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Simplifying my Brain

December 29, 2010

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As the year wraps up, I’ve been speding time organizing the loose ends that will help me have a more simpler 2011. I’m deleting and throwing out loads of stuff, deleting emails that I wont respond to, eliminating megabytes of photos, deleting files, giving away loads of books, and most importantly, mentally preparing myself for better ways to juggle my art making that won’t kill me or cause me a nervous breakdown.
The stress and fast-paced work life I endured is 2010 is unsustainable. I learned the hard way, like so many others. I was making a mental count of how many days in a row I was bouncing from city to city, and what I remember most was how tired I was. It’s not like I got to a new city and went to cool museums, nope – its more like I would board a flight, with 2-3 hours sleep, get a to a city, lecture, work, eat on the go, and then sleep for another few hours to do another day of rapid work. That’s not a good quality of life, that’s a lack of life/work balance.


So what I have realized I need to do is return to the simple things that make me happy. Overall, to have a more simpler life in ALL aspects – physical and mental. The effects of living in capitalism is workaholism. And artists are not immune to it.

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(photo above: tearing paper in studio)
The biggest complaints friends and family have about me is my lack of availability. So I have tried to address this by gradually learning to say no, to have less meetings or have them via phone, and not book stuff back to back, including exhibits, visits, lectures and trips. In one of my favorite blogs, Zen Habits, the author explains the need to have more “white space” in life. (Wish is wasn’t called “white space” but whatever) He explains: “When our lives are cramped, and our homes and workspaces are cluttered, we feel stressed. When we have fewer things on our schedule and fewer things around us, we feel peaceful.”
This concept also applies to consumerism and the many things we own. Given that I have a very nomadic lifestyle, I’m good at knowing what my essentials are and have drastically the amount of stuff I buy. I try not to buy new things, and prefer recycled clothing, books, electronics, and materials. I’m going paperless on as many bills as possible to cut the mail I get, and I have given away about 1/3 of my books to prisoner book programs. I’m working hard on having less so that my space is not so cramped, and so that I don’t have to keep track of stuff and therefore, I have more room for other things in life.

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(photo on right: new linoleum block in progress)

I also am trying to keep my 2011 year plans simple. So it means less shorter trips and more longer trips, so that I can spend time in a place and really learn their personality, not whiz through when I’m barely awake.

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And of course, the need to simplify applies to the time I spend with people I love. It means more time with my family and friends, and time doing things where we talk and learn about each other, not sitting in front of a TV. In terms of love, simplicity gives me the ability to be more clear about my intentions and my desires. When I was a teenager, I got involved with all kinds of guys who surrounded themselves with drama – I had boyfriends who had drama with the law, or drama with other people, drama with previous lovers or drama with their inability to keep a job. I ended up absorbing all of that and their problems became my problems, sometimes at a huge cost to my own safety. It would create mental clutter in my brain and it would distract me from things like school and my art. I must have wasted months of my life taking care of dudes who were acting out their own internal oppression.
But in my adult life, I am now craving for the opposite of that, and instead seek partners who are peace with themselves and are also trying to achieve a work/life balance. In other words, I seek simple things when it comes to love and try to be in the present with my feelings, taking them as they come and not being attached to them. (photo above: nothing simpler than bread and butter, my favorite snack)
This new art piece is about that need to simplify. Its a promise I am making to myself. Not sure where I’m going to end up with this commitment but the practice of creating this piece helped me connect with that voice.

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One comment on “Simplifying my Brain”

Thanks for this post. I’m moving from California to Argentina at the end of the month and am packing up my life. I want to bring everything and nothing at the same time. Simplify. Yes.