What coloring is teaching me is patience with the process.

I am not artistic. I am linear and plodding. Capriciousness is not my strong suit. I like to plan ahead and then have everything turn out just as I planned.

This is not working with coloring. I might have a general plan that holds true for an entire page, but even that often gets sidetracked by the results of laying down color on the page. Sometimes things go awry when I grab a pencil which looks like that color when looking at the lead, but actually is this color on the paper.

I’ve learned to test my colors together on a piece of scrap paper to make sure they actually are the colors I think they are.

I’ve had to learn to let go of perfection. When you run out of the line with a pencil, there is still some hope of fixing it or having it go unnoticed. When you run out of the lines with a brightly colored gel pen or a dark marker, too bad. Between my bad eyes and my unsteady hand, I have had to learn to stand back from the finished product and stop looking for the mistakes.

I’ve learned that my mind can wander freely as I color or it can concentrate intensely on the process of coloring and both of these options are refreshing and relaxing.

I’ve learned that coloring is not simply scratching a utensil across the paper but that there are many different techniques for this. Shading and blending as an adult are quite different than the shading and blending I did as a child. I’m pretty sure I don’t ever need to get into the whole serious side of this just to relax, but it is interesting to see how much I can pick up as I keep coloring.

I’ve learned that people who color are encouraging and helpful when asked. The first time I told my husband I asked the coloring group what to do with something, he began to ask me what the Underground’s response was and now we just call the group The Underground. They have been helpful in both answering my questions and giving me inspiration.

I’ve learned that sometimes you just mess up and it isn’t the end of the world. I’m not doing brain surgery here, I’m coloring. I’m not titrating Dopamine. No one is going to die if I make a mistake. There is freedom in that. The need for perfection in an imperfect world is gone. The worst that can happen is that I throw the picture out and start a new one.

Or else, and this is why I began this, I change my perspective on what is good enough.

I asked The Underground what to do with my picture. Should the border be gold, silver, or black. I’m a literalist and black seems the best choice but was I just being prosaic, something I’m really good at. So The Underground answered and Linda suggested cutting out the picture and pasting it with its white border onto a black surface.

That sounded so neat. But as we may have noticed above, my hands are not steady and I don’t have the correct scissors anyway. And I don’t frame these, so it seemed like a non-starter. But on the ride to Hilton Head, I thought I could color it like that. I thought it would be really neat to have black at the border and then lighter and lighter grays to the edge.

Well, I got home and could color the border with enough patience, but I could see that the shading with the different grays wouldn’t work because of the various distances of the picture and the edge of the page itself. I began to just color it black and then I have no idea what went wrong.

Perhaps it was impatience, my strong suit, and using too long of strokes, but it became just a horrible mess. The only thing I could come up with in order to save the damn thing was to cut off the ugly part and leave the pretty behind. I don’t frame them, anyway.

So I got my crappy not precision scissors and my old shaky hands and I cut the messy part off. I’m left with this. I still like it. It isn’t what I planned. It isn’t what I planned a second time. It isn’t even what the third plan was. Letting go is part of the process.