I used to bust out paints and crafts for my daughter when she was younger. Our kitchen table covered in newspaper was a creative frenzy of happiness. Paint bottles strewn about alongside used brushes, markers, paper and scissors. Prior to a creative session, we’d spend hours in Michael’s Crafts choosing unique paint colors or our next craft endeavor. It was our thing. It’s still our thing, actually.

While I was on active parent duty, I didn’t paint or craft much when I was alone. I savored those quiet times with a book, or a few shots of tequila and some chips. Due to the current emptiness of my nest, I definitely have more time on my hands and recently returned to my creative side. After spending an hour in Hobby Lobby on a Tuesday night, I walked out with a fresh set of watercolor paints and the paper to accompany. I cleared the kitchen table, turned on some James Brown and got to work.

“ …you have to be kind, accepting and forgiving of yourself.”

I was inspired by a watercolorist I had been following on Instagram. Her techniques were for beginners and I loved the whimsical work she produced. Like a good student, I followed all her directions to a “T.” Side brush strokes versus pointed, paint saturation levels produce different effects, etc. Every technique she encouraged, I did it… except, my final product looked like a preschooler was let loose in the art room.

My ego was crushed. I had visions of majestic, soft palleted watercolor vistas with tiny birds that look at you—but just barely. Almost like you could reach out and feed them. The bushes they perched on were so real in the instructional video. In mine, you couldn’t tell if my bush was a bush or a green end table. What happened?

Everyone should try to create art. It’s a humbling experience—a practice in self-love and patience as well. Unless you’re experienced, what you make rarely turns out like you expected. So, you have to be kind, accepting and forgiving of yourself. It’s not something that comes easily to most, yet learning to give ourselves grace can be life-changing. We are perfectly imperfect creatures trying our best in the world. If we can accept this of ourselves and understand it in others, we might all just live a little lighter.

My kitchen table, which once was cleared for homework and meals, currently has three different art projects running on it. I believe I used my child as an excuse to play and create all those years ago. Revisiting my inner artist has been the highlight of becoming an empty-nester. Even though the birds I paint resemble mice, I keep painting because I value the process. With each project I complete, the creative, youthful, playful one in me is nurtured. And she thanks me with soul-filling warmth—which I offer back to the world as best I can.