Zentangle Tile #1: My Body Has Limits

Some months ago, I discovered Zentangle. I started teaching myself individual tangles, which is the name of the patterns created when you draw various lines together. I’ve been adding tangles to the drawings I create in my art/gratitude journal, but for some reason, I kept holding back on actually making a Zentangle tile – that’s drawing tangles on a 3 1/2-inch x 3 1/2-inch square card of paper. I’m not sure why I’ve held back because I bought a few packages of tiles months ago before my surgery. My intention was to make a tile each day as part of my daily meditation or focused mindfulness time – I don’t even know if I should label the time I spend trying to have some quiet or not focus on my pain. The penny just dropped as I read back those last two lines. It seems that every time I try to make something a structured activity I block myself from doing it.

Nonetheless, last week when I went to the hospital for my cousin’s labour, I packed a few distractions in my bag – my art/gratitude journal, Zentangle notebook, pens, coloured markers, and tiles – just in case things took longer than expected. To my surprise, I started a tile – my very first tile. For the string – you’re supposed to draw random lines with a pencil within the border of the tile to make sections so you don’t have to think about where you’re going to add the tangles – I drew the letter B in honour of the baby that was on his way into the world. It took a bit of time for me to flip through my Zentangle notebook to decide which tangle pattern of the many I’ve learned so far to start with, but I settled on one that has become a favourite: flying geese. I had a few minutes to work on filling in the tile, but I had to put it aside when my cousin started having stronger contractions.

I finally got back to the tile today. I needed to focus on something calming because I’ve been having a tough time since I went to the hospital last week to support my cousin during her labour. My body is making it clear to me that I have limits. I knew I overdid it, when walking out of the hospital to find a taxi after the baby’s birth, the soles of my feet and my ankles were sore. Since last Wednesday, my pain has been more intense than my normal levels and my legs, ankles, and feet swelled. The swelling is now declining, but I’m still having some difficulty walking because of the pain.

Today, for about an hour as I finished the tile, my intention to make the lines of the tangles I chose for the tile smooth and filling in spaces with black ink distracted me from my pain. Then I chose which direction was the right side up and focused on adding some shading to each tangle with a pencil. I’m pleased with what I created. I’m also pleased that I found another way to cope with my pain that relies solely on what I can create, even at times when my pain levels are so high.


Eagles – Take It To The Limit


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