Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Adults need coloring...

Or perhaps, seeing as it's a Toronto Star story I'm linking, I should say Adults need colouring

I had seen this referenced a couple places: there are some elaborate coloring books out there that are flying off the shelves - for grown-ups.

(I expect to see SOMEONE snark on this. Because they think it's "childish." I'm not going to, for several reasons I'll mention below. I actually think it's probably a good thing - good for people's mental health to unplug and do something quiet and simple

ETA: Yup, first snarky "You all need to grow up" comment on the website. Sigh. Coloring isn't hurting ANYONE, why do people have to make fun of it?).

I think the reason people are going for this are similar to some of the reasons why I quilt and knit. I need an outlet that is creative, that allows me to just be quiet and not have to use my words and not do something I'm going to be judged on.

Even though I put my knits and quilts up here, I would never be comfortable entering them in a competition where there'd be judging. I get judged enough on a regular basis - on teaching evals, on manuscripts submitted somewhere, on hearing critiques of how I do different things, like help choose scholarships. And while constructive criticism is good and makes a person get better (hence my comments along the lines of "Thanks to the anonymous reviewers whose comments improved the manuscript"), it also can sting. And more and more, some people don't learn how to deliver criticism constructively. (Protip: the word "sucks" is too general to be very useful.)

But it's nice in life to have something you do just for you. Where you are the only person who has to look at it and decide if it's good or bad.

And also, with the knitting and quilting - for me, color is a big part of it. There are certain colors I am drawn to - greens, especially light yellow-greens. Pinks. Turquoise. Lavender. Buttery yellows. Working with "happy" fabrics (whether it's a super-cute novelty pattern, or pretty florals, or even a nice geometric in a soothing color) makes me feel better when I'm sad. Part of it is the color. Part of it is that I'm doing something that, if I'm not quite willing to call myself an 'expert' at, I'm still pretty darn good at. Part of it is just the joy of making something, of thinking ahead to the day when it's done and I can use it (or give it, if it's a gift). Part of it is that it's Not-Work. Part of it is that no one is yammering at me about textbook adoptions or extra credit or Visioning or any of the thousand things that constitute the ducks I feel like my life is being pecked to death by some times.

I do think those kinds of things are important for a person's mental health. A clinical psychologist is quoted in the article I linked to:

“It brings them back, psychologically, to a simpler, slower time. People have to remember with all the technology, our brains weren’t wired for this. So anything that brings us back to our roots is soothing.”

Yeah, I think that's true. The onslaught of You Can Do More Now! is exhausting some times. I tell students that as technology progresses, more and more is expected of us in terms of data analysis and scope of the experimentation we do - no longer can you count on getting a publication by simply going out to a couple forested areas in the fall and identifying and quantifying the different types of fungi growing on dead trees, for example. Oh, in some cases that work might still be *important* but it's seen as less so because it's low tech, and so people doing that kind of research aim for things like small journals of Native Plant societies (I think fungi still qualify as honorary plants for that purpose) or things like that.

And there's gotta be a limit. We all have the same 24 hours in a day, and while some of us apparently need more sleep than others to be able to function, still - we all have the same limitations on our time and there has to be a point where we can't do any more, and I think we're maybe close to that. And the growth of this (and the somewhat more-eccentric Day Care for Adults that has sprung up in, of course, Brooklyn) might suggest a lot of people are coming close to burnout on the modern world.

I think also it brings us back to a time when we felt less judged by the world. (or maybe that's just me - I like things that remind me of my childhood - probably why I make so many stuffed toys - because it reminds me of a time before my Inner Critic came to dominate the roundtable that exists in my head**. And yeah, I do feel judged by the world on a pretty regular basis.)

The same psychologist notes that it's something that puts you "in the moment" - it makes you stop thinking so many steps ahead. That's also true of (especially) quilting for me; I focus more on what I'm doing and less on "What do I need to get done at work in the next week and was that student saying they didn't like their grade and were going to the advisor an empty threat or for real and what did my colleague mean by that comment he made the other day and what's going to become of us in this lawsuit and and and...." 

I also think of an offhand comment Jane and Micheal Stern made in "Square Meals" - in the Nursery Foods chapter (things like noodle kugel and macaroni and cheese and pudding....the kind of things a person growing up midcentury might have eaten). They said something to the effect of "the more emotionally evolved a person is, the more they need nursery food as an adult." And I would modify that to, the more a person has to think about the needs or wants of others, probably the more they need time to unplug and do something just for themselves. A lot of days I find I feel like I've given up little bits of myself - mustered up encouragement and "cheerleading" of another person when I felt I needed some myself, or listened to someone I know doesn't often get listened to, even though I have lots of stuff to do myself, or considered deeply the opinion of someone else who probably didn't greatly deserve that deep consideration*

(*One of my flaws is I tend to give credence to the opinions of others when I probably shouldn't. So if someone says to me, "your hairstyle is ugly and you dress funny" I spend hours looking at my hair in the mirror and trying to figure out how to improve it, and I make a mental note to dial back a little on the little cotton wash dresses for a while.)

I probably won't be buying the coloring books referenced - I have enough hobbies and little enough time already - but I can see how, for someone who can't/won't/doesn't knit, quilt, embroider or do some of the other things that I do, they could be a similar outlet and a similar source of relaxation.

(** Now I'm gonna have to think about my inner mental Algonquin Roundtable. Right now, I mean, as an adult, my Inner Critic is dominating it, somewhere between being a total boor and being that snarky woman who always has something unpleasant to say. But there's also a sense of whimsy in there, but she's often distracted by things. And there's Duty, who crosses her arms and rolls her eyes on a regular basis....

Yeah, I think I'm gonna have see that movie Inside Out (that's the trailer) when it comes out, because that kind of thing is sort of how I imagine my brain as working.

Oh, and there are also a couple of harried librarian-types who are always running around and digging in the messy file cabinets that constitute my memory, and grumbling about how "she saves EVERYTHING. She really needs to learn how to weed.")


purlewe said...

recently a friend of mine who took in his 90+ mother, and he was still doing one thing a week outside the house without her.. but when I asked him how his bowling league was this year.. he told me he had given it up to be home with her more. And that instead he was coloring for his creative outlet. So I sent him a bunch of google searches for the kind of coloring pages he enjoys (abstract stuff, no representation) and found a whole pile of really neat ones on deviant art. So if you ever do want to color and just print them out you'd be surprised what you find on google image search.
creating as a form of meditation is actually a good thing. A person at a local Friends church here started a quarterly Makers and Quakers where we sit in silence and work on projects for 5 hrs. (with a lunch break) It is a really restorative thing.
Also.. I had NO IDEA about that movie and now I need to see it. Looking forward to the movies this summer for sure (altho with me it will be when the dvd comes out on netflix.)

Nicole said...

I picked up a coloring book about a month ago to have something to do on plane flights. Haven't had one to try it out on yet. But I think I"m reaching saturation point with using electronica for enjoyment. Too much using it for work and the tea festival over the last several months. Need something unplugged to unwind with.

And your Inner Algonquin round table made me think of a song. I put it up over at my place since I couldn't find anywhere to link to it online. :)

Lynn said...

Sometimes I miss coloring. One of the last coloring books I had when I was a kid had fairly detailed pictures of birds. I never finished coloring all the pictures. I guess the book got lost during a move, or maybe I just got bored with it, decided it was "kid stuff" and threw it out myself, or something but now I wish I had it back.