Work/Life Balance on the Bering Sea

So, I thought this was interesting:

Handmade Portraits: The Bone Carver from Etsy on Vimeo.

The video itself is lovely.  I find myself interested in people who live close to the earth and continue to make art.  In fact, I think that the urge to create is one of great wonders of the soul.

But what haunts and intrigues me is what he says about finding balance between his work and his way of life. How many people imagine a life of being an artist and living off the land as some kind of idllc paradise?  Yet here is someone, a known, established artist, who lives sustainably and far from modern urban life, and yet, who is still searching for that life/work balance.

Honestly, I find it both frightening and oddly comforting.  Frightening in that it just might be that life/work balance is something of a myth.  That life is really a constantly moving pendulum – and it swings between one and the other, but only hangs completely in the center when the clock is dead.  Comforting because I sometimes question myself and the choices I have made – have I painted myself into some kind of corner?  But if it is really a myth, then the problem is not trying to find balance, but trying to find a way to enjoy the ride.

Simplification – What Would You Keep?

I recently read a short blog post by Tammy Strobel about simplifying her life.  This, in particular, got my attention:

As my friend Dee Williams said, “Take a moment and think about what thing you want to hold in your arms as you die. What favorite room in your house or space could accommodate that last breath?”

If we asked these questions more often, I think many of us would stay out of the mall. Remember that stuff is replaceable, people aren’t. Shift your attention toward the people you love and the experiences that make you happy.

Simplification is one of those things I struggle with.  As the date for my annual yard sale approaches, I spend a lot of time opening drawers and looking in closets for things to get rid of.  Throughout the year I add things to the yard sale pile in my basement as I come across them, but as the big weekend gets near, I tend to look for even more.  I usually find a few things, but not much.

It’s a strange thing, I know I have more than I need, but I can’t really say that “stuff” contributes to my unhappiness.  Except for a few treacherous vertical surfaces, (namely the kitchen island counter and my desk,) my house isn’t cluttered.  I am slowly accumulating a preponderance of books and magazines that is getting a touch out off control, but really, if having too many books is a problem, my life is pretty good.

I like the idea of only having the things that mean the most to you – but I also like having a well stocked kitchen so I can easily prepare delicious foods for myself and my family.  Do I really need a Kitchen Aid mixer?  Will I want to die with my muffin pans in my arms?  No, of course not.  But does the act of making homemade blueberry lemon muffins make me happy?  You bet.  While I certainly don’t need all the books I own, especially in this age of electronic e-readers, does having them make me feel good?  Yep.  I’m not sure I am comfortable with how they are starting to accumulate throughout my house in stacks and piles on every surface, but on the other hand, it is always how I imagined I would live.

The second question in the quote: What favorite room in your house or space could accomodate your last breath, now there is something there to ponder.  My house is presently in transition.  For the last few years I have been transforming it into a place that I enjoy, but it still has a ways to go, honestly.  I like the idea of looking at each room with new eyes – asking myself if I had only a short time left, what would I want to see?  What would it take to make me happy?  Does it mean getting rid of somethings?  Does it mean getting something new?  The picture on the wall that my mother gave me – yes, it works, but should I replace it with something that is actually meaningful… rather than just something that was free?

It seems so easy to decide to redo a house or a room.  I see it done on tv in less than a half hour all the time.  The reality is different, however, and that is where I need to be patient with myself.  I’ve been working on my upstairs bedroom for over a year.  It’s taken so long not because I am lazy or uninspired, but because I have been incredibly busy with work and volunteering.  It takes time to paint, fix, redo.  It also takes time to shop and find “just the right thing.”  It also, honestly, takes money.

Somewhere in all this is a middle ground that is right for me.  I picture clean, uncluttered rooms (with maybe a few books scattered around.)  I see organized closets and cupboards, but stocked with the things I use regularly.  I see rooms that have colors that are pleasing to my eye and furniture that is a huge mix of styles and ages – but all functional and comfortable.  I want a home that is tidy, but not so severe that you can’t kick your shoes off and relax.  I don’t want empty spaces, but I do want ones that I could spend my last days in.  It isn’t something I am going to be able to do overnight, but it’s something I am going to spend a bit more time thinking about.