Feeling a Little Magenta Today
by Theresa Reichman
“Maybe we should develop a Crayola bomb as our next secret weapon. A happiness weapon. A beauty bomb. And every time a crisis developed, we would launch one. It would explode high in the air – explode softly – and send thousands, millions, of little parachutes into the air. Floating down to earth – boxes of Crayolas. And we wouldn’t go cheap, either – not little boxes of eight. Boxes of sixty-four, with the sharpener built right in. With silver and gold and copper, magenta and peach and lime, amber and umber and all the rest. And people would smile and get a little funny look on their faces and cover the world with imagination.” — Robert Fulghum
A few years ago when I was a budding new adult, I had a job at a local daycare. Daycare workers everywhere know the perks to such a job. There’s fun outings to places like the apple orchard and the local pool, a cupcake with your name on it for every birthday in your class, a chance to revisit your childhood in games of hide-and-seek and freeze tag, the imaginative and hilarious things that bloom from a child’s mouth, and of course that sweet respite called “nap time” where you can lay yourself down besides the wriggliest child in the lot of them and sing breath-y lullabies into his ear until you both find yourself with closed eyes and restful souls.
Among daycare workers (and parents, too, of course) there is also the knowledge that there’s no sound more grating than a toddler’s pertinacious whines, or that stringing a line of 15 two-year-olds down winding hall ways and sidewalks to any destination is not only daunting, but nearly impossible. Days spent with children and their unabated demands can be taxing.
I learned a valuable survival technique while working in that daycare. When daycare workers feel their Zen-like chi being thrown off balance, they know what to do. They pull out the crayons. No matter how many knees needed to be branded with a Band-Aid, or spilled juice cups cleaned up, or meltdowns managed, at the end of a day, if you sit down next to your most trying child with a crayon and a coloring book, you’ll feel your spirit take a proverbial sigh and you’ll realize how much you love this job.
Lately, Life has been quite a bit like that inconsolable whiney child, and as impossible as that string of wild bambinos. I’ve been wanting to tell Life to sit down, shut up, or else it’s going to get a big ole’ spanking! But much like “sit down, shut up, and a big ole’ spanking” doesn’t work in a daycare setting, it doesn’t really fly with Life, either. Oddly enough, you know what does still work? Coloring.
In between worrying about what to make for dinner, what’s in my bank account, penciling in appointments to take my daughter to the eye doctor and my car’s oil changed, marital woes, parental woes, losing loved ones, dealing with the politics at work, and trying to keep my house presentable all the while, sometimes we just need a break. So we have a couple glasses of wine at the end of the night, or go to the movies. We treat ourselves to a new pair of shoes, or perhaps take a drive to nowhere with the windows rolled down and the music turned up. All of these are excellent ways to tell Life to sit down and shut up for a while.
But there’s something about coloring. There’s something calming about trying to stay within the lines, something therapeutic about smooth strokes and steady hands. It’s all wonderfully simplistic when the hardest decision you need to make is whether the dog on your page should be colored with Antique Brass or Tumbleweed. And in those moments, the dishes in the sink don’t matter. The bills will wait. The kids will quiet. While you are engrossed in swirls of color and the task of filling white space, the static noise of life will hush itself.
I don’t exactly know what it is about coloring that’s so therapeutic. Maybe it’s the recognition that sometimes Life throws us a boring brown, or a solemn gray, but that only makes it all the sweeter when Life gives us a vibrant chartreuse or a scintillating shade of fuchsia. Better yet, maybe it’s realizing that no matter what color Life doles out, we can choose to set it down and pick up a new one. A happier one. A color that says, “Forget the circumstances, I feel like magenta, today.”