You know when you receive a gift that doesn’t quite match your expectations?

Weeks before Christmas I kept dropping hints that I wanted massage vouchers. I wanted more time to myself to unwind, relax, fall in love, exercise compassion and all those tyrekicker qualities some people might scoff at.

So I was expecting a few people in particular to gift me Endota vouchers. Oh Endota what an oasis of calm you are… I keep hearing your praises through having gifted your massage vouchers to my loved ones for various occasions like mothers’ days, birthdays, etc…

So imagine my suprise when an unexpected mindfulness plate came into my hands. How had I channelled a mindfulness plate? I thought really, really, really hard at what I must have been doing or saying that brought this object into my life.

OK, so maybe there are many shades of green to paint this plate with – I thought. It would be fitting to have a plate in many shades of green to celebrate 2018, the year of green in my life. I’ll go into why green in another story, I promise.

You know that saying, you don’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you get what you need?

It’s not a saying. It’s a Rolling Stones song, but that’s besides the point.

The mindfulness plate, as it turned out was exactly what I needed.

When I opened up the box the plate and the paint were wrapped in, I saw that there was NOT ONE SHADE OF GREEN! DISASTER! Mini melt-down. What could this mean? Was my year of green not to be?

God, I’m a child right?

Honestly, a woman nearing 40, having a hissy fit over a colouring plate with no green paint. For real? Looking back I’m laughing at myself. I hope you are too. That’s why we have hissy fits I think. So in times like this, we can point at ourselves and laugh.

So what did I learn from the plate?

Firstly, you can make green by mixing blue and yellow. Duh. I think that’s standard preschool knowledge.

So that’s what I did. I mixed my blue and yellow and got several shades of green. The plate was to be cool shades of blue and green to remind me the Turkish porcelains you’d see in sacred places like the Blue Mosque and countless other Mosques adorning the Istanbul skyline over the shimmering dark blue waters of the Bosphorous.

So the plate’s first lesson: If you don’t see the colour you’re looking for, get creative and don’t be afraid to mix to your heart’s content to get the green you desire.

When I found the green, I looked back at the paint and there they were, a cool turqoise blue, orange of the hot summer sun, red of chillies drying in the summer heat, pink like the petals of roses, indigo like the waters of the Bosphorus. They wanted my brush to dip into them and carry them to the plate so they could do their job and lend themselves to this plate I was creating.

Lesson 2, don’t leave any colours behind. They are all beautiful and evocative. Use the ones that call out to you, and you will see that the plate is all the more beautiful for having given them a chance.

Of course painting these damn plates is an exercise in frustration. Try as one might, even if you do have surgeon steady hands, the paint is bound to bleed past the black boundaries of the design. The instructions tell you to have a wet cotton bud handy to erase any of these mistakes. Yes, you can do it that way. It will probably result in you giving up on the plate.

For me, to keep getting the plate done, I had to put down the cotton bud and just push through. Mistakes and all.

Yes, I painted over the black line. Yes, the colour scheme was off on certain patterns. Yes, I couldn’t get the same shade of green on the various repetitions of the same design.

There were many faults in the execution.

But when I stood back and looked at the plate when it was all done, all I could see was the beauty of the colours.

They all smiled at me and brightened up my day. I felt so proud for exercising patience to finish the plate despite all the faults, frustrations and worries that it wouldn’t look right. I’d done it.

I don’t know if you’re familiar with Buddhist customs but one ceremony that impressed me most when I saw it on The House of Cards was the Mandalas. A few Buddhist monks work together to create an intricate design out of coloured sand. They work on this for weeks, concentrating fully on making it a picture of perfection only to brush it off the table as soon as they are finished.

To me as an artist (Oh God, can I say that, an artiste, moi? Oh why not…) the Mandalas ceremony signifies that work is everything and then it’s nothing. While I’m working on this bloody book about Gifts, yes, it will be my life’s obsession but when it’s done and it’s ready for an editor to cut through its helpless flesh to shape it into a thing of beauty, then for readers to consume it, it’s NOTHING of me. Like the colourful sand, it’s sent back into the universe.

With that spirit, I gave away my mindfulness plate. Its lessons will always be here and in my heart if I ever need to be reminded.

Thank you for the thoughts that brought me the mindfulness plate. My heart sings when I think about you and why you must have chosen that particular plate for me.