I feel like a kid showing mom her artwork. Nope, a 50-odd year-old woman showing her mindful doodling! Here is the thing. Sometimes, when I am triggered, overwhelmed or have cognitive fog, I have a hard time with words. It is super hard to write let alone communicate. Like many, I get irritated when I cannot communicate. The act of writing when I am like this is brutal and I learned one-month into my daily journaling activity that having a creative thing to do meant that I kept up with the “daily” part of the bargain if I could not communicate with words.
As I said before, my daughter and I used to try to do these 30-day challenges together. One of us would usually stop and then both of us would. While learning how to try to help with my cognitive functioning issues and to help find ways to manage my cPTSD, I stumbled upon journalling and sketchbook/creative activities/doodling as a super helpful tool. Ok. What is mindful doodling?
A daily sketchbook is just like keeping a daily journal. It is for you, it is about exploring whatever comes to mind, it is not intended to be perfect, and it is not necessarily intended to show anyone. Some people create for 20-30 minutes and then write for 20-30 minutes. Some just draw. It is super unique to you and how you want to express yourself.
A few things seem to be pretty consistent.
- Use whatever materials that you have to start. You don’t have to go out and buy anything fancy.
- Ink is a great way to start. I started to include watercolour later, but coloured pencil, charcoal, pencils, etc are fine too. With ink, it allows you to keep going and not put a lot of thought into erasing or fixing what you did. Fixing isn’t the point, doing is.
- When I did not know what to do, I would make shapes (boxes or circles above) and start with lines. For variation, use different directions or spacing. You can also look at Pinterest or search “sketch patterns” and you can always print a couple samples for inspiration.
- I put a timer on for 20-minutes. This allows me to focus on what I am doing and not the time.
- It can be brutal to keep up with the “daily” part of this in the beginning. Be forgiving. It takes me about 6-8 days to fall into the routine and start to be ok with making “mistakes” and just going for it. Also be forgiving about not doing it for a day. Just start it again the next day.
- If you have not been doing art for a long time, this doodling brings you back to the fundamentals you did in middle school art and you will appreciate those lessons. With time, you will get more pen control, remember how to use supplies and media again and will improve with time. There are also loads of social media accounts devoted to showing you how to do things. Sometimes watching them is relaxing. Ha!
- I find that I am more likely to do this daily if I do it first thing in the morning with my first cup of tea. Later in the day, you may have plans, be tired, distracted, or just have this task weighing on your mind and it no-longer seems fun. I would half-ass it and then be annoyed with what I did or be super disappointed with myself when I didn’t do it. Doing it first thing makes it fun.
- Writing is optional. I prefer to keep that in another journal. Most of that is about my health journey, but you can do this however you want.
- Keep it loose. Loose watercolour, abstract designs and shapes, ink drawing of something in front of you, a cartoon that talks about what is frustrating, ink drawings of all of the zoonosis that can kill or maim humans… whatever, but do NOT fret about details or being perfect. It may inspire a piece of art later, but this is about exploring whatever is in your mind at the moment.
I hope this helps someone. Honestly, those straight lines were a mad challenge in the beginning of this journey. I would literally have a headache, blurred vision or get nauseous. As I reached new benchmarks in my healing, I found that it was easier, and I also have better pen control. Be careful with yourself, go slow, and breathe while you do this!
I am going to share something that is probably more narrative non-fiction , but here is my first attempt at writing a kinda chapter…
Maura was about to turn 40-years old. She was wearing jeans, sneakers, a t-shirt, hoodie and a sweater. You wear layers at this time of year she reminded herself. She was tired, working 7-days a week does that to you. She was walking up to the house with a basket of eggs in one hand and a pail of goat milk to prepare for tonight’s feeding in the other. She placed them on the counter and started to prep lunch, putting it in a red casserole dish her mother-in law bought for her. Setting it in the oven, she quickly cleaned up and headed back out to the barn to finish feeding calves.
She was always anxious walking into the barn. The hum of the vacuum pump meant he was still milking the last few cows. She was tall and had to duck to make it under the stainless-steel pipeline that was right inside the door. She remembered this time and didn’t smack her head on it. The calves look expectantly, and the baby goats were also at attention looking to see if there was going to be something for them too. She walked into the milkhouse. There was a slight sense of relief being alone in there. She grabbed the supplies and started to fill bottles and pails with the warm milk.
