Coloring Outside The Lines

About three years ago, I went to therapy for the second time in my life. I was blessed to have Rhonda as my  therapist.  When I saw this picture, I emailed it to Rhonda.   During one of our early sessions, she asked a question about coloring books and crayons from my childhood.  Huge portions of my childhood are still buried deep in the caverns of my brain, but there are things I do remember.

“I didn’t like coloring books. I still don’t.  I remember getting in trouble one time over a coloring book and crayons.”

Rhonda gave me one of her raised eyebrow looks.  “Why don’t you like coloring books?  Do you ever get coloring books and color with your grand kids?”

“No, I don’t.  I still have the same thoughts that got me into trouble back then. It was so much work to stay inside the lines.  It seemed silly.  I told the teacher I didn’t want to finish filling in a picture someone else drew. I wanted to draw my own pony or tree or flower.  She said you couldn’t do that unless you were an artist and could draw well enough for people to know what you were drawing.  Seriously?  An artist drew the stupid pony?   So, I did what they wanted and colored the damn pony.  I colored it pink.  That made them mad, too. I finally decided to stop making people mad.”

Rhonda smiled.  “You have spent a lot of your life doing it the way ‘they’ wanted?”

It’s true.  I spent far too much of my life finishing other people’s pictures, coloring inside the lines, and being who I was expected to be.  I have been changing.  It is a slow process.  One day I colored the pony brown, next time, yellow, then orange, and eventually I got brave enough to color it pink.  Then I just went hog-wild and drew my own pony.

I started to think about the ways I have stayed “inside the lines” over my life.  I don’t go outside the lines just to prove to a point or to say I am better than you are.  I am different, not better or worse.  Different isn’t always bad.

I can hear my Grandmother’s voice now.  “Fat girls don’t wear white pants.”  “You have to wear stripes going down, never across”.  “People should not dye their hair…..God gave you the hair color he wanted you to have.”  “Fingernail polish, NO!”  The only jewelry you should wear is a cross necklace and a wedding ring.”  “No white shoes before Easter or after Labor Day.”  You see all the rules.  Yes, she really did say all those things.

I wrote about breaking some of the rules in my blog Red Hair, A Feather, and Funky Blue Fingernail Polish.  I wear white pants and last fall I wore a pair of white sandals after Labor Day.  It’s who I am.

I stayed “inside the lines” when I went to college and got married right away.  We knew each other six weeks when we eloped.  I was only eighteen years old and knew nothing about real life.  It was a very unhappy and unhealthy marriage, but I stayed there for almost 17 years because it is what they told me God expected me to do.   God didn’t tell me that, but other people who said they represented God did.

SPOILER ALERT——In the movie Blue Like Jazz, the main character is talking with an atheist.  “Do you forgive me,” he asks, “for misrepresenting God?”  I have been guilty of it myself.  Have you?

Here are a few other things they said God expected of me:

  1.  You can’t have African-American friends or invite them to church.  (We have to add gay people to that rule now.)
  2. You are a woman.  Know your place.  (God obviously doesn’t like women.)
  3. You must be in church every time the door is open and take every position offered to you.  (Accept you can’t be ordained as anything because you are a woman.)
  4. You may not interpret scripture.  You may not ask questions.  You must accept all we say as though it is direct from God.
  5. You must not learn about other cultures and religions.  And, remember that Catholicism in is a cult.
  6. Rock music is bad, dancing is bad, makeup is bad…….. ad infinitum

Family rules were impressive as well.

  1. You must eat everything on your plate or children in China will die.
  2. Don’t ask questions. You will be informed on a need to know basis.
  3. You must feel guilty about something every day.
  4. Conform—dress like everyone else, read what they read, listen to what they listen to, etc.  (everyone at church, that is)
  5. Don’t tell anyone anything that goes on in your home or with your family. That included all the types of abuse that were going on in my life. It also meant you had to lie when asked.  I think that surely violated some rule from the things God didn’t want you to do.

There are more and you may have your own list.  I tried so hard to follow all the rules. I did a good job for a very long time.  I know because I was so very miserable. I couldn’t do it anymore.  I managed to go so far outside the lines that I went off the page.

When my life on this earth is over, I want everyone to see my life as an amazing picture.  I want to draw it myself.  It should have beautiful colors and shapes. I want it to be a picture my family and friends look at and see something special just for them.  When you look at my picture, you will never see the person God called me to be if I live”inside the lines”.

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27 responses

  1. Interesting post, thankyou for sharing 🙂
    Can you clarify something for me? I’m a Brit, and i’ve always wondered what Labour Day is, and why you can’t wear white after it (apparently!)?
    Keep on colouring outside the page!

