A while back I came across something amazing while surfing the interwebs called Zenspirations.
What a shock, right? *insert sarcasm*
How many times do we click on a site, see something bright and shiny over there, click that, then see something else, click on that and maybe read a bit and then . . . try and remember what you were looking at in the first place.
What did we ever do before the Internet? Oh yeah. We read. Books and magazines.
And sometimes we drew!
Okay . . . maybe you didn’t draw exactly, but I bet you did doodle. Yes, you did. In class, while daydreaming . . . you’d let your pen wander all over the paper, making patterns and scribbles and . . .
But we never saved our doodles, did we? No, they were just something to do to pass the time.
The fun was in the actual doodling, not attempting to create an artistic outcome.
I was first saw Joann Fink’s monograms on a Facebook post. I hadn’t heard of her or Zenspirations, but I loved the playfulness, the creativity, the doodle-ness. I had to see more of her work. I googled her and felt like I’d found the hidden key to The Secret Garden.
I couldn’t wait to give it a try.
The fact that I had no idea what I was doing didn’t stop me. It never has before so why should it now?
The problem is, when you start something new . . . and you get a halfway decent result right off the bat . . . you think you might be pretty good at it.
Or maybe it might be easy.
And you start to get ideas. Grandiose ideas.
I think I’ll make this for my brother and stick it up on his hospital room wall.
So I kept going for a while . . . without noticing anything was seriously wrong . . . with the doodle or my brother.
As my brother got progressively worse, I spent more time at the hospital, leaving less time to create.
The doodle was left on the worktable in one of my many to-be-finished piles.
When my brother’s pain finally, and mercifully, ended, I went about doing what is required when someone passes – making arrangements, packing, cleaning, donating. In between it all, I painted a few things here and there, just to keep my sanity and some semblance of normalcy.
Everyone is different. For me, I need to stay busy when I’m upset. Painting the desk was therapeutic as it was fairly mindless and took nearly a week. But eventually I was ready to work again, to finish some of the projects in the to-be-finished piles.
Last Sunday morning I wanted to create . . . something. But nothing felt right. Writing, painting, playing Candy Crush Saga. Nothing. I flitted from one project to another, wanting something to capture my attention.
Quick, do something. Quick, before the depression grabs hold.
In desperation, I pulled out the half-finished doodle, still not noticing anything wrong other than it needing to be finished.
I kept adding patterns, coloring them in, still not noticing that I had misspelled “Breathe”.
I started this piece for my brother as a gentle reminder for him. He had had such a hard time breathing.
Turns out, it’s more for me than for him. And not just because I didn’t finish it before he died. No. I’m the one who needs to remember to breathe now.
And guess what? Doodling is perfect for that. To doodle, you must breathe. You must relax. You must let go of what you think is perfect or right.
Doodling is interesting. You do it, just for the process. Like a child, when they paint. Like we did when we were bored in class. Not for the outcome, for the joy of do-ing. The Joy of DOO-dling.
There is no right. No wrong. Because if you try to correct a crooked line, it becomes a bigger crooked line. But if you let the crooked line just be crooked, it becomes part of a new unexpected pattern.
You have to totally let go without worrying about what comes next and just let the pen(s) flow.
Ok, wait a minute. You do have to spell the word properly if you’re doodling a word.
I got all the way to this point, thinking I was finished, and I took a photo with my phone to post on Instagram.
Then I saw it.
I laughed and laughed and laughed some more.
Of all the things I can do in life, the one thing that is so second nature for me it’s almost like breathing is . . . spelling.
That I had misspelled Breathe was, I dunno, classic. Or telling, if you’re the kind who looks for signs and symbols.
All of that time, all of that work, down the drain, I thought. And although I have piles of unfinished paintings and paintings that are finished that I don’t like so they need to be fixed or painted over, this one bothered me.
So you know what I did? I went outside, walked around and took some deep breaths.
Then came back in a doodled the missing “h”.
Okay, so doodling is not as easy as I thought it would be. And I’m not as good as I’d like to be . . . yet. And I can’t just tack the paper up on the wall as a reminder like I wanted since I had to use Photoshop to fix it – alright, I guess I can print it off, if I want – but . . . there is something about this doodling thing.
It truly is meditative. And healing, in a way. Most of all, it is fun.
Of course, all of my ‘work’ is fun but this is fun in a different vein, when you don’t know what the outcome will look like. When mistakes are actually good things that lead to new patterns. When lines and curves all mesh together and form their own brand of ‘art’. When the only way to successfully doodle is to just let go . . .
Maureen Hayes says
Oh Colleen, I SO needed to see this today! Thanks for sharing your truth with us (always) and for the reminders to breathe as well as to let go and doodle. I am sorry about the loss of your brother and hope that each day will bring a little more peace and healing,
Love and prayers,
Hi Maureen, I’m so glad this helped. I really wasn’t sure whether to post or not but it seems that those times when I debate whether to or not, those are the posts that help people the most.
Thank you for your thoughts. This getting old stuff isn’t for the faint of heart, sheesh. I’m blessed to have friends like you to share with. Hope you’re doing well. xoxo
Laura Strack says
Love your doodling, Colleen! Keeping you in my prayers, as well. I recently saw that when folks doodle and they are listening to someone speak such as their professor/teacher or maybe the preacher, they retain so much more of what is being said. How awesome is that? It is considered Art Therapy so Keep Calm and Doodle On!
Hey Laura! I love that, and Heaven knows, I can use all the help I can get when it comes to retention! Well then, I guess I’ll just have to keep doodling for, you know, “therapy”.
I am sorry for your loss Colleen. I have been where you are three times. My brother also had a breathing problem that I suspect was close if not the same as your brothers. My sister passed as a child. Her birthday was 3/31. It was OK. I spent the day painting and being with myself. The point is, I love your honesty. It helps people. It helped me. And now I know it was OK to paint in my sadness!
BTW, I wouldn’t miss your post! Keep them coming.
I’m so sorry to hear of your losses, Linda. It’s unbelievably hard. I’m glad you’re finding some comfort in your art like I do. Thank you for your comment. Much appreciated.
Debbie J says
Colleen, first I want to say that I am so sorry about you losing your brother. I truly do know how it feels. As for Doodling a misspelled word, I have done it, too. I too, love Doodling. Thank you for this story. It is something that I needed to see to know I am not alone in this.