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Love it when my hands are dirty

Updated: Oct 6, 2023

Odd thing to say I know, but it's true! As I have spent time restoring and painting furniture, I have found that I actually enjoy my hands getting dirty in the process. Normally, I am one who needs my hands clean to feel comfortable, so it is highly unusual for me to not rush off to the nearest sink and wash them. I have found to my surprise, a sort of calming that comes over me when I am creating and the evidence of my creation is all over my hands. I glance down and see smudges and streaks, sometimes in various colors, and it fills me with warmth.

I remembered recently when I was in grade school, I used to love getting glue all over my hands when we would be doing a project. That led me to another memory, from my teen years when I was asked to wash a bunch of chairs outside with a couple classmates. By the time we finished, we probably had more soap and water on us than the chairs. There was so much joy in getting our feet muddy and sloshing around in water and puddles. You know how memory works right? One thing inevitably leads to another and you find yourself having all these self realization moments, one after the other. Fast-forward to my early adulthood with small children, volunteering at the church, building sets for theater and running games with children. I had more fun getting filthy and had more laughter in my life during those times than ever. I didn't realize until this popped in my mind, that I have always felt a sense of peace when I am getting messy in my creativity.

There have been some deep dark depression holes I have been in over the past 20+ years, sometimes I never thought I would see my way out of them. So imagine my surprise when I started painting furniture and found this wonderful Zen and inexplicable joy upon looking down at my hands and seeing them covered in paint. Looking at my workstation and seeing sawdust and cuttings from decoupage paper and feeling the glue on my fingers. Washing brushes in the sink and getting more paint on myself in the process. I was enjoying the effects of my art process being therapeutic without even knowing it was.

It's funny, because I know art is used in therapy, it makes sense that there is natural joy in creativity, but I didn't connect it to my own wellness journey until recently. When I fell down that rabbit hole of memory, all of my most joyous memories had highlights of messy, silly, creative fun. Now that I see it, I find myself looking forward to it in a new way. I also find that I want to share it with others, show them how they can pull themselves out of the depression hole one brush stroke at a time.

I am a big fan of repeating things that work. I have found that when I notice something is helping my state of mind, I will do it as much as I can. I had no idea that flipping furniture was going to literally be a lifeline for me when I started. Here I am now, and I can literally walk into the workshop in a funk, stressed and worried, but leave peaceful and calm. I find joy in glancing at my hands and seeing the evidence of my process, where I can leave all my stress on the piece I am working on.

What works for you? Maybe you don't like your hands being dirty, maybe for you it is the sounds around you in nature, perhaps it's deep meaningful conversation, or escaping into a book. Whatever it is, go, do it, repeat it. Love yourself in these small actions no matter how you feel. Have compassion on yourself and do what works, leave the depression holes where they belong, behind you.

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