I once told a wise woman about some unhealthy patterns I’d fallen into. A week later she came back with this: instructions to draw straight lines, then curvy lines, then circles, then stars. “Just follow what your hand wants to do.” So I did. It was chaos.
Then she told me to look at the chaos and find a pattern. Staring back at a complete mess the patterns did not appear immediately. Colored pencil in hand, I began filling in spaces at a maddening pace. The sound of color to paper was deafening. Suddenly there were beautiful holes and gaps for me to fill and fill is what I did.
And this is what we do. Our minds create patterns where there are none so we can make sense of this messy world. Pretty soon if we aren’t careful the patterns take hold of us and suddenly purple has to touch pink, then blue has to touch green. And what does this look like after years of mindless coloring? Who created these patterns? Who adopted them? Where am I coloring someone else’s pattern? When am I shading out regions of myself to the paint by number scheme set by another? When did I decide that orange boxes must bump up against green circles?
Is that still working for me?
Is that still working for you?
Really what I was doing was creating a pattern where nothing existed.
Two days later I am crouched in the attic, emptying a drip pan that is a makeshift fix for a pretty serious problem. And I am so grateful for metaphors like this. Familiar sharp lines, not glorious curves, began developing in my mind. Resentment, anger, fear, hurt. Black and white drawings forming in my mind. The challenge is recognizing the lines as they’re being drawn. As I did with my hand, I follow what my brain wants to do. At 33, I see the me that is watching this brain no longer enjoys what this lousy servant loves to create. There is no color. The lines are sharp. There is no bending, curving. There is no allowance for something beautiful. As I carefully pour the water that’s collected from the pan into a cup, I ask this pattern to leave me. And it’s holding on. It does not want to go. I can see the pen stop, I can see the bold black line drawn. It cannot be erased. But it can be stopped. So I carry the full cup of water carefully down the ladder, careful not to trip or spill what I’ve collected. I walk over to the tub and pour it down the drain. And I forgive him for not following through.
I begin noticing the wavy lines.
Colors that show me how I stop loving others just as they are.
Colors outside of the rainbow that begin to teach me how to forgive myself.
For making mistakes.
For losing myself.
For my black and white years.
But mostly, for believing that I cannot be loved
just as I am.