I never thought much about why I chaffed at the word “toolbox” when used in a self-help context: “another tool for your toolbox” such as deep breathing/meditation, journaling, taking a walk, etc. I thought it was cliché and corny. Today I realized a deeper meaning for the dislike: tools are harsh. Sure, tools get the job done but they are used for building and demolishing in an efficient manner. They are noisy. They can be dangerous. They are sharp. Hammer a nail, screw a screw, build a wall, tear a wall down – these are necessary actions to quickly get to the end goal yet a building analogy only goes so far for me. Yes, there is a sense of building when you are on your healing journey (“building a better life”, “building a better you”) but I have never felt that I could use tools effectively or efficiently. Whether they be actual or allegorical I have often felt lost, overwhelmed, intimidated, or frustrated by tools.

Healing, for me, is a painful search and discovery of beauty within and without. I cannot hack or hammer my way to peace and wholeness but I can slowly, quietly create. I recently discovered the joy and therapeutic nature of painting. I’m not good at it at all (what exactly is “good”, anyway?) but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I find a sense of joy and calmness as I choose a color and add it to the canvas. The choice of color does not come easily and often I spend an inordinate amount of time choosing just which shade of brown for the tree trunk would be best or just the right shade of blue for the rain. Sometimes I realize too late that the color I chose is ill-suited for what I had intended, and sometimes I have a thrill of joy when something turns out better than I had expected.

So it is with life: I falteringly paint on the canvas of healing and find my way to the calm, centered peace where health is more able to be grasped. I paint (or write) my way through this and try to open my eyes and heart to accept the flaws and pitfalls. I create to process the painful parts of healing as well to celebrate.

And so, I shall always think of it as “another color for my palette”: another color to add to the canvas of painfully beautiful healing, a canvas that will grow and reshape with each color that you add.

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