Arts and Crafts for Struggling Grown-Ups Like Me

kelly corrigan
2 min readFeb 9, 2021

I have been painting like crazy since the lead blanket of the pandemic made the days dark and the living heavy. Pools, tennis courts, bathtubs. Cake, beach chairs, kayakers. I set up a table on sawhorses in the garage and put on some Nathaniel Rateliff and sometimes crack into a hard kombucha. Within minutes, my hands are covered in color — which means I cannot touch my phone or laptop.

I am not super great at painting (good work requires a kind of patience I find elusive) and no one but my mother would want my stuff in her house. But looking back, I see that making paintings has been a godsend of novelty, flow and diversion — three heavenly states in hard times like these.

Making anything is a reminder of agency. Making is doing. Doing is satisfying. Completion is even better, especially for a person who takes years to write a book. But no matter what you do to make the rent, finishing anything will flood you with endorphins.

This weekend I sewed a patch into my jeans, the ones that still fit, the ones that have a decade of stories woven into the fabric. Then I cleared out a junk drawer. Just one. There are more waiting.

On my list for this weekend:

A curry meatball recipe

One beautiful note to someone I miss

Rearranging the furniture in the living room

Making reminds me, in a roundabout way, of a poem my daughter Claire wrote back in grade school about happiness and sadness. Basically, she had come to understand negative space — that we wouldn’t know what happiness was without sadness and that at some level, the absence of a bad feeling is a good feeling in itself. Spot on, Claire.

Opposites help us define the poles and making is my opposite for waiting — for a vaccine, to hug my mother, to stop worrying about what this is doing to mothers, to kids, to the unemployed or otherwise on the verge, for the slivers of normalcy represented by a dinner party or lacrosse practice or a ride on the BART. So on I go, trying faces, painting eyes, watching videos about shading, creating as a stand against stagnation.

Kelly Corrigan makes books, TV shows for PBS and weekly podcasts.

kelly corrigan

New York Times bestselling author, host of new podcast: Kelly Corrigan Wonders and PBS show: Tell Me More with Kelly Corrigan