Pause, Replenish & Reset, and Recharge
Updated: Apr 14
“Slow down, you move too fast; You got to make the morning last..🎼” Opening lyrics to Simon & Garfunkel’s “Feeling Groovy”.
I walked into my studio, stood in the middle of it for the longest time, and thought, “I don’t know where to begin”.
I had just come off a compression of intense events in a short two-month span, consisting of solo exhibition prep and installation, board member work supporting our organization’s signature week-long, city-wide plein air event “Paint Annapolis”, juggling my freelance writing assignments and my part time job; all requiring a lot of physical and mental gymnastics without letup. I entered those two months on the heels of a difficult winter, and a barrage of life’s unexpected “stuff”, including a temporary health snafu that turned everything into a monumental task, and there were at least three more weeks before I saw even the tiniest hole in my schedule.
My plan that Saturday was to jump into new work that was necessary for my next exhibition with an install date only two weeks away, the day after the current exhibit was to come down. There was no extra wiggle room; I needed to be productive every day, or I wouldn’t be able to manage it all.
I stood rooted in place, staring at the large canvases that needed to be moved and prepped; wandering and frittering around with markers and stencils unable to put two cohesive thoughts together.
I found myself in a place that is all too familiar, and yet it still takes me hours, even days to realize what it is.
I had hit a wall.
Once I admitted to myself that I was physically and mentally exhausted – and had a right to be – I pulled out the painting you see here, entitled “Above & Below”, hung it on the wall, pulled up a chair, sat down and just stared at it. After about twenty minutes I started feeling refreshed. I took a walk break, came back and sat down again and after about an hour total I felt energized enough to do a little therapeutic cleanup and prep.
This was my form of meditation. Everyone has their own mini-escape and whatever it is, the hardest thing to remember is to actually do it.
Sitting very still and focusing on the painting alone and all of it’s nuances allowed me to begin the process of shifting gears. I chose this painting because it has a zen-like quality, and unlike my action paintings, it requires you to be still and look deeply at the embedded mysteries and the brilliant stripe of interference paint that only reflects in certain light. It is calming yet interesting. Of course the being still part was critical.
It’s a simple fix really. Take a pause to breathe life back into something you have to replenish.
I’ve learned, after a lifetime of behaving like the Energizer Bunny at my career with Marriott International that it is okay – required actually – to take a pause. My life was high-paced with lots of travel and led to near burn-out more than once. It took me a long time to learn to take a breath in between, and I guess, I keep getting a D- in this lesson because I have to learn it over and over again.
So how do I get to this place time and again?
We always get to this place at the end of a cycle. The key is to tell ourselves it is not only okay, but necessary. I’m still learning to be okay with slowing down without a sense of guilt. In today’s business world, staying relevant demands that we are relentless with social media, external communication, and production. Non-stop!! Unless you have a hefty staff, it’s like playing a relay race, but you’re the only player, handing off one baton and picking up another simultaneously, and on and on and on.
An exceptional challenge, because we all know that there is no such thing as efficient production without stepping back to evaluate where we are (Pause) and what we’ve produced, and ensuring we are still on mission and moving towards our vision. Do we need to adjust our strategy?
Important to catch it before going too far off course. We identify necessary modifications, explore new methods, and reaffirm or rethink the destination.
Then we can start again with an infusion of new energy that allows us to make those necessary adjustments and ultimately lead to our destination.
I KNOW this. YOU know this. The nature of what we do is cyclical. At the end of each cycle, there is no substitute for clearing your mind; rejuvenating.
If you’ve worked really hard to get where you are, and no doubt you have, then you can probably relate. I like forward motion. Throughout my life I’ve very frequently run on empty, doing whatever it takes to meet the impossible deadline, until I crash – catch half a breath – and get right back up to meet the next impossible deadline. I find myself way too often in that relay-race trap.
Making Pause, Recharge and Reset a habit.
As I sit here, finishing this post I started three weeks ago, I want memorialize my best thoughts for embedding this lesson in order to live it – which allows for far more enjoyment of the ebb and flow.
Create a ritual at the end of a project. Just cleaning up my studio and putting things away isn’t enough. I need to rearrange it. Which works especially well if your work fluctuates; I transition between very large abstract and small mixed media works, and the setup for both is vastly different.
Plan more time for execution than you need. Everyone knows this, right? It’s harder than it seems. If you fail at it, I’d like to say you are in great company! Sometimes we don’t want to turn down a really great project, even if we are already committed elsewhere, and know it will be a stretch. Under the best of circumstances, other things may come between you and your timeline anyway. I’ve learned to give myself a two-month window on very large commissions. If I promise a client I will deliver something in June, it is because I believe that if all goes well I can have it done by April; May at the latest. And seriously.. when do all things “go well”?
Schedule a fun outing that is completely unrelated to your work. This step is key. So many of my successful projects/paintings have originated from an idea inspired by a get-away or outing that has absolutely nothing to do with art or the business of art.
Enlist help…in advance 🙂 I always think I can do it all! HA. I nearly got myself into some serious trouble a short while ago trying to load my car with 48″ x 60″ canvases on a very windy day by myself. You can imagine. When will I ever learn!?! Get the help you need in whatever way makes you most comfortable.
Help others. There is no better way to get out of your own head that to help others. We almost always gain something ourselves, it’s refreshing to have a completely unrelated discussion and create even greater connections.
If you have this mastered, I am in awe of you! Alas I am destined to have to come back and re-read this post many times over I am sure!
I’d love to hear how you take a mental break; what you do when you pause before the next cycle kicks in!