Tuesday, July 26, 2016

How to Draw Your Way to Happy

I had just asked my therapist what I should do to get over this horrible feeling. My 19 year marriage had ended and I was devastated. I said I would follow his instructions to a tee. I’m excellent at following instructions. I asked him what books I should read, what retreats I should attend, should I do any specific activity? I could totally do this. I was ready. As ready as I could ever be. I was so over feeling crappy all of the time. “It’s going to take time”, he replied with a neutral smile. What? I thought, really? Ugh. That just crushed me. I felt the weight of an elephant on my chest, no - two elephants to be exact. Time? I asked him how long. Days? Weeks? Months? or should I dare say, years? He responded with a shrug, "depends you you”. The words came out in slow motion. “dee-pendsss onnn youuuuu" I wanted to wring his neck like Homer does to Bart.

I cried my whole way home listening to that horrible “Say Something” song on repeat. That night I angrily scribbled in my diary: “Dear Diary, Fuck this shit”. I was tired of waking up everyday and getting that sinking feeling that it wasn’t a dream and hoping that today would be less painful than yesterday. Anyone I asked had a different response to the “how long” question. Great. I had to get through this on my own, but how? 

My sister recommended a book called “The Untethered Soul, the Journey Beyond Yourself" by Michael A. Singer. It was recommended to her by Oprah (through the TV, not in real life). Last book I read recommended by Oprah was a novel called "Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follett, it was thick like an old fashioned phonebook and left me quite unsatisfied. I was hesitant at first, but then I thought, what the heck and got the book. I kept physically moving the book from room to room in my house, first the living room, then the bathroom and finally my nightstand, never having opened it. One night I opened the book and started reading, I wasn’t sure what he was talking about at first, “choosing to be happy unconditionally, no matter what” - huh? of course I want to be happy, duh. I kept reading and then he said what I needed to read - that there was a way to let go and move on. A very specific way. He had my full attention. He said that if we pull ourselves out from the situation and look at it from the perspective of a third party, we can observe it, without thoughts or emotions. Awareness takes over, and consciousness is where you are, its a place where your soul sits. Okay, I get it, but HOW. Every time I attempted to do that I would get wrapped up in what ifs, coulda, shoulda and wouldas. I kept at it, like going to the gym, everyday, go, go, go! 

One day, I felt especially sad and I decided to draw instead of write in my diary. I drew myself as a child with this giant monster ready to pounce me. The monster was big, hairy, with giant claws and fangs. I was on my knees and holding a hand up to shield myself from the angry beast. I took my time and drew every little detail on the monster: the veins in his eyes, the sharpness in his ugly gnarled claws, every single hair on this beast. He was horrifying. When I finished the drawing, I felt lighter and unusually at ease. Something clicked. Strange but good. The next few days I drew in my diary instead of writing, and every time I drew, I felt like I had let go of a tiny "something” I had been carrying for the past few years. Little by little, drawing after drawing, my load got lighter. My drawings ranged from sad, thoughtful, fearful, terrifying to hopeful and peaceful. These drawing allowed me to look at my daily struggle from the outside and allowed me to let go of  very specific things- like for example, “nobody's going to want me" and then move on. It felt like a giant sigh being let out. Two years and over 700 drawings later, I am still learning, growing, releasing and of course, drawing. 

How to Draw Yourself to Happy

1.   Get a sketchbook with blank pages. Pencils and if you like colored pencils or watercolor.
2.   Concentrate on ONE event at a time. Draw the people and elements associated with what occurred. If you are a beginner, that’s ok, use stick figures, it will have the same effect.
3.   Draw details that you remember, or write words that keep swirling in your mind, and leave them on the paper.
4.   If you must, make another drawing of the same thing.
5.   Try to draw as if you’re telling someone a story about characters, even if you are one of them. 
6.   Do it everyday!



  1. What great advice. I've always drawn but over the past year have found myself doing it more. It's like a friend who you can always turn to. I adore the way you use words in your art, and now I can understand a little bit of why.
    I shall think of you next time I draw xx Julie