Monday, January 28, 2013

On Coloring Outside the Lines

I’ve started coloring again! 

All those books I collected 10 years ago…12 of them, with Celtic designs, knots and mazes (some as stained glass on translucent paper); Native American mandalas; op art and prismatic designs; Viking art…all of them I brought over The Big Pond 3 years ago to my new Dutch home. 

Along with my 100-felt-tipped-pen set.

However.  I do NOT like coloring outside the lines!  In fact, whenever I do it accidentally, it bothers the heck out of me.  And that’s putting it mildly. 

[It also bothers the heck out of me that the above scan has many color gaps/separations within the lines that are not in the original.  I'm such a darn perfectionist.  But this post isn't about that.  It's about what's outside the lines.] 

Which is to say I’ve never liked that metaphor:  coloring outside the lines.  After having it drummed into me since birth that I must stay INSIDE the lines, or else, why would I ever want to break the rules.  Especially since I’m a people pleaser!  It’s stuck deep within my psyche.  And it’s made me a very uncurious, safe person.

Somewhere along the line it starts seeping in:  Wear purple when you’re old.  Eat dessert first.  Dance as though no one’s looking.  Quit your job if you don’t like it.  Get more for less.  Ignore the curfew.  Skinny dip.  Sneak out.  Live like you’ll die tomorrow.  Stop conforming.  Rebel against the system.  Do something stupid.  Belly laugh.  Embarrass your kids.  Pick up pennies.  Bend the bullet.  Break the rules. 

Speaking of breaking the rules, we're supposed to do that as photographers…and writers…as though it’s expected of us, right?  Learn the rules first…all those stops and whistles…and then try to manipulate them into something different, better, more artistic, more…you.  Textures.  Poetry.  Anything that makes you more than ordinary.  Outstanding in your field.

Then sometimes it surprises us, when we give ourselves permission, to find we really like when that happens!  We trust ourselves to inch closer to the edge because change needs to happen.  Some of us even jump and just go for it.  We cross the line.

Many women before us made decisions that changed their world…or the world: 

Joan of Arc.  Sojourner Truth.   Jane Austen.  Simone de Beauvoir.  Catherine the Great.  Shirley Temple Black.  Cleopatra.  Pearl Buck.  Marie Curie.  Annie Leibovitz.  Amelia Earhart.  Anne Frank.  Indira Ghandi.  Helen Keller.  Frida Kahlo.  Billie Jean King.  Meryl Streep.  Mother Theresa.  Georgia O’Keeffe.  Rosa Parks.  Pocohontas.  Eleanor Roosevelt.  Margaret Thatcher....

They all colored outside the lines.

Lots of heroes to trust, if we can’t yet trust ourselves…while we find out what makes us tick, giving ourselves the leeway to follow beats of other drummers, without caring a hoot what anyone else thinks.
Is it risky?  Is it scary?  Is it against the status quo?  Yes, Yes, and Yes.  But the alternative is downright…BORING.  Marianne Williamson sums it up: 

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.  We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?  Actually, who are you not to be? 

One of my over-used felt-tipped pens gave up the ghost the other day.  It was one of my favorite colors that I milked dry over 10 years.  Maybe it’s a sign I’m supposed to start using new colors? 
And just maybe that's one way for me to start…coloring outside the lines?

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