For Christmas I try to do at least one homemade item each year. Cameron, my husband, is fascinated by animal skulls. This sounds morbid until you know that he has a degree in zoology and is preparing to teach Biology. He loves the structure, how everything all fits together, the teeth, all of it. With that in mind, for 2014 I wanted my homemade gift to have something to do with skulls. While looking through ideas one day I happened on an incredible scratchboard of a canine skull by Lori Dunn.
The detail is amazing. I don’t know what possessed me, but after looking at it for a while I thought, “I can do that!” I studied how she did the crosshatching lines, the shading, the texture, and jumped in.
It didn’t take me long once I actually got scratching until I realized my ego had gotten the better of me. This was way more detailed and skilled than I am currently at. I got frustrated and put it away. Finally, Christmas was approaching and I decided to pull it back out and keep working on it. I got it done just in time for Christmas.
I didn’t know if I was going to give it to him. When I compared it to the original, I just laughed. I wanted it to look like the original, with the careful detail, the texture of the bone apparent, and everything just right. I nearly didn’t give it to him, but decided to wrap it up anyway.
He loved it. He turned it around for the others to see and I swear it wasn’t the same scratchboard. It did look okay! I was even proud of it!
Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I’ve thought about that quote a number of times when I see my version of the scratchboard. I worked hard. This wasn’t an easy project. My lines aren’t as delicate, my details as refined, or my shading as subtle, but I accomplished something. I learned. I grew. I found a way to express creativity. I was letting my comparison of the two scratchboards rob me of my joy in the creative process and in the joy of gift giving.
Comparison doesn’t have to always tear down, it can build. Whatever we look for, we find. If we truly look for the positive, we will find it. That may be positive traits in others, things to be happy about with a finished project, life circumstances, or even finding the silver lining in a rough day. If we are looking for the negative, we will find that. Character flaws in others, places in projects where we didn’t match up to the ideal, gloominess in life.
I knew this scratchboard was a gift for Cameron, but I’ve found since Christmas that it has been a sort of gift for me as well. I think about Roosevelt’s quote when I see it and how I will find what I am looking for. It reminds me that I want to find good in the world and in life, but I’m not going to find it by focusing on the negative.