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The Good Coach :: Archiving Your Worries :: by Quinn McDonald

 :: The Good Coach ::
Archiving Your Worries
by Quinn McDonald


Childhood worries are not minor to a child. The tower over childhood skills and understanding. By the time I was six, I developed a method for handling worries. With two older brothers and parents who had their own problems, handing them over for adult inspection didn't seem like a wise choice.

So I would write my worries on strips of blue-lined, rough, tablet paper, tear them up and bury them under a tree. Doing that taught me that paper is plant material and disintegrates. I was fascinated at the decomposition of the paper--and, certainly, my worries. Mother Earth took them back and made them go away.

As I got older, I invented new rituals. No matter what the worries. The only thing that was consistent was writing down worries on strips of paper. That stayed the same.

Sometimes the strips got burned; sometimes they disappeared into the pulp for handmade paper. Some got woven into journal covers. Eventually, Mother Nature seemed like the best result. I’d rip strips from newspapers and magazines, write my worries on them, pull a thread through the top of the bundle and hang them outside to bleach and fade in the sun and rain. By the time the strips disintegrated, I was done worrying.

Skip forward several decades: most of the worries go into a journal, now, to get painted over or written over. One afternoon, I remember the strip method, grab some paper from the studio, tear it into long, skinny strips, and write on them. I sew through the top,create a loop and hang them from the orange tree in the backyard. Days go by, 110 degrees, 111 degrees, 108 degrees, never below 90 at night. This is Phoenix and I expect the papers to crumble in days. I hit the papers with a stream from the hose. Nothing deteriorates. The strips stay readable. My worries don't vanish.

What’s happening? Is this some sign from the universe that I’m supposed to keep worrying? My brow furrows in a new worry—I may not be able to get rid of these problems.

And then I realize. . .I have used archival materials. Archival pens, archival, acid-free, lignin-free paper. My worries are preserved. Possibly forever. Only then comes the real lesson from the tree of intact worries.

The revelation comes in a flash--isn't this what we do (however unintentionally) with worries--preserve them, hang on to them, refuse to let them deteriorate? They stay with us until we are willing to let them deteriorate, bleach out in the sun, fade in the passage of time.

 As long as we write those worries on our heart in fade-proof ink and keep inspecting them to keep them fresh, they won’t fade, deteriorate and blow away. A lesson in forgiveness and letting go from archival papers.

Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach, writer and book artist. She is author of Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art (North Light Books, 2011). Information on the book and Quinn’s coaching can be found on



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