As my friend and I walk in the dusk in Madrid after a day of sight-seeing, we pass a shop with funky t-shirts on display. One in particular catches my eye. It is grey with the message “Less is more,” only the L is disfigured as if graffiti and now reads “Mess is more.” I stop and stare. Let’s go in, I say.
We look around at the T-shirts, all fun and funky and kitsch-y, but I keep going back to “Mess is more.”
This is my learning from last year: the importance of mess for creative thinking and living, a healthy acceptance of mistakes, the need to follow roundabout, circuitous paths, and being ok about not being in control always. I buy the T-shirt – it is a small, yet landmark moment for me in my journey toward relaxing, instead of striving; of going with the flow, instead of controlling; of consenting to the unknown and recognizing that sometimes what I can’t orchestrate and control might be richer and juicier than the “plan” I create. It is a nudge to myself to not skim the surface of life, but to dive deep.
A few days later, we are in Figueres, Spain, the birthplace of creative extraordinaire, Salvador Dali. The museum that houses his paintings reflects the journey of a multi-faceted, complex, creative man. He is a painter, a sculptor, a dreamer, a scientist. His chosen tools are canvas and mixed media and gems and jewelry. Walking in the museum, I can feel that creativity burst out of this man’s veins. He was not a man afraid of making mistakes or experimenting; he was a man that marched to the beat of his own drum.
A few days later I am in San Francisco to meet my sister. She is an artist extraordinaire; a writer, a dancer, a photographer, and an appreciator of beauty. Around her, I have the permission to be creative. She is not judging my creative work, but letting me be. Her deep sense of artistry soaks into me and helps me get in touch with my creative self, the one buried by books and striving and external definitions of success.
We sit together on the dining table with our own little Mandala coloring books and Crayola Pipsqueak felt pens and we color the mandalas as we listen to old Hindi songs. I have decided not to color the mandalas in the order they are presented in the book, but instead pick ones that call to me. The perfect way of coloring the mandalas would be to decide what color scheme to use and which colors go where so that my mandala looks pretty. But that’s not what I feel like doing. I just relax to the music of Kishore Kumar singing and color away unplanned. I let my fingers choose which felt pen to pick, instead of my brain. They instinctively pick the next color. Sometimes they pause, undecided between two colors. I wait and see which ones my fingers will pick. Within a few seconds, there is a tug, and the right color calls to me. I mix yellows and teals and purples and grays, not something I would pick “rationally.”
The beauty of the colors surprises me sometimes. The colors come together, bright and exciting and ALIVE. They have come through me, not from me. In my coloring of the mandalas, I make some mistakes. I color an extra blue in a cell that belongs to the row above. That’s ok. I color the rest of the mandala. The extra blue reminds me of a tooth that grows imperfectly, in between two teeth, to create a smile that you see in a children before their crooked, endearing smiles are perfected my dentists. My little drop of misplaced blue is now my favorite part of the mandala. It is my little drop of imperfection. It pops in the Mandala and reminds me, I am human. My mandala is not pretty and proper – it is beautiful.
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