Gratitude and Creativity: Meditative Line Drawing

It’s not a heart, but in the spirit of the day it is red. ❤️

If you’re feeling lonely today or healing a broken heart, maybe tracing the lines in this line drawing can distract you from that heaviness for a moment.

Wait. Before you, literally, give me the finger and move on to another site: I’m not being glib. These lines do have a deeper meaning and I hope they will help others as they have helped me.

Drawing like this, without thinking or planning, is part of the creative practice I’ve been developing for myself since shortly after becoming ill. I use it to move my focus away from my chronic pain when it becomes too intense or it prevents me from sleeping. It doesn’t stop the pain. However, similar to meditation where focussing on the breath can ease anxiety, reduce stress, or help to relax our bodies so sleep comes more easily, meditative line drawing can help loosen the tension felt in the body – even for a short while.

Meditative line drawing (and doodling) shift my energy, so not every thought and emotion I have is directed toward my pain. This aspect of my creative practice has become one of the more frequently used methods for me to mentally cope with this illness; especially because I don’t always feel well enough to do significant amounts of creative activity like detailed drawing, painting or even writing, which all require a larger investment of time and energy.

Drawing lines is an activity that uses very little energy and causes even less stress or anxiety because it doesn’t have to be planned and it can be done anywhere at any time. All that’s needed is a pen or pencil and paper. Although, truth be told, I now own enough art supplies to open a store. Still, the simplicity of this practice when weighed against the benefits makes me grateful I discovered meditative drawing and doodling, within the larger concept of keeping an art journal when I did. Being creative gives me something other than pain to think about and manage.

Try drawing lines of your own, without thinking about where your pen or pencil will go for a few minutes. You might be surprised that doing this unclutters your mind – even if it’s just a bit to begin with – and it could be the start of your own creative practice too.



Falling Away

I’ve had a terrible time in recent weeks: extremely erratic sleep, high pain levels, low mood, swollen legs and feet, and tears. As terrible as it’s been, I’m always conscious, and working at accepting, that when one has to save their energy to cope with intense pain every day, other things in life sometimes need to fall away.

I’ll use a recent situation to illustrate my point: The sink in my bathroom was replaced. What started out as a small leak became a major undertaking when the exact location of the leak couldn’t be isolated. I noticed the leak months ago. It caused a constant slow drip of water into the cabinet under the bathroom sink. I had to remove all the toiletries and other bits and pieces stored in the cabinet because the drip became strong enough to splatter and get things wet. To prevent water damage I also placed a small container on the spot where I saw the drip landing and pooling on the bottom of the cabinet.

Shortly after I placed the first call to the resident maintenance manager, he came to inspect the leak. After his inspection, he assured me that it was a minor issue he could probably resolve within an hour. He returned the next day with all his plumbing gear and a replacement part for something on the sink’s main pipe. Can you tell I know nothing about plumbing from that statement?

As promised, within an hour he stood up from under the sink and declared the leak fixed. Unfortunately, the next day when I opened the cabinet doors and knelt on the floor in front of the empty cabinet ready to replace the shelf paper and refill it with my things I noticed that an area of the shelf was wet. I was not happy about it.

I placed another call to the maintenance manager. He found it unbelievable that his work had not resulted in a permanent fix of the leak. He returned to my home and fiddled under the sink a few minutes longer than he had the first time. This time he said the issue was not a pipe at all. It was the sink itself, which due to age and erosion had sprung a leak on its bottom. This time, to complete the repair, the sink had to go and a new one installed in its place. When this would happen or how long it would take was up in the air. The maintenance manager first had to check his inventory to see if he had a spare sink that would fit then schedule a time to do the work.

As I said before, that was months ago. While I waited, I moved all the things that once filled the cabinet under my bathroom sink to the hallway outside my bathroom. All those things sat in uneven rows I had to walk past many times every day for months: bottles of shampoo and conditioner, jars of hair gel, bottles of lotions, soaps, hair clips, makeup, and more. I passed it all in the hallway every day and tried to pretend it wasn’t there driving the neat freak inside me crazy. I didn’t fuss or make a complaint about the length of time it was taking to fix what started out as a small leak. Instead, I waited patiently for the maintenance manager to buy a new sink and complete the repair.

This story about the repair and eventual replacement of my sink is akin to what my life has become. Since my misdiagnosis nearly five years ago, I’ve had to allow many things to fall away and become less rigid about who I am and what I find acceptable. I no longer fuss or complain about my circumstances, nor do I push my doctors to do something to make me better NOW; as I did with the doctors at the beginning of all of this. Doctors whom I did not trust, with good reason, since I soon learned they misdiagnosed my illness. Much like waiting for the arrival of a new sink, there isn’t much I can do to hurry things – namely the changes in my health that I desire. Even though treatments continue to be unsuccessful, I believe my current doctors are looking for answers and doing everything they can for me.

I now bear the inconvenience of delayed deliveries, the disappointment of canceled plans, and last-minute rescheduled appointments or treatments as if they were displaced bottles of shampoo and lotions because I understand that sometimes $h!t just happens and I have to roll with it. Still, the most significant thing that has fallen away is any unreal expectation(s) that the first attempt with newly prescribed medication(s) or treatment(s) may instantly cure and make all that ails me better because sometimes the fall from the height of unrealistic expectations hurts more than the pain itself.

Besides, the intensity and wide arc of the moods and emotions (anxiety, anger, agitation, sadness, and more…) don’t serve me well either. In fact, they worsen my pain. Therefore, allowing them and so many other things to fall away is necessary to cope better with my illness. Furthermore, I’m finding that the more I relax about things, the less likely I am to have a pain flare up, which is a small comfort when a body always has pain.


Blue Gingham Mood

All things considered, today wasn’t such a bad day. I had an appointment with my least favourite doctor this morning. Of all the doctors involved with managing my health, this doctor is probably the one I least look forward to seeing. My feelings stem from her early unsupportive attitudes about my pain and the added speculation about whether it was all in my head, which she didn’t put aside until she received the detailed report from the Pain Clinic almost a year later. Because of this I avoid visits with her as much as I can until I can’t.

After today’s appointment, I treated myself to a great cheeseburger topped with Swiss cheese, tomatoes, ketchup, mustard, and the thinnest slice of a red onion. Instead of plain French fries, I had a side of poutine, which is fries all dressed up with gravy and melted cheese, and it’s about as Canadian as food can get. Also, for the first time in what feels like forever, I drank a root beer soda. The taste of each sip brought back some great memories. Root beer was a favourite drink when I was a child and there are some things you should never let go of just because you grow up.

However, I was in a good mood before those delicious flavours awakened my taste buds and my memories. I was in a good mood for the simple reason that I was wearing a new shirt that I bought recently because it’s the best shade of blue gingham I’ve ever seen. I know… I’m a total geek; and I’m okay with that because I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with finding happiness in small things. There’s also nothing wrong with dressing to look better than you feel.