Last weekend, my friend invited me to a “zentangle circle” that she was organizing, at a bookstore, plus, it would coincide with this other thing, which would be cool. I agreed without requesting the specifics…
What is Zentangle?
Where is “some bookstore”?
What other thing?
I did, however, ask if there would be food. (Go figure)
It turns out Zentangle involves drawing.
“Some bookstore”, just happens to be downtown.
The “other thing” was a HUGE street event with about seven and a half million people attending (I live in a BIG city… I also make up numbers).
Wanna guess how much I freaked out???
I am not artistic. I suck at drawing. I have horrible fine motor skills. I can’t draw tiny lines. I can’t draw straight lines. I can’t think of designs in my head. When I do think of things I’d like to create, the brain-body connection is non-existent and I only end up frustrated.
I hate driving. I hate driving downtown… In any town, not just my own. I lived in the upper keys for a while after high school. Now, listen, I know what you’re thinking, just get out of Miami then Duval Crawl not so much, folks!!! It’s still THREE HOURS from the upper keys to the Southernmost Point. Regardless, when people came to visit, the trek was inevitable. I hate busy city driving so much that I would park on the island before Key West and force my guests to walk across the last bridge (not the 7 mile one, don’t worry). I hate parking. I hate driving around looking for parking. I hate 1 way streets. I hate the crazy flip the direction of the roads that our city does. I hate the smell of coffee. I can’t parallel park. I am scared of huge crowds. I’m scared of losing my car. I can’t follow conversations when there is lots of background noise or distracting visual stimulation.
But I really love this friend– I am not going to explain. The only relevant point is that the whole thing originated from HER specifically.
So I decided to go anyway.
I drove there!
I figured out how to get to the meeting place!
I found her!
I met her friends!
We met a dude in a van.
I shook his hand!
Then it was Zentangle time. She showed me where to sit at the table- in a corner, on the end, and right next to her. It was perfect and “safe” for me. I was still nervous about drawing though. It took e v e r y t h i n g I had not to resort to finger sucking as a coping mechanism. Yeah, I totally do that when I’m nervous.
She handed me my square, pointed out the supplies on the table, and left to find a noodle truck. I started reading through some of the books she’d brought about zentangle. I considered a few if the step-by-step lessons, then decided against using one, because it’d create an expectation and I knew I’d end up disappointed.
Instead, I thought about the words in the book, the purpose of the art. I picked out some stickers, and just started tracing them. I used a ruler at first, but it was cumbersome and made me feel kind of pressured and anxious. So I abandoned it and just drew.
Me! Perfectionist, anorexic, obsessive…
I drew lines that were crooked in a strange place, surrounded by strange people, music, and FOOD!
Slowly, the most incredible thing started to happen… The world sort of fell away. I left texts unanswered. I left expectations. I left thoughts. I my mind and body quieted in a way unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before.
Eventually, my friend returned, with her box of truck noodles. She has the most amazing magnetic personality, and the world is naturally drawn to her. As I colored, I listened to her explain (repeatedly) what we were doing to people who passed by.
“This is called Zentangle. It’s only for women, who are survivors.” She’d explain, then pause and wait for the blank.
“Survivor?” Each person would inevitably ask “like cancer?”
“Like anything.” She’d answer with a warmth that said I can sense your struggles and I support you without judgement and they’d tell her. Every single person she spoke to answered immediately.
I met so many strong, brave, beautiful women tonight. I was completely blown away by the honesty and courage each new friend brought to our little Zen table.
“Here’s the deal,” my friend would continue after hearing each woman’s survival story “you make one and on the back you dedicate it, to surviving.”
I listened. And I colored.
And I cried.
These women, were so brave. Without hesitation, one after another, they picked up pens and laid down their secrets out on our table.
No one asked me. But I thought…
How could I possibly answer that question here? I am sitting here coloring with people who have survived rape, cancer, violence, abuse, terror (ok, she wasn’t actually at the table but she was the inspiration). I’m surviving anorexia. I’m proud of that. I’ve worked hard. I am still working hard. I struggle daily. I fight myself, for myself every single day. I don’t question the validity of my own survivor-ness.
But I cried.
I’ve never said it out loud. I was afraid someone would ask and I’d finally have to.
I was afraid of the judgment- because people don’t understand. Eating disorders are only for overly vain, spoiled pre-teens, right?
I cried for my dad, my Jordan, Jarrett and John. I have survived of so much loss.
I cried for my ears, and my spine. I survived a devastating and life altering boat crash.
And drew lines.
It was the most powerful, amazing, moving night. And we get to do it again in two weeks!!!!
Tonight was perfect.