Saturday, January 26, 2013

Can You Stand Being Lost?


Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon
Steal Like An Artist, book cover, iPhone screenshot of Kindle edition

I found myself turning the lush pages of Lynda Barry's book What It Is because I read the minimalist styled pages of Steal Like an Artist: Ten Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative. In the back of the book, Austin Kleon, a fantastic living artist, left a tidy list of 10 or so books that influenced him. This one by Lynda Barry was on that list.
Lynda is another fantastic living artist who makes powerful work. She's worth sharing. Here's a nugget that struck home:
"To follow a wandering mind means having to get lost. Can you stand being lost?"
Just quoting Lynda like this isn't fair to you because it doesn't give any sense of the richness and power of her work.  Here's a photo of the page where this quote lives and breathes:
Page quote from Lynda Barry, What It Is
Photo of Page quote from Lynda Barry, What It Is, by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson
This is saturated, colorful, layered and intense.  All that and she's got great content.  Can You Stand Being Lost?
Whether clinging to vertical career paths in a gig-based labor market, expecting consistent good health throughout life, or goaling ever faster run times in the face of age, when I need my life to conform to a certain map, I am NOT standing being lost. When I need everything I do to have a purpose, to align with my goals, I am NOT standing being lost.
There's something gained by leaning into the lost times. Moses was probably on-plan when he saw the Burning Bush. He went to explore it. In a sense, he got "lost". He followed a wandering. And his life, his purpose, his mission were forever changed from what he knew before and for good.
It's important to have a plan but it's also important to wander, to stand being lost.  Both are critical to becoming. Elsewhere, in Anna Farova's book, Josef Sudek, Poet of Prague, Anna quotes Josef, a fantastic Czech photographer with a long career in photographer from the early 1900s onward:
"I have no particular leaning toward....the all too clearly defined; I prefer the living, the vital, and life is very different from geometry; simplified securing has no place in life."
New Year's resolutions seem like Sudek's geometry while the year that unfolds will be different because it is living and vital. As I begin the New Year, I have no particular leaning toward a resolution of any kind but to ask myself the question,
"Can I Stand Being Lost?"
All writing and images by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2013

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Get Rid of 100 Things

The woven reed basket under our desks was overflowing with..... What? I didn't know but 3 months ago I had pledged, in a burst of exercise-induced enthusiasm, that I would "Get Rid of 100 Things."

This is an idea I thought up all on my own.  There's no Oprah show, reality tv or Martha Stewart article urging us to do this.  It just came out of the blue.  I wanted the clarity that comes from fewer piles promised by Gretchin Rubin in The Happiness Project.

Well, in December, 2.75 months into this pledge, I had only managed to get rid of 4 things. I sold one bottle of perfume on e-bay but made a mistake about the number of ounces in the bottle so I refunded the buyer and asked her to keep the bottle for her trouble.  At least it was one thing gone. My mother like 3 of the perfumes from my overflowing collection and took those home with her.  Hence, my grand total of 4.

With the year ending soon I wanted to make some progress on the remaining 96 items. This is what brought me to stare deeply into the overflowing woven reed basket of cast offs.  Several hours of later, after untangling cords, matching cords to devices, researching possible termination points, I had a plan. By New Year's, with my husband's help, I had moved:

  • Three antiquarian cell phones dating back to 2003 through 2005 with associated chargers and car adapters to the 911 Cell Phone Bank. (9 items)
  • Assorted orphan land line cables and power cords, a shaver with cradle, a non-functioning Garmin with charger, chest strap, cables and cradle went to Green Citizen. (13 items)
  • One bag of 12 clothing items and 1 box of 23 books went to Goodwill. (35)
  • One bag of books sold back to Powell's (14)


For a grand total of 78 things! I still have 22 to go but that's not bad progress for a week.  The woven reed basket looks much tidier inside and I'm more confident about what's left in there.

Take the "Get Rid of 100 Things" pledge.  I would love to know how it goes for you and what types of things you decide to get rid of.  I'm looking for ideas myself!