“This is either going to be the most beautiful thing ever or utterly TERRIBLE,” I tell her.
My fingerless gloves are covered in glitter. My nails are stained a ghastly shade somewhere between sage and forest and somehow my cuticles have little dots of cerulean speckling them. I’m thirty-three and I still haven’t learned how to use pens without the remnants of their entrails making themselves known upon my person. What I don’t say is that I should feel lucky that none of this glitter ink, normally reserved for pre-teens, has made it to my face. Yet.
I stare at the tiny acid-free square before me in despair. It seems representative of my life. And my words echo back at me. “This is either going to be the most beautiful thing ever or utterly terrible.” I’m learning the art of Zentangle for a class I’m teaching at the library. It sounds more complicated than it is.
Zentangle is the art of meditative doodling. Yes, you read that right. Intentional doodling. It goes like this. You have these super nice expensive pens (Can I get an amen or a holla for Microns all you artists?) and these tiny acid-free tiles and you set your intention like you might do before a spat of yoga and you doodle. Not draw. DOODLE. Whatever comes to mind. And you let your mind wander free.
Guess what. I SUCK AT INTENTIONAL DOODLING.
And maybe you’re asking the question, “But how, Melissa, how is it possible that you could suck at DOODLING…?” I’m so glad you asked that. The whole point of this exercise is to let things go. You’re supposed to free your mind and allow the doodling to take you where it wants to and through this process art is to be created.
I started out copying another doodle from a Zentangle book. There was weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth because I couldn’t get it right. Who thinks I was getting the point of the exercise? No one? Hmmm…shocker. ME EITHER. It was ugly.
Then my fellow librarian, Flannery, shows me the one she made. Did I forget to mention Flannery is an artist? “Oh, no,” she said, “I just doodle.” Doodle my patootie. This was her result. I wanted to curl up in a tiny ball and die.
My doodle would never be as effortless. It would never be so perfect and elegant and GOSH DARNIT — French. The dang thing looked like it should be coming to life at some little bistro tucked away in a hidden corner on the Rue de something something across from an expensive little shop that only sold that odd color of green macaroons.
However, maybe something you might not know about me is the fact that I’m stubborn. And pigheaded. And intractable. So, I decided to give it another go. With glitter pens — because why the heck not? I’m not really a black and white girl. I’m pretty vivid and in living color and obviously just a tiny bit dramatic. So, I dug through our teen librarian’s mountain of art supplies until I found glitter pens that resembled peacock colors and I began to draw. I started out very controlled with three circles. My lines were precise. I had a plan. And then something happened…
I messed up. I was devastated.
Because that happens to me a lot. I make one tiny mistake and I throw myself immediately into the pit of despair, escalating the story to the absolute worst possible outcome that could ever happen. So, I began to draw lines over my mistake and I was surprised to find that with glitter pens lines over lines look kind of pretty. And then I began to fill in those lines with colors. What came out wasn’t incredibly stunning. It was done. It wasn’t ugly. It was finished and I was proud of it.
And it hit me — much like one of those anvils that use to be in Looney Tune cartoons which taught all of us millennials what anvils were since they no longer exist in the modern world — it hit me. This is the whole point. I’m supposed to keep going and not just start over every dadgum time I make a mistake. If I add more lines and push on forward and look at what will make the situation better and more beautiful, I can make it into something lovely as opposed to just tossing it. I think of these socks that Rachel Zink got me for my birthday. They say, “Screwing up is part of the program.”
Maybe the screw ups are what give our lives and creations more depth.
“These glitter pens and doodling session are giving me therapy right now,” I told Flannery, “Not everything in life has to be epic or a disaster. Sometimes you just keep creating until you get it right. Or at least until you’re covered in glitter.”