Pain, Zentangle, Creativity, and Perfectionism

On Friday, June 21, just over a week ago now, I had a bad fall from my horse, breaking my collar bone, 3 ribs, and puncturing a lung. I am home from the hospital now, and I am getting better day – by – day. I am on good pain drugs, but, as those of you who suffer from chronic pain can attest, it often seems that the good drugs still aren’t strong enough or often enough.

This morning I was having a more painful time, about a 6 on the pain scale, and I was amazed and crestfallen when my husband told me I was 3 1/2 hours away from my next dose. Had I really just taken one so recently? Was he sure? How could that be?!

Before the accident I had explored the art of Zentangle just a bit. I had been intrigued by it for a long time, but only recently actually played around with it. If you are not acquainted with it, Google the term and you will find tons of information. The key is that it was designed as a meditative art form. I had used it already to help me take the edge off a migraine earlier, so this morning I thought of it again.

I asked my husband to help me set everything up at a desk and I started drawing. For those who want the short story – I do believe it helped me through a tough spot and I will use it again. For those who are willing to stay and listen a bit longer, it gave me some important insights into how we view time and productivity.

As I drew, I focused on the drawing, one stroke at a time, just as the process describes. As my attention was more on my drawing and less on my pain I was very grateful, yet I kept finding myself getting frustrated with my shaky lines and with sloppy coloring while trying to darken areas. I was struggling with the idea that if I was taking time to do something, I might as well do it well. I was dealing with perfectionism. How silly is that? It wasn’t like I would be off doing the dishes or vacuuming the carpet if I weren’t drawing. And I have not been able to visit my sewing room yet, so I wasn’t able to work on my projects awaiting me there either. All I needed to do was BE, and all I really wanted was to be BETTER. I wanted the pain to stop. So, if drawing helped the pain ease, wasn’t I doing exactly what I needed plus letting my husband get some much-needed sleep? I was not going to hang this drawing in an art gallery. I was to live in the moment, meditate, create, and let the creative process heal me for the moment. (As a born again Christian, I think all of that sounds strange, but that is another sad thought – and another blog entry for another time.) It was NOT the product that mattered this time, ONLY the process. I needed to let the process take over completely. I had to laugh at my silliness in this matter.

So, I have decided that I do need to keep myself working only on projects and drawings where the product does not matter when I am dealing with pain. No sense setting myself up for unnecessary frustration in that arena. Then, focus on the process. Since I can’t do much more right now, my choices are to spend my time in pain or to work to alleviate that pain. Pretty simple, really. Process is all that matters. Product perfection will be a part of my life again soon enough, I am sure.

As a final recommendation, I would not claim that Zentangle is an kind of cure of that it might even be helpful for high pain levels. The last thing I wanted to do when I was at an 8-9 of pain was draw! But for those times when the medium pain just isn’t going away for any other reason and you’re too frustrated to cope, Zentangle is one more thing to try, so you do not have to feel quite so helpless. Look it up. I wish you hope, peace, and freedom from pain.

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Todd
    Jun 30, 2013 @ 14:42:09

    Heal well. Zen yourself up. Try to get to toradol for pain as it is not a narcotic. Got me through some kidney stones. Feel better


  2. Fran Odom
    Jul 03, 2013 @ 11:55:39

    I am so sorry you got hurt, Sherilyn! And I hope your horse is o.k? This is a very interesting article – I’ll definitely check into Zentangle, instead of worrying about where my next dollar is going to come from during the summer. I take it your husband has your pain meds locked up and is keeping count? Take care and get well soon!


    • Sherilyn, Cherished Needle Creations
      Jul 04, 2013 @ 07:54:15

      Very funny, Fran. 😛 We do keep track of my meds with a timer and a written record, though, not by apparent pain levels, in order to make sure everything goes as it should. The horse is fine. He has no idea what havoc he wrought. He’s an excellent horse in so many regards, but in that moment he was a “2 year old” and his physical tossing his body around (no bucking or rearing, just sideways shaking) was more than I could handle after an hour of riding.
      Do check out Zentangle. It is a lovely excuse to doodle, and very soothing. There is a Certified Zentangle Teacher here in Fairbanks, if you ever wanted to take a class in it.


  3. V. Lilly Schamberger
    Jul 03, 2013 @ 23:25:22

    Hello, Sherilyn. 12:14 am my time, husband resting comfortably and I’m wide awake. Insomnia, or chronic pain, or both. I just brought home a new serger today and eventually happened on your post. Seems we have much in common. I have 4 horses, of course hubby does all the lifting in that dept. as well. Been home for 12 years due to chronic pain and migraines. I can’t ride anymore, unfortunately. You are lucky you can. Tried desperately to stay off of narcotics for 7 years. Wish I would have lasted longer. Love sewing, quilting, rug hooking, weaving, hand stitching, etc. Master of the UFO, and sharing that title with many. Wish you all the best in your recovery from the fall. Applaud you for having a blog. Will look around and say hello sometime. Goodnight from Arizona.


    • Sherilyn, Cherished Needle Creations
      Jul 04, 2013 @ 07:56:49

      Great to hear from you, Lilly, and I hope you visit again. Congratulations on your new serger! I love mine, and right now I am definitely chomping at the bit to be well enough to get back to working with it. Do play around with it. Change the tensions and see what happens. Take time to fiddle and make yourself samples, so that when you want to make something serious, you have a better idea of how it works. Much less frustrating that way. Let me know if I can help in any way.


  4. Notorious Beauty Blog
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 19:20:09

    Reblogged this on Notorious Beauty Blog and commented:
    My mom wrote a post on her blog about a week ago that I thought was really inspirational and was something I wanted to share here on mine 🙂

    Hugs and kisses xoxo


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