I wonder if anyone ever finds true simplicity. You know, where you have what you need but also lots of white space. Theoretical white space, of course: I'm not wishing for actual white walls or anything over here because that would make me a bit nuts. I sort of suspect few people ever feel they're There, no matter how much they simplify. But maybe they do: maybe there are lots of people out there who have cleared out their lives and spaces and closets and heads to such an extent that everything feels clear and spacious and open. They're just not online 24/7 telling everyone about it, so we don't hear about them as much.
I don't know. Sometimes I feel like I'm getting there, and sometimes it feels like there's no progress at all, even though I know there must be, given all the work I'm doing on it. Here's what I know:
1. I don't want to be busy. I want to do the work I love, but I don't want ever to feel "busy." I used to think that being busy was a sign of success, of being in demand, of being right smack dab in the middle of everything that was going on. Being relevant, perhaps. Gah, is that a concept I loathe or what? Relevancy. You know: "He's no longer relevant," "I want to still be relevant." It's something I just started hearing in the last couple years, and it makes me nuts. Who decides relevancy? And relevancy to what? Oh, sure: I get the way it's used in the world: if your ideas and input are still fresh and valuable to whatever market/media/endeavor you're involved in, then you're relevant. People worry about getting old/stale/redundant and becoming irrelevant. It's mostly about ageism, of course, and I'm going to stop before I begin to rant because I reallyreallyreally *am* trying to work on having fewer opinions about stuff. It's not going so well, but I'm giving it the big try.
Anyway, in the last couple years, I've come to think of being busy not as a sign of all that but as a sign of something else. I try not to be busy. Since I set my own schedule for work and deadlines, being busy reflects a lack of planning on my part. I make a real effort not to answer "Busy. You?" when people ask, "How've you been?" I want to suggest, by my response, that maybe there's another way besides busy. I used to think there wasn't: stay busy right up until the moment you can't be busy any more, and then die. I've rethought all of that. I want to do the things I love, but I don't want to be "busy" at them. I don't want to rush. I don't want to feel overwhelmed. I want to live at a slow pace, doing careful, thoughtful work. I feel good about how this part is going.
Note: I just thought of this, of putting it into words: because I love the work I do (interviewing artists and writing/talking about them), I want to bring my full attention to the process. I used to try to cram everything in to a couple weeks per month so I had free time to do other stuff (my own projects). Now I realize how magical what I get to do really is: I get to talk to creative people about the creative work they do. I want to savor it more, and I've worked out a schedule that allows me to focus on one person at a time, never overlapping any of them. This means that, for a week at a time, I'm thinking about one person and that person's work and process and inspiration. I think about them when I'm walking and in the shower and when I'm stitching. Almost always, they'll have said something amazing, something I hadn't thought about before about the way creativity works or how inspiration feels for them. Not being busy allows me to really enjoy these (to me) revelations.
2. I don't want to be a caretaker of Stuff. I've written a ton about this lately, so I'll be brief. I don't want to take care of/worry about/insure a bunch of stuff I don't use and don't need, stuff that has no point now and will have even less point the moment I'm dead. Getting rid of this stuff—in most cases, finding new homes for it—has been tough and freeing and scary and exciting, and I'm really loving its not being around. No, I have not for a moment regretted dumping all 150+ journals.
3. I want to be able to get by on less money. This is an amazing thing to say in the US, especially in Midland, Texas, where everybody is trying to make it while the making is good. Midland has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation for the latest reporting period, and the oil business is making lots of people more money than they ever dreamed they'd have (they actually say this to us). I have just lost one of my primary jobs, just this month. I guess I was fired; it's a strange situation. I helped design and plan CreateMixedMedia.com, and there were big plans. We were told last year it was ending, then we were told to just keep going, and then I was told they were going to keep going but *without* me. Like I said, kind of strange. It effectively cuts my yearly income in half, and let's just say there wasn't a huge big thing to halve in the first place. Is it scary? You bet. The work I do for a living is work that I've kind of created: it's not like there are other identical jobs with other employers. So the work I was doing for CMM isn't something I can do somewhere else. A couple of years ago, this would have been terrifying, but now? I look at it as a challenge. Instead of thinking I should go out and find a job in Midland's crazy economy, I think I should figure out how to live on less.
And let me just stop right here and say: if it weren't for medical and vet expenses, this would be a piece of cake. Right now we're in the middle of an experiment to try to get Moe's nasal issues under control. He sneezes, he snorts, he coughs, he wheezes. He's totally miserable when this stuff is at its worst. He's had exams and had his sinuses irrigated with the results (ewwww, I know) sent to A&M. He's had bloodwork sent to A&M. We've tried all sorts of antibiotics. We've done steroids (you don't want to do those for too long because of the kidney issues). Right now he gets a dose a day, going through Week #3 now, of some horrible stuff that costs about $4 a dose. And he is just one of 8 cats, 7 of whom are over 10 years old. You get the picture.
4. I don't want to spend a single moment of time doing ANYTHING just because I'm supposed to do it. If it doesn't have a purpose or make somebody happy, if it's not fun or productive or inspiring, I'm out. This explains, in part, the hair and nails and stuff: it wasn't worth the time it took. News, current events, opinions, rants, petitions, marketing, ads: not worth the time. Which leads into—
5. I want to realize, every single day—every hour of every day—how little time we actually have on this little planet, how fleeting this life is in the scheme of things, and how lucky we are to get to experience it. Everything I said up above feeds into this, and I'm making good progress in noticing less and less the crap (all the stressful, argumentative, crazy-making stuff we pile into our lives) and noticing more and more the stuff that makes up a simple life. I stop in the middle of my walk, in the middle of the street, and stand and admire a mockingbird going through his entire (or maybe not: I've never heard one run out of variations, ever) repertoire. I squat down in the gutter to smell the newly-bloomed chocolate daisies by my new friend's house (I don't know her name, but she's a Schnauzer who use to bark loudly at us every time we passed by until I went up to the fence to see what she was saying, and she went nuts and slobbered all over me. Now it's a ritual with us). Standing back UP from squatting to smell the daisies is tougher and tougher, and that makes me appreciate it all the more. In part, knowing that arthritis is progressive and incurable actually helps me on this path because I realize that, if I live long enough, there will be a time when I won't be able to do most of what I do now (I can look at the progression of my father's for a good clue about the future).
6. And then, tying it all together, I want to spread joy. Make more people laugh out loud, give more hugs (I'm working hard on this one!), be an example of a different way to live. Am I doing a good job? Not yet, but I do think I'm getting better.
In my head I have an imaginary world filled with calm, happy, creative people, moving through life at a comfortable pace, sharing ideas and inspiration, avoiding greed and the urge to amass huge amounts of money and stuff. In this fantasy, a tiny moment comes back to me of walking on a sidewalk in downtown Santa Fe one morning and passing a woman, probably the age I am now, with a long, brightly-colored skirt and sandals, her grey hair long and loose, walking with her dog, looking happy and present in the world. I imagine more people like that, like maybe a commune with better bathrooms and more privacy, communities where the simple life was valued more than huge new fortunes and MacMansions to match (The EGE and I keep saying we're going to go out and get some photos of the ones going up around here to show you, but it's kind of sad, given the ugliness of the drought and lack of landscaping: just huge, sprawling houses with lots of dirt).
Time to go take a walk, but first I have to wash the dried antibiotic (it dries a brilliant yellow) out of Moe's eyebrow. Yes, we had a battle this morning. . . .
Thanks for coming by~~XO