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    1. I have a good friend who moved here from Manchester and she asked the same question about white. Labor Day is a day we celebrate the accomplishment of workers. There are several silly ideas about why no white after Labor Day but I really have no idea. It is a fashion rule that most people ignore now a days. LOL

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      1. They reference it on Friends (Rachel makes the faux pas). So it’s just one of those silly human things! I don’t wear white cos i am liable to spill tea down the front 2 seconds after i put it on! 😉 But if society tried to tell me i couldn’t…i probably would dress not dis-similarly to Caspar, The Friendly Ghost!
        Glad you are feeling free; enough to express yourself more fully. Peace 🙂 x

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      2. They reference it on Friends (Rachel makes the faux pas). So it’s just one of those silly human things! I don’t wear white cos i am liable to spill tea down the front 2 seconds after i put it on! 😉 But if society tried to tell me i couldn’t…i probably would dress not dis-similarly to Caspar, The Friendly Ghost!
        Glad you are feeling free; enough to express yourself more fully. Peace 🙂 x
        ps thanks for the heads up!

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      3. LOVE THAT. Thanks so much for sharing it.

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  2. I don’t think I would have liked the Cathy who followed all those rules. I’m glad I met the Cathy who doesn’t see the lines.

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    1. Thank you my friend. I think we tend to go outside the lines.

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  3. I think you know what this means to me. It goes back to our conversation last night and even to one part of my blog today (#3, I think). Let’s go out and buy some crayons. We’ll get sketch books, not coloring books, and make the most beautiful life art there is!

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    1. I hoped you would make the connection! I love that idea!!!! 🙂

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  4. Oh sister my sister. So much alike some times. I have a large list of “they told me to do it that way” things and if i sat and thought about them i would go out to the freeway and run in front of a truck. I just know that is why i ran and ran quick as soon as i could and did not look back. College at 16 and the Navy at 17 when we connected again in California. And on the brighter side of things if i had not went thru all the BS i would not be the wonderful outside the box person that i have become. I guess we all have our closets full of
    stuff with cobwebs on them. Love ya babe

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    1. Yes everyone does their closets. That is why I ran away and got married at barely 18. I used to wonder which one of us got the better deal. I don’t there was a winner in that contest. But we are who we are not because of where we have been. You will be always be my baby brother. Claudia told me I called you Bubba. Did you know that? LOL
      Love you too…Let me know what your plans are for June.

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  5. This was lovely. When you stray outside the lines…that is where life truly begins. Good for you, Cathy.

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  6. Recognising and feeling for you. Family do such a good job of messing with our heads. 🙂

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  7. I’m very glad you got the heck out of those lines. It would be difficult to spend much time around someone who followed and agreed with all those rules. So good for you.

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  8. “I tried so hard to follow all the rules. I did a good job for a very long time. I know because I was so very miserable.”

    That part is so very telling.

    I’m happy you went off the page . . . I think it makes for much more interesting reading ::smile::

    Fabulous post, Cathy! I’m thrilled to have found your blog 🙂

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    1. Thanks so much Dayle Lynne

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  9. I know the feeling of having to stay inside the lines of rules and requirements. It feels good to be free to make your own choices, doesn’t it?

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    1. Yes it surely does.

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  10. Religion has rules? When did that start? LOL

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    1. You must have missed the memo or not grown up in the south or Baptist or Catholic. Lol

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      1. I grew up in a church with lots of rules but i eventually didn’t fit in and had to leave. Now i’ve found a place where thinking is honored and rules are challenged. I much prefer this way of approaching faith.

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      2. Amen to that!! LOL

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  11. ” I tried so hard to follow all the rules. I did a good job for a very long time. I know because I was so very miserable. I couldn’t do it anymore. I managed to go so far outside the lines that I went off the page.” Me too, me too… 17 years in a bad marriage, constantly being pushed back toward a miserable existence because the church said it was the right thing to do. Because I cared more about what people thought, than how I felt. When I started listening to what my heart was telling me instead of what people were saying God was saying, things changed. It was spiritual bondage, which consumed me mind, body and soul. I see glimpses of myself all in this post. Conversations we’ve been having in two different places, from differing perspectives, but it’s the same message. People are awakening everyday to the reality that the reality you were taught or was forced on you can be changed. You can draw your own damn pony! Loved this blog Cathy, how strange to feel like I almost know you by relating so much to your journey. Thank you for being you and finding me. Peace and love, j.

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  12. Loved your blog! I think so many people can relate to this scenario. I am glad you were able to rise above all the muck life had to throw at you. I noticed in the last paragraph you wrote “When my life on this earth is over, I want everyone to see my life as an amazing picture”. My hope for you dear friend is not that OTHERS see it that way, But that YOU do! Much Love!

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    1. Thanks Jen Jen. I need to keep the last line you wrote in mind for sure. I appreciate your comment.

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  13. […] the same mean and hateful attitude towards me.  I quoted a line from the movie Blue Like Jazz in a blog.   The main character is talking with an atheist, “Do you forgive me,” he asks, “for […]

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  14. […] the person I am and can be.   I spent so much of my life believing I wasn’t OK.  In a post Coloring Outside the Lines, I talked about being the child and woman I was told to be.  I knew it wasn’t me but “they” […]

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