I remember the exact moment I decided to leave Randy. I was at the kitchen sink washing dishes, and with a motion of a dancer's arm, I dropped the fork into the dish drainer. Then his words rang out behind me: "That's not the direction the fork should go in the dish drainer. It's upside-down."
Time stopped. Sound dissipated. My body was still, and soap bubbles melted away from my hands. There was no fight and no raised voices. There was only the crystal clarity of finding myself in a place I shouldn't be. This was the final straw, the period at the end of a long sentence. It was over.
Even though my head and heart knew I had to get out of this relationship, it took longer than I had expected. It required relentless emotional and physical energy to pack up my belongings and find a new place to live. And when I communicated my plans, things only got worse. Suddenly the rolling pin and blender I had purchased, he claimed ownership to. It became clear that these mini arguments were fodder for his resistance of my leaving. In the end, I decided to give him everything in the house just to avoid the bickering. Ironically, this took the air out of his balloon, and he chose nothing.
This ordeal happened years ago, but it left me in a state of disorientation for many years afterwards. Being a creative solitary person, I turned toward the one thing I knew that nurtured me: My art.
I had designed greeting cards for several years and was trying to get them into stores with a hit and miss success. Many of my cards were spiritual and introspective, but after my breakup, I realized all those feel-good thoughts didn't help me anymore. Life felt raw and harsh, like I'd been slapped in the face. My designs began to change into more stark and sobering images, and I wanted the right kind of text to match my feelings.
Since I felt at a loss for words, I posted a notice in a writer's community, saying I was seeking quotes to purchase about the crazy things women face in life and relationship, and submissions began trickling in. To my surprise many of the submissions were very funny, and I found myself laughing out loud when I read them. Statements like" The only difference between a frog and a prince are about five beers," showed me how humor could lighten the burden I was carrying.
It was clear to me all these writers knew exactly what it felt like to go through divorces and breakups, and when I starting publishing these humorous cards about failed relationships, I noticed very quickly that customers responded in the same way, and my business grew. Over the next decade I changed the direction of my business towards humor, and eventually my small cottage card business became a full time operation. I was able to take my pain and transform it into something creative.
Art was an important part of my journey to contentment, and when a friend recently told me how adult coloring books are therapeutic for people going through tough times, I thought these humorous women's quotes could be a perfect subject for designing a coloring book on divorce and breakups. I thought "why not bring humor to others, and let them color their own pictures?' I could provide a format for women to use their own creativity to find a calm and lighthearted way to deal with pain, and "get their groove back!"
What I learned through all of this, is that when we are faced with immense pain and conflict, we forget how to laugh. Laughter is not only good for your heart, but it is good for your body as well. You can feel your breath changing when hardships seem to exhale from your lungs.
Art became an important stepping-stone for my recovery from failure and disappointment, but not everyone can just create art on their own. I think coloring books are a format that can provide guidance, like a container of safety, that allows even someone who has never drawn, to have a nonjudgemental place to go.
By expressing the humorous side of hardships, and doing meditative creative tasks like coloring, we can begin to open a door to invite our light back in.