Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"Waiting outside the lines..."

"Stuck in the same position,
you deserve so much more.
There's a whole world around us,
just waiting to be explored.
I'm Waiting, waiting,
just waiting outside the lines "

If you haven't heard of Grayson Chance yet, you will.  A pre-teen who sings like someone who knows what it means to no longer be "Waiting Outside the Lines," of any  limited expectations that may have been drawn for him by others. 

But this isn't a story about Grayson Chance, it's a story about a teacher who needed to learn...a lot from her little sister, and her young daughter.

I'd been a special needs teacher, I was Montessori trained, I taught kindergarten through high school, I taught at the college level, and I was a school administrator.  You'd have thought I knew alot about creativity, learning, and self-expression.  But when my daughter was in preschool, I was still, without giving it any thought, encouraging her to color inside the lines. 

I didn't even realize it.  I would sit next to her...at her little pastel pink table and chairs...and together we would choose our favorite Crayola colors, and carefully fill the spaces within the bold black outlined pictures of a puppy, a cupcake, or a princess with cornflower, peach, rose, and maize strokes of magic.  Rough paper, with just the right amount of tooth to hold the color, came alive.

She would watch as I would first, carefully re-outline the section I was working on with a firmer hand, and then carefully fill it in with a smoother, lighter touch.

I was actually quite proud of of my coloring technique.  I loved coloring books, crayons, and  actually the process of coloring.  Why would anyone want to do it any differently...it made such a pretty picture.

Then our daughter started taking art lessons from my sister, Lila.  Lila introduced her to art history, technique, interpretation, and exploration, through the lens of her right to "color outside the lines." 

Suddenly, my daughter was teaching me about the expansiveness of creative freedom.  She was inviting me to draw squiggles, turn Bambi's spots into flowers, put a rainbow in a picture that didn't have one already drawn in.

I remember a day when the kindergarten teacher down "graded" an alphabet worksheet that the children had completed because they had colored the big "Q" in the middle of the page, then decorated it with stars and moons that went waaayyy outside the lines.  My sweet sister marched into that classroom and defended our children's right to color a "Q" worksheet however the pleased.  She was fearless. 

Coloring outside the lines leads to that kind of boldness and courage. 

Try it.  Go out and buy a big fat coloring book filled with outlines of ponies, or firetrucks, or Disney princesses.  Then color it however you wish.  Even if your first impulse is to give Cinderella yellow hair...force yourself to try something bolder...lime green or fuschia.  Maybe even give her red rubber wellies to wear with her ballgown, instead of glass slippers.  Tell a different story.  You might just find yourself willing to not only color outside the lines, but walk outside the old outlines of how you've always thought of yourself.

Pearls with jeans, volunteering at a homeless shelter, mentoring a teen, making a career shift, skydiving, taking ballet lessons, or a cross country road trip - solo...trusting God more radically than ever before. 

I think this practice of letting go and trying new, God-inspired, Love-impelled, Principle-governed, Soul-informed ways of coloring our lives is what Mary Baker Eddy is referring to when she writes at the beginning of her Miscellaneous Writings, 1883 - 1896:

Humility is the stepping-stone to a higher recognition of Deity.  The mounting sense gathers fresh forms and strange fire from the ashes of dissolving self, and drops the world.  Meekness heightens immortal attributes only by removing the dust that dims them. "

It takes humility to try something new.  Dust only gathers on things that stay in the same spot and are never moved or used.  Humility and meekness allow us the freedom to look ridiculous if we try something that doesn't fit inside the lines of what others have always expected of us...or how we have always, and only, allowed ourselves be seen. 

I believe this echoes Eddy's statement:

"At present mortals progress slowly for fear of being thought ridiculous. They are slaves to fashion, pride, and sense. Sometime we shall learn how Spirit, the great architect, has created men and women in Science. We ought to weary of the fleeting and false and to cherish nothing which hinders our highest selfhood."

People are often more comfortable with things that never change...with furniture that is always in the same place, with the same brand of ketchup, the same traditions, routines, orders.  But that doesn't mean that you can't "stir it up" a bit. 

When you're ready to dip your toe into something refreshing and new, maybe we could meet at a coffeehouse with our coloring books and take that first step...64 colors are only the beginning...and be sure to wear your wellies with your ballgown...a tiara with your apron!!

I'll be waiting to walk outside the lines with you...

Thanks Lila...I love you.

your sister...and student,

Kate Robertson, CS

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