A few months after my mom passed away, I found myself hitting a rough patch in the grieving process. I no longer felt relieved her suffering was over. My belief in an afterlife was intact, but I nevertheless felt overcome with profound feelings of missing my mom. My healthy mom. The mom who took such delight in listening to my girls play musical instruments over the phone. The mom who came often to visit, who welcomed us in her home, who was full of interesting ideas and wisdom and advice. The mom who taught many good things through her example, who smelled lovely and familiar, whose presence seemed such a constant in my life that suddenly, out of nowhere, I just couldn't accept any longer she was gone.
After the girls would leave for school in the morning, I wandered around the house like a ghost. Of course I was still busy with the usual demands of life, but these awful feelings of loss weighed down upon me until it seemed I could hardly see my way from one moment to the next.
Then one particularly bad day, a thought came to me. You should make something. It was such a small thought, nearly extinguished by the heaviness of my state of mind. Yet I noticed it almost right away. It was so different from everything else I was feeling. You should make something. The notion felt like a tiny, flickering light, the first one I had seen in ages.
And I suddenly remembered my paints, packed away in a closet at the time of my mom's cancer diagnosis over a tumultuous year ago. Could I find them? What would I draw? I didn't know, but something made me want to go upstairs and unearth those paints.
The paints were found. A spot was cleared. I sat down in front of a blank page feeling anxious yet hopeful. Although drawing has always been something of a constant companion in my life, it's not a medium I would describe myself as approaching with any degree of confidence, certainly nothing I would consciously turn to in a moment of dramatic self expression.
I ended up drawing this little girl reading on a tree stump, with a hedgehog at her side for good measure.
As I mixed the paints and watched that glorious yellow seep into the paper, it was as if the sun itself burst into my mind, warming me, making me feel for the first time things were going to be okay after all.
How odd, given nothing had really changed, that I felt so differently about my situation. Throughout the week I would run upstairs to gaze at my creation and feel warmed again by its radiant yellow glow.
One day I took my painting to a local frame shop.
When I came home later that afternoon, there was a message waiting for me on the machine.
It was the girl from the frame shop, speaking with a shaky voice.
She was so terribly sorry.
I was speechless. Me, the person who can't stand for anyone to feel badly, who practically apologized to the gentleman who rear-ended my car the other day, who would do almost anything to set someone at ease.
I couldn't say it was okay. I couldn't say a word.
Every feeling of darkness I had left behind in the past few days somehow gaped open, waiting to swallow me again.
It's just that the painting was more than a painting, right?
It took me about another week of drowning in the depths of despair before I finally got a little firm with myself. Surely the first picture was not a complete fluke. Surely I could draw something like it that would kindle those happy feelings again.
The problem was, I did feel it was a fluke. Drawing has always seemed elusive and unpredictable, as if the pencil has a caprice of its own. I wasn't drawing consistently enough to have any confidence in my abilities, so it was easy to conclude the first drawing was the result of some ethereal muse, never to distill itself through my fingers again.
Creativity isn't some rare elixir to be imbibed by an elite few. It isn't the provenance of a select circle of skinny people wearing black.
Non! (cue foot stamp)
It's for the masses. It's for you and me. All it requires is some good, old-fashioned work (instruction is optimal, too, I'm sure).
Trust me. Whatever you apply yourself to consistently, whatever creative endeavor interests you and you practice often will become your ability, your talent. Something you'll enjoy and possibly be pretty good at.
At any rate, so I ended up drawing the picture again. At the time it seemed incredible I was able to recreate the image and be possibly even happier with it than I was before. This realization opened so many new thoughts to me. One of those thoughts was Etsy, where to this day the little girl reading a book with a hedgehog remains the most popular print in the shop.
And another one of those thoughts was Tollipop.