
At some point you have to admit the problem is not that you have the wrong markers or the wrong colored pencils or the wrong book. At some point you have to face the fact that this is not soothing or meditative or even particularly holiday-related.
But. Good news!
You don’t have to keep doing things that are supposed to be good if they actually aren’t.
You don’t have to keep doing the things that are supposed to help but don’t actually help.
You don’t have to keep doing the things that you’re supposed to enjoy but don’t.
(Though maybe I can find a crumb of gratitude for becoming aware of the thing that bothers me, and for the chance to practice letting go of it. Again. MAYBE.)
So I am going to practice letting go and also coloring less.
Instead, for the next few weeks, I am going to do something that actually makes me feel refreshed and refueled.
I am going to read all the books.
I’m going for books that will help me think about old things in new ways, that will give me insight into my own mess, and that will make me feel hopeful about all the things. (Or at least an occasional thing. Some things. I will take hope about some things.)
What I’m reading to refuel
Glennon Doyle Melton’s Love Warrior, because we need more love warriors in the world. I think love is meant to be our full-time job, guys.
How to Be Here
Rob Bell’s How to Be Here, because here is where I want to be. It’s the only place we can find each other—and the only place we can really find ourselves.
Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing, because I want to soak up ideas about creativity and craft. (And because I read Dani’s spiritual memoir, Devotion, a few months ago, and I am already ready to invite her voice back into my head.)
Year of Yes
Shonda Rhimes’s Year of Yes, because I have been practicing saying yes to the things that make me feel like I’m going to throw up and I could use some literary encouragement.
Commonwealth & Today Will Be Different
Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth (because: Ann Patchett) and Maria Semple’s Today Will Be Different (because: who didn’t love Where’d You Go, Bernadette?). And because sometimes fiction tells us the truth about real life.
More reading, less stress
This is basically my formula for making things better. Deep breaths and good books. I stand by that. And I’m going to go ahead and put away the colored pencils now.