Banishing the Shame of Over Age Colouring
A few weeks ago, I was given the task by Miss Pollyanna to review the latest book from Hay House. After reviewing The Cancer Survivors Club and having read the reviews of countless positive thinking books, I was eager to see what it was that would fall in my lap this time.
“This book is going to help your Anxiety issues,” she said. “It will relax you,” she promised.
“It’s a colouring book!” – Okay. That I was not expecting!
Now I won’t deny that part of my very secret personality was desperately screaming out yippee! Not very many people know about my secret obsession, but given my OCD tendencies and my Anxiety issues, it should not shock or surprise many that I find the covert act of colouring incredibly relaxing. (Especially the covert side of it. Do you have any idea how satisfying it can be to colour in one of your kids’ pages totally in secret for them to find it the next day and say ‘wow, look mum the fairies have been!’?).
It does however have to be when the kids are nowhere to be seen. Watching them scribble outside the lines in a haphazard manner sets my teeth on edge. The same way baking with them often does. “No sweetie, please don’t mix it like that, you have to do it like this.” God, even thinking about it drives me mad.
It’s a part of my personality that I hate. A part of me I wish I could change. My need to control everything. To do everything ‘right’. To adhere to structure and rules. But I was brought up that way. Living as a military kid does not allow you much wriggle room. Colouring can be just as stressful as travelling for me – unless I am left alone to just get on with it.
So when I finally got my hands on my latest ‘gift‘ to review for the website, I was excited but also nervous. My husband would see this. What on earth was I going to say to him?
Sure enough when he did, his first reaction was, “that’s an awfully complicated colouring book for the kids”. As soon as I explained to him that it was in fact for me, I saw a smile creep across his face. “Ah, thats lovely. That will really relax you.”
I stood stock still and stunned. He wasn’t judging me!
The fact is, he knows me. He knows that I find joy in the little things. It had taken me quite some years to admit to my husband that I had a secret love affair with jigsaw puzzles. But once the cat was out of the bag, not only did I feel better but I was amazed to find a beautiful jigsaw under the Christmas tree the very next year.
You see, the thing is – when you suffer from Anxiety, you find relief in the smallest of mundane tasks. Anything that allows you to focus on something so intensely that you forget the worries and stresses that surround you. Working as a writer is ideal for someone with an over-active and anxious mind. You can pour out your feelings, troubles, concerns and dreams onto the page. It’s a release. The same can be said for colouring!
I truly enjoyed ‘reviewing’ The Affirmations Colouring Book for the site, but the one thing that struck me the most during the whole process was what I actually learnt from the initial reaction I had to Miss Pollyanna and my husband.
Why was I so embarrassed? Why could I not allow myself to just say, “Oh hell yeah, I love colouring, send it on over?”
Why? Because I was ashamed. Because colouring is for kids, isn’t it? Jigsaws, Lego, Playdoh – they are all meant for children, aren’t they? But why?
When we are young we are seated at small tables in brightly lit classrooms surrounded by inspiration and our imaginations are stoked and poked and prodded at.
We are given pens and pencils and told to write, draw or colour whatever is in our minds.
We are encouraged to be as creative as possible, shown how to express ourselves; but more than that, these imaginative tasks are used to help calm us as children. They are used as tools to focus our minds. To hone our skills. To tap into a part of our brain that lets us quiet down all the external noise and focus on minute detail and specific tasks.
What changed? Do we not still need to find a way to be mindful? Do we each not crave a task that will allow us to quiet all the voices in our heads screaming out the to-do lists and responsibilities?
I wonder how different the world would be if we carried on the tasks from childhood into adulthood?
Picture this. It’s a Friday morning in the office. A hundred suits are walking around with grey tired faces, brains already checked out and thinking of the weekend or staring at the clock hoping their mind’s eye will trick the hands of the clock to zip round quicker. How low is moral? How much work is actually done in these 9-5 places?
Is anyone actually labouring over those spreadsheets that are clogging up the in-tray, or replying to the hundreds of emails?
Be honest – nobody is working, are they?
So now tell me, what would your reaction be if on a Friday morning, your boss sent round sheets of paper with intricate designs in black and white and allowed you access to the hundreds of colours of the rainbow that colouring pencils now offer?
You may well laugh, chortle and sniff at the idea – but imagine how relaxed would you be if you spent an hour of your day de-cluttering your mind, flooding all your creativity onto a blank page. Your mind would be more focused on the task at hand if you were given just an hour to focus on something else, allowing yourself the peace and quiet to work out and uncoil the mess of tangled wires that have complicated your week.
The fact of the matter is, as we grow older, we lose our innocence. We look at the world through cynical eyes. We no longer believe in fairies, or Santa or the tooth fairy. We gain responsibilities, as well as fear and stress. And we lose ourselves.
Simple tasks that we carried out as children did not only serve to open up our imagination, they also allowed us to live in the here and now.
I think more than ever that we need to stop as adults – and maybe, just maybe adult colouring books are one way in which we can do so. Allow our brains to rest, to breath. But most of all, to remember what it was like to be a child, to live with all that innocence and remember what it was like to spend half an hour with no fear, responsibilities, or stress.
Imagine how much more fun your office would look on a Friday if everyone started the day playing with Playdoh, painting, colouring or doing a jigsaw. Now turn to that person in the queue at the book store that you would laugh at for buying that colouring book and ask yourself; ‘Would I be happier if I spent just half an hour remembering what it was like to be a kid again?’.
I’m not ashamed anymore. I have a shelf full of adult colouring books and my own basket of pens and pencils and a smile on my face.
When I am stressed – I have an outlet to turn to. What is your outlet? Whatever it is… don’t be ashamed of it. At least you have one.