Seeking balance

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“Tell me where you’ve been, and I’ll tell you where I’ve been” one of my paintings inspired by Art Farm Nebraska

The title for my last show at the Jung Center in Houston, “Unconscious Conscious,” was pulled from Jung’s quote: “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

Jung essentially made a battle cry of the importance of realizing your “unconscious.” It can seem like murky territory, but I think of it as understanding your soul, your gut, your dreams and desires, your fears. It’s your real underlying essence — that sometimes gets placed on hold in the name of work, relationships or trying to be whatever you or someone else thinks you should be.

Yesterday, I was talking to my friend Chance, a talented musician who is doing important work at an important nonprofit. Still, despite having the job and skill set, he has this drive to run away, live in an RV in the mountains, take long road trips, explore.

We spoke about finding balance. Knowing that we have to work jobs, trying to find ones that don’t suffocate us, continuing to find opportunities to expand, be creatively stimulated and better ourselves. It can be difficult.

I recently started reading Jung’s “Man and his Symbols.” He writes about how “primitive” cultures often believed in several types of souls — one might be linked to an animal or even a tree.

“This means that the individual’s psyche is far from being safely synthesized,” Jung states.”On the contrary, it threatens to fragment only too easily under the onslaught of unchecked emotions.”

We have vulnerable souls, in other words.

And we live in uncertain times, where things are changing so quickly that it’s easy to get out of breath. It’s easy to feel unsure of our footing. At the same time, we are bombarded with images, stories, social media, ads that can make us question our self worth, that can disrupt our priorities and can command our total attention, distracting us from other important aspects that make us whole.

I’m making some changes in the near future with the hope that they will lead to a more balanced life. I know I’m not alone in this, that a lot of people are searching for more meaning and more authenticity.

“Human consciousness has not yet achieved a reasonable degree of continuity. It is still vulnerable and liable to fragmentation,” Jung writes.

All the more reason for us to take time to fortify it, to do our part to promote understanding and togetherness in our world and in ourselves.

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Using time

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My new painting, “You can go on home, you got what you need”

I recently stumbled upon a quote attributed to one of my favorite authors Jack London right before his death in 1916: “I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”

The use of my time has been heavy on my mind the past week. I just celebrated my 35 birthday. I always get a case of the birthday blues, because, around this time of year, I wonder, am I on the right path? Am I doing all that I should or could be doing? Am I wasting time or using it to the max?

I’m guessing this thought is shared by many of my friends during these turbulent times — as we all seek purpose and strive to better ourselves, as neighbors, friends, citizens, activists, artists, family.

When I voiced my concerns to my friend, the uber-talented musician Chance Hunter, he laughed at me and then told me not to be so hard on myself all the time, to realize that I have been a painting robot lately and take some solace in that.

Chance also pointed out that always worrying about not doing enough can also be a waste of time in itself.

And he’s right about that. Worry and fear are not liberating forces, nor will they push us anywhere but down.

I’m a big believer in drinking life to the dregs. I just want to find some time and space to figure out what that means.

And Jack London’s quote also made me think of Tennyson’s poem“Ulysses”:

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

This ode is to the passion behind seeking greatness, to a character who went to great lengths for adventure. And I think we should all look to achieve, to make positive change big and small — and to engage in a life where we are truly alive, awake and aware.

Taking a chance

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Today, I’m celebrating my 10-year anniversary of making a major decision, one important step in getting me to where I am today, an act of courage in walking away from a toxic relationship.

Life is uncertain. A lot of people opt for the devil they know — but I believe that walking into not knowing is the better option, even if it is scary to take that first step.

I can’t say that I haven’t made the same mistakes or sprinted head-first into the same traps. “Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other,” Benjamin Franklin wrote.

At least, we fools are learning, improving constantly and moving forward.

Freedom is a worthy pursuit — as is making an effort to surround yourself with people who believe in you instead of those actively trying to tear you down.

Sometimes all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other, close one door with faith that another will open and let go of fear of uncertainty. Because uncertainty is inevitable.

My friend, the talented pianist Chance Hunter, repeated this Winston Churchill quote to me on the phone recently, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

It’s not that you will necessarily get better, be safer or forget the painful memories — it’s just that you have to keep moving.

And by virtue of heading onward into that wild, chaotic world, you will end up in places you didn’t even know existed and you wouldn’t have even dreamt of going.

Will You Dance?

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Painting in Progress — “So Many Dreams We’re Not Prepared to Know”

Yesterday I was lamenting to my roommate about the start of another year. I said, I can’t believe that this one went by so quickly. And I was even more distressed that in less than a month, I will be another year older.

Last birthday, I promised myself that I would get my shit together this year, I told Rob.

“What’s the point of that?” he asked. “All you’re left with then is a pile of shit. And no one wants that.”

I laughed at the absurdity of the phrase. But he’s right. It’s no way to think — the constant pressure of finally figuring everything out. And I am certainly on a quest to make a change, to do better — and I have to remind myself constantly that it is just a journey. One that will most likely last a lifetime.

My friend Chance spent some time talking later in the day about how easy it is to focus on what’s wrong in your life instead of all the good that surround you. It’s something that I am working on improving. Instead of running over and over the things that hurt me, the people who wronged me and the several bad memories, why not think about the love, the support, the sympathy and camaraderie that I have most days?

“The world isn’t tidy,” the fantastic street photographer Garry Winogrand said. “It’s a mess. I don’t try to make it neat.”

It’s not our job to fix anything or to make the chaos of life fit into some neat tidy box. Instead, look, learn, watch, accept, create — repeat.

“Life is an ecstasy,” Ralph Waldo Emerson said.

Peter London said, “Sleep surrounds us. Keep awake.”

He said some people see the world as a supermarket, a place to acquire things. Others see life as a dance — a world of partners, experience, music, whirling – and we can opt to go twirling out among the action.

He asks:

“Will you? Won’t you? Will you join the dance?”