Time for art mostly eluded me when my children were very young. One of the attempts I made to let get something, anything, artful done was what could be called doodling. After my children were tucked in and sleeping I might have a few wakeful minutes to myself to open this notebook.

I started without intention or plan. I just knew I that I wanted to make marks on paper. It didn’t matter what the marks were. I just had to begin. At first I just drew vertical lines. Then a pages of connected M’s, then squares, then circles. You get the idea? I could have just drawn page after page of straight lines. It didn’t matter. I just needed to get marks down on paper.

I was never able to finish a page in one night, not even close, which was fine, Finishing a page was not the point.

Eventually I started making other kinds of marks, mixing up lines with curves and dots.

Often I would be too tired at night to do anything at all. Sometimes my markers would dry up before I finished the page that I had begun with them. None of that mattered much. I was just happy to be making marks. This went on, and off, over a couple of years.

I just counted that here are forty marked pages in this notebook.

For some reason, one day, looking through the book, all I felt was despair. I was embarrassed that I was working on cheap paper, using cheap materials, feeling like I was creating something that was simply worthless. I closed the notebook, disgusted with myself, and didn’t open it again.

A few weeks ago (twenty five years later?) I took a workshop led by Marianne Rodrigruez Petit and Jen Monsen Leach. They called the workshop Reclaiming Your Doodles, #reclaimingdoodles. They talked about doodling as self-care. Both Marianne and Jen spoke about how the doodling that they’ve done has helped them through stressful times. I don’t know if they had voices in their heads, like I did, judging them harshly, calling the work trivial, but if they did, they were able to put that aside in a way that I was not able to do.

Recently someone in a class I’ve been teaching wondered aloud if this passion she was following for making things was worthwhile to do. Already middle-aged, she couldn’t see where it was going, and questioned the time and energy she was putting into something that she couldn’t see a way forward with.

I know what she is talking about. I could hear the voices of reason that people have inclined to grace me with throughout my life, questioning me on the decisions I was making, telling me what I needed to be doing, asking me why I was doing what I was doing in a way that intended to judge and discourage me. I heard those voices so much that they began to repeat by themselves inside of my head.

Here’s what I know for sure: the interests I pursued, and there have been many of them, have made my life richer, more memorable, more joyful. I’ve not been reckless when I have explored unconventional paths (well, maybe sometimes a little reckless: I am grateful for good luck), but I’ve never regretted the interests I’ve pursued.

The only regrets I have are when I’ve stopped.

2 thoughts on “Regrets

  1. Thank you. I don’t doodle. I dabble. Even as I write those words, there are voices in my head telling me how ridiculous those two words sound. And asking, “How does this wrinkled paper…lumpy skein of yarn…folder full of personal essays…(insert creative “waste of time” here) make the world a better place?”

    Your post here reminds me how much joy I get whenever I see someone I love in the act of enjoying a gift I’ve given them. I have to remind myself to believe that whenever I dabble, there’s some cosmic Parent who is delighted to see me enjoying this gift of creativity that’s just pat of who I am.

    Liked by 1 person

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