Simplicity, you are an elusive beast.

This post existed as a draft called No-Pressure November for more weeks than I care to admit.Why? Because I’m too busy. If you read my blog, you’ve probably heard some version of this same tired old symphony more than once.

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I do it to myself.

I impose expectations and goals upon myself and then I feel pressured, so I decided to try a little experiment and No-Pressure November was born. Duh. This morning I realized that this approach shouldn’t be limited to just a month; my entire life will better if I can find some balance.

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Annnnnd…already there is a problem.

Balance is really hard to find. It’s a double whammy because once you find balance, it tiptoes away when you least expect and then you have to start all over again. It’s not a one-time achievement, but a never-ending process.

20140907_092205 Finding balance is really hard if you have by some sweet, sweet miracle managed to find yourself living a life rich in adventure and wonder. For the most part, I love my life and all of the people and activities in it. I wake up every single day thankful to find myself in a loving and supportive marriage (and as a really cool fringe benefit, it’s exciting and fun). My children are healthy and living successful lives as adults now. I love all creative ventures and the people who pursue them. I wish I had more time and energy to invest in friendships. I want to read the stacks of books that litter our house. I want to travel the world. I failed to adequately learn geography in high school and I’d like to fix that. I want to be super healthy and strong. I want to host parties and attend parties. I want to conquer all the yoga poses and bake decadent desserts. I’d like to meditate and not have my mind springing off in a million directions. I’d like to hug all of my cyber friends in person just once.This list could go on but you get the idea.

My life is filled with a lot of really cool shit.

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Combine this zest for life with a touch of crazy and you have a recipe for stress and pressure.

So. New plan.

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With the exception of work (because – sad face – they don’t pay me if I don’t show up), I will work diligently to discover what things make me truly happy. I will shrug off guilt and obligation and see what that feels like. I will learn to prioritize and focus. I will figure out how to get my arms around this bitter pill:

I can’t have it all.

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can have happiness and unbridled joy, but I can’t have everything at the same time. There is just too much in the world. It’s bursting with possibilities and opportunities. I’ll still have goals & expectations; they play a really important role in my life. They help me to get things accomplished and I love that feeling. They prevent me from sitting around eating salted caramel ice cream while watching Gilmore Girls or Hoarders. (I would do this far too often and for too long if I allowed myself. I know this because I have spent some frightening hours in the abyss and I don’t want to go back.) Goals push me into new and exciting places. They give me courage.

20141019_101444 It’s entirely possible that November will end and I will go running back into the arms of to-do lists and notes-to-self, my wallet and glovebox bulging with Post Its. But I want to try it anyway just to see what it feels like. I hope I can make some progress and learn new ways to make choices.

20140418_134726 This is why I won’t be doing NaNoWriMo this year. Or tango dancing, attending writing, crafting, or art groups. Not because these aren’t fabulous activities with incredible people in attendance. They are! I adore my friends and partners in crime. I love, love, love being in a room full of creative energy.

20140515_184601 There is just too much of it lately and because they’re all so glittery and sparkly, I can’t seem to whittle down the list. It’s like handing someone ten diamonds, each more lovely than the last, and asking them to chose. Maybe this makes me selfish, but I just want to shove them all into my pockets at once.

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Which is what I have been doing – snapping up every opportunity as if another will not come my way – and I’m tired.

088 Ah, simplicity! You are elusive and clever. But I’m stubborn and will keep trying until I get it right. Luckily, I have a road map of sorts. Months ago, I wrote a list of high level goals for myself, just to have a way of measuring success and progress in my life. It’s a way to make sure that I haven’t taken a wrong turn somewhere. These are the biggies for me:

  • Embrace positive change whenever possible
  • Exhibit open communication
  • Practice personal courage
  • Focus on experiences over material goods
  • Strive for excellence (Note to crazy-self: this does not mean perfection)

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I’m also working on paring down some things with Ink & Alchemy. Don’t worry – the artist features will stay. They are near and dear to my heart! But over the next months, I plan on culling through things and keeping only the truly useful, valuable, or beautiful. This means that I may end up removing selected artists from the list because I want to make sure that everyone who remains is active and that the links are all current. I don’t mention it much, but quite a bit of work, research, and email activity is generated from I&A and if I narrow the list down, it will reduce some of that maintenance and work on the back end. It will also support that last bullet up there – excellence.

082 If you notice that an artist has been removed, please know that it’s not a poor reflection on the quality of the work. I&A was founded with the idea of showcasing currently active artists and in some cases, I have trouble finding new work from artists, even though I check each one regularly. It’s likely that they have been removed because I haven’t seen new pieces from them lately. I also want to make sure that all of the work supports a certain aesthetic.

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If by some chance you are removed during my little tidying up process but wish to reapply, please do so. Here’s the submission form.

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Wish me luck taming the beast. I hope you enjoy a week full of things that make you happy.

What do I want?

Today I join countless others who have come before me when I ask, “How the #$*& did I get to be this old?” I know this is not a novel question and because I try to live in the present I don’t ask it too often, but there’s no way to dispute the fact that I’m middle-aged. I think it’s about time I figure out what I’m doing.
What do I want? 
I want to age gracefully. I want to grab life by the dangly bits. I want my life to count for something. I want to be happy. I want to be challenged. I want to read thousands and thousands of books. I want to create art and inspire others to do the same. I want to learn to tango. I want to watch sunsets and moonshines. I want to write a memoir that makes people feel good and strong and powerful while tears run down their cheeks. I want to swim in creeks and hike on the tippy tops of mountains. I want waves to take my breath away for just a moment. I want to squint in the sun. I want to feel calm and fulfilled. I want to feel enraged and passionate. I want to sit for hours with a notebook and a pen. I want to breath fresh air as deeply as I can. I want to be healthy. I want to meet new people and do interesting things. I want to live this life to the mother-fucking hilt.
But mostly, I’m just winging it over here. I’m going about my business, head down, ducks in a row while the clock ticks off the seconds. That annoying alarm continues to ring in the morning. I drink too much coffee every. single. day. of. my. life. There are emails to which I must tend. For some reason, the cats want to eat TWICE a day. Cats are needy like that.
But sometimes things happen to shake me up a little. Recently I found out that someone I love is very sick. It goes without saying that his illness will affect him far more than it will affect me. But still.
I went to see him. I hugged him and talked with him and then way too soon it was time to go home. And now I can’t stop thinking about it. About him.
Crying in the car with the radio up really, really loud doesn’t help. I know – I’ve tried.
I can’t help but marvel at how I continue to get caught up in the everyday hum drum details of life and fail to live that third paragraph up there. Why? Why is it so hard to live our dreams? Why do we fail to see the precious nature of every moment until after its over?
I’ll be pondering this question in the coming weeks because time is short and I’m getting older by the day. But while I’m pondering, I’m going to do my best to live in a way that fills my journals with poetry and art. I will dance. I will be reckless just often enough to feel alive. I will strive to understand that every day is a gift and treat it as such.
I hope you take some time this week to remember what it is that you want and then start making those things happen.
I’ve been traveling quite a bit over the past couple of weeks, but today I ran my first 5K complete with obstacles and mud and I’ve gotten around to a small bit of studio work.  I’ve sprinkled images from those things throughout this post.
I’m wishing you a week filled with love & sunshine!