I just read this quote by Anthony Hopkins: “We are dying from overthinking. We are slowly killing ourselves by thinking about everything. Thinking. Thinking. Thinking. You can never trust the human mind. It’s a death trap.” I’ve thought too much about this topic. It’s time to flush it from my mind.
Adult coloring books.
I’ve tried so hard to understand their allure. I don’t know what words to first put on the page.
A page from a Harry Potter coloring book came home in Liam’s backpack this week. Scholastics Reading Club is promoting the book. The main image on the page is of Harry’s Snowy Owl Hedwig, flying with his wings wide, the tips reaching edge to edge on the paper. In the background are leaves on skinny branches, flowers on pencil-thin stems, and birds tucked into the leaves. Each of these objects is no bigger than the tip of my little finger, the smallest the tip of a pencil. I see 40,000 objects to color. With the help of a microscope.
No. In fact, I see this as a depiction of my brain trying to manage 50,000 inputs and outputs. Out of control and getting all entwined. If I attempted to color this page, I would need a blank sheet of paper next to me where I could write down what I thought of as I colored each leaf. The busyness would spark a massive to-do list:
Collect toilet tube rolls. Stuff lint from trap in dryer into toilet tube rolls. Schedule camping trip summer so Liam can use stuffed toilet tube rolls as kindling. Un-stuff toilet tube rolls for Liam’s recycled robot project at school. Collect paper towel rolls. Stuff lint from dryer into paper towel rolls. Un-stuff paper towel tubes rolls for Will’s Boy Scout model rocket. Put Ziploc bag in laundry room to collect lint.
And that’s just eight little leaves and flowers on the tiniest dryer lint branch.
Psychologists, therapists, and whoever else studies the human brain and human behavior have declared that coloring in these intricate adult coloring books reduces stress and anxiety. Not for me. I’ve flipped the page over so as not to have to look at those leaves. And the Snowy Owl. That is already white. The biggest image on the page doesn’t need to be colored!
I am intrigued by the hobby: I have quietly colored for years. Not often, maybe once every three months. And now, this new mania lends legitimacy to my guilty pleasure.
I’ve fanned pages of many adult coloring books but not found one that I like. Mom gave all of us girls one for Christmas. The images are slightly bigger than the norm, and I have colored a couple pages in it using soft water color pencils. This page took a few sittings.
I noticed when I use colored pencils, a piece of the coloring experience is missing: the childhood smell and smoothness of Crayola crayons. Like opening a can of Play-Doh, I plunge my nose into the box when I flip back the lid. Deep inhaling is part of the therapy.
Other than my tools of choice, the main difference between my passion and this fad is in the object to be colored. For me and my neighbor, who has confessed the same, we like big, simple pictures. Those where we take long sweeping strokes and gradually fill in between the lines. Coloring books with these images are hard to find. There are many “giant coloring books” on the market for kids, but few have giant pictures. I flip through coloring books whenever I walk through children’s book sections at stores. A few months ago, I came across a 224-page book that has perfect images -- no Disney characters and no Super Heroes. Just pages and pages of simple, innocent black outlines.
And with this frog, my choices were no more complicated than the number of greens in a box of 96 Crayola crayons. I wouldn’t want any more choices than this.
The freedom to sweep back and forth in the big white spaces is incredibly relaxing. I can stick close to reality with four shades of green or let my imagination wander and pick the colors willy-nilly.
Plus, I can finish a page in less than five minutes. I can finish a project in less than five minutes and have something to show for it!
It takes nearly five minutes to pick the lint out of five paper towel tubes.
Happy Hump Day.