Sometime in her 20s, my mother developed a serious anxiety disorder. In the late 40s and early 50s, this was often called a nervous breakdown. Although the acute anxiety subsided, an underlying level of anxiety remained. One of advice that my mother received was to combat her anxiety through  coloring.  I remember my mother coloring especially when she was dying of cancer faster and faster and not always between the lines.

More than 25 years ago, the we had a hard time finding good coloring books for my mother. Now they’re everywhere and you can even download them from the Internet.  I think she would have loved the ones I have now.

Like my mother I’ve had breast cancer. I’m lucky in that I have no evidence of recurrence, but still, I experience anxiety. I’ve always been anxious, with or without cancer, although it’s generally well managed. Arts and crafts are essential to manage my anxiety and so I have a collection of coloring books. And I have very fancy crayons, water soluble wax putting Crayola to shame with their intensity. I have other pencils and watercolors besides. Spoiled for choice.

The coloring books I like best have big areas between the lines. I find that small intricate designs annoy me and I have a difficult time staying between the lines.   I guess that it doesn’t matter so much if I choose not to stay between the lines.  I like the watercolor option best  when I am able to color large sweeps of the area at once and sometimes  I hold a crayon or a pencil so tight that my hand cramps (my inability to hold a pencil “normally” is another issue. And  I get tired of coloring in a picture because it is so intricate. So I have lots of unfinished pages.

I’m trying to find ways to make coloring a more meditative process.  I wonder that I’m making too much effort to  color.  I don’t have to finish each and every picture, use realistic colors or even stay between the lines.  Color as much as I want and then let it go.  I’m under no obligation to follow the rules of coloring per se, whatever those rules are. And yet, I feel myself trying to follow these rules subconsciously. I’ve been too judgmental of my efforts. And I could say, maybe it’s not a meditative process for me…..on the other hand, it helps me understand my own barriers.

Interesting, isn’t it? Sort of defies being in the moment, and yet, helps me understand what it takes to be in the moment.