A friend recently told me I should relax more.
"You know, try a new hobby or something."
"But I do have relaxing hobbies. I read, and play video games, and I walk. Those are really relaxing."
"Maybe you should try... something more relaxing. I don't know if the stuff you're doing is working."
"I'm not allowed to day drink at work."
I thought about it for a while, wondering if I should be concerned. What if I'm not relaxed enough? Stress can negatively impact your health, and I don't need the extra impact on top of my obesity and violent mood swings. Was I so stressed that my friends were now worried about me or about themselves? Was I projecting some sort of terrible signal that suggested I might either die or snap? Why would my friend even ask that, knowing that wondering about the answer would stress me out even more? What kind of friend does that?
Clearly, I needed to reduce my stress level by reducing my number of friends.
Aside from that, I decided to ask some of my friends who seemed relaxed what they did to get that way. Other than smoking pot (nope), yoga (nope), and having more sex (maybe?), the only other answer that came up more than once was, "You should try coloring! It's really relaxing!" I've seen adult coloring books at the bookstore and Target, and I'll admit that they look sort of interesting. I always though the idea of seriously using one was some kind of weird childhood throwback, though, like, "Everything was fine when I was five! I'll just take this coloring book and pretend I'm five and everything will be fine again!", so I kind of always looked at them with a mixture of intrigue and mild scorn. Still, they seem to make a coloring book for everybody, across all ranges of interest, so I figured I would give this a try.
I started by becoming immediately annoyed with my colored pencils.
When I was in junior high and high school, I colored all the time in little spiral notebooks, drawing superheroes and then coloring them in. I kept about 100 or so colored pencils in the plastic case from a 1970s vintage Fisher Price medical kit with all the guts removed, and periodically bought new pencils to throw in there. It was perfect because I could see all the pencils at once, and rifle through them for a particular color. The new pencils I bought for these coloring books came in a box.
Sure, it tries to be a helpful box:
You look at that picture as you're coloring and think, "Oh, yes, I think I need Pale Rose here." Then you open up the box, looking for Pale Rose, and you get this:
Which one of those very similar pinks is Pale Rose?
Not the first, second, or third one.
You know what's not relaxing? Pulling every single pink colored pencil out of a box until you find the exact shade you want and getting more and more annoyed as each one is Pink and Salmon and Bubblegum and not God damned Pale Rose.
Eventually I moved on from this, and paged through my first coloring book until I saw something that struck my fancy, and then I began coloring:
My first attempt at relaxation through coloring isn't terrible, but I ran into some problems here as well.
1) The turquoise on that frozen ghost's headdress is too turquoise. I was trying for an overall "shades of blue" look for him, because he's frozen, and that color is jarringly discordant. Coloring books are an unforgiving medium, and once you start using a color you kind of have to commit even if it's the wrong color.
2) I found myself wondering too much about the people in the picture. Who was that lady? What was she doing at the lake? Was she hiking? I doubt it, because she doesn't have a hair tie, and none of the ladies with long hair that I know who go hiking do it with their hair down. If she wasn't hiking, was she a scientist? Maybe a ghost hunter? But if she was a ghost hunter, wouldn't she be prepared for a frozen ghost?
Wondering about the people in the pictures and realizing I had no hope of gaining answers was not relaxing, and the problem continued when I switched over to the gay romance coloring book:
Where are his pants?
Is he supposed to be romantic because he has no pants on? Because that heart tattoo isn't romantic. It's kind of tacky. And why does he have that dumb look on his face? And why don't I have any better colored pencils for Caucasian skin tones? I was so annoyed with this that I stopped coloring halfway up his arm and just gave up.
I colored, but I'm not sure I feel relaxed.