She walked back out to the barn with a few bottles and a pail to feed the first calves. That tight feeling started again. Calves are funny with their long rough tongues and the curve in their upper lip when they are expecting milk. It made her smile. As she tipped the milk into the first pail, that calf’s tail wiggles and it is another moment to smile. He is happy. She then pops the bottles into their holders as her husband walks by to bring the first machines into the milk house. If she waits a moment to adjust something, he will walk back out to the barn, she will not have to be in there alone with him.
She observes him leaving and watches to see what his mood could be today. She picks up the pail and the first two bottles and heads back into the milkhouse. It is hard to tell today. She braces knowing that while she is filling the last four bottles and cleaning the pail, they will meet in the milkhouse for the first time that morning. Chores are muscle memory at this point. You do the same thing in the same order so that you don’t forget something. He enters with the next set of machines. She breaks the awkward silence telling him the new calf drank well. He turns says “Good” and leaves.
She grabs the bottles and feeds the last of the calves. As he comes in with the last of the machines, she finally gets the courage to ask him if he needs help finishing his chores. He walks past her and she reluctantly walks into the milk house after him. Its small and when he yells the space seems even smaller. He is changing the system over to wash and she is cleaning the calf dishes. As she is done, he finally tells her he wants her to help turn the cows out and scrape the barn. He “doesn’t feel good” and wants to go into the house. She is defeated, he knows she needs to get the cheese order ready for the distributor at noon and it will not give her enough time.
She reminds him that the order needs to get out and says that she has about a half hour to help him finish but needs to get that order out. She braces. He always has something more important on delivery days. She tried to change them or meet the distributor at another farm so he didn’t know when, but he always found out. He tells her that she is selfish and does not appreciate him. He tells her firmly “No.” and walks to the house. The vacuum pump is still going as the pipeline is washing and she looks back at the barn.
Furious, she walks into the barn and decides to let the cows out and make sure that they are fed and watered but she was not going to clean the barn. She finished dairy dishes and walks back to the house. He is upstairs, so she goes in to take a shower and clean up. When she comes out of the shower, he is sitting at the chair in the kitchen looking like an 8-year-old boy pretending he is sick from school and wants you to call in so he can stay home. He tells her “I know you didn’t finish the chores.”
She walks past into the laundry room and changes into creamery cloths. “The cows are out, dairy dishes and done and the pipeline is clean. I told you I must get the order finished for the distributor at noon. We can finish them when I have this done.” She braces.
He explodes. “You know I wany my barn immaculate. I do not want someone to come in there and think I am a slob. You want to embarrass me don’t you?!” She ignores him and calmly waits for him to stop. She explains that the lunch is in the oven and she will come back to take it out and that their daughter has a half day today, so expect her to come in while he is taking a nap. He is clearly getting more upset that she is ignoring him. Before he could say any more, she turned and said, “I wrote a note and put it on the door explaining you were sick and to come back tomorrow. I think people will understand.”
As she walks to the creamery she can sense him looking at her with sheer anger. Saying “no” is getting harder but that is what she was told he would do. She could not wait to get to the farmers market to talk to the other vendors about this. She needed more advice. As she walked into the creamery and locked the door, a sense of relief washed over her. She turned on the radio and started to pack the cheese into the boxes, writing invoices as she went.
Lunch was ready to come out of the oven and she realized she was a bit hungry. She stepped out of the creamery and glanced towards the large picture window to see if he was up. She did not see him and walked towards the house. She was relieved when she opened the door that he was not on the first floor. She carefully closed the door to make little noise, took the casserole out of the oven and turned everything off. Opening cupboards risked him getting up so she decided she’d settle for cheese trimmings in the creamery and wondered if she had any crackers in the farmer’s market box. She was relieved when she slipped out and headed back to the creamery.
After about an hour, he walked back to the barn to finish his chores. She decided to get the cheeses ready for the farmers market while she had time. She started to clean up when their daughter got off the bus and ran into the house to change. After she was done cleaning, she started towards the house with a slice she knew he would like just in time to see their daughter run down to the chicken barn to find her favorite chicken Sylvia.
He ate a good portion of lunch, but she was able to grab enough to eat. She kept glancing at the clock to make sure that she didn’t loose track of time. The driver came as she was changing laundry over. D** was talking to him. He has this charm about him and an engaging laugh. She quickly walked to the creamery and grabbed the orders and brought them out to the truck. The conversation paused long enough for her to hand the drive the paperwork. She turned to D** and told him that she left a piece of his favorite cheese in the fridge. The driver left and afternoon logistics were discussed. Nothing different than any other couple or business partners. It always struck her the personality changes. The more sense she tried to put to them, the less they made sense.