In recent months, the ground has been shifting under my feet.
I’ve been getting honest with myself about the condition of our planet, and the unsustainability of my current lifestyle. The result is shaking up entrenched beliefs and challenging me to take a fresh look at my life. How might I spend my time and energy during my short time on earth to create the most positive impact I can? How much do I need and what exactly is it that I really need? Are my loved ones and I going to be OK in what looks like tumultuous times ahead?
With the idea that our “more is better” culture might be part of the problem, I’ve been entertaining the idea of a “20% less campaign”, starting with working one less day each week. If I reduced my “doing”, how much I spend, eat, travel, work, entertain myself, maybe shifting towards “being” instead, would my happiness go down proportionately? 20% of Morgan pie is not enough to save the planet, but it offers a little bit of wiggle room for me to at least ponder the issues at hand and begin to make a few changes.
Painting flowers and a rainbow path on a sunny day while listening to classical music could be the next breakthrough stress therapy treatment.
In the spirit of 20% less, I decided to take the last six weeks of the year off from painting murals so I could re-examine other aspects of my life, top to bottom. I’m currently one week into my sabbatical: my studio is spotless, my fridge is full of homemade soup, and I have a stack of books from the library I am excited to dig in to. Time is the ultimate luxury but the choice seems to have a shadow partner of responsibility, and my mind is spinning with what should be done. What actions should I take to align my life with my values? Am I doing enough with my art? Should I write more? Or maybe I should just slow my life down and do less?
In the middle of this circular rumination, I went out to lunch with an old friend, Michael Gray. Michael is an excellent listener, but when prompted he will dole out occasional tidbits of pithy advice. After I laid out all the pressing concerns on my plate, weighing the merits of various options he offered me this: “What if you couldn’t do it wrong?”
What? Wait. Wow. Really?
I might add that Michael has been an avid student of Zen Buddhism for the past 20 years. His advice always surprises me, having been dutifully trained up in Protestantism’s obsession with right and wrong, hard work, and personal responsibility. Our conversation ultimately led me to consider that maybe I was getting a little too heavy about everything. I realized I was more likely to make needed changes, and sustain the effort if I could also make it fun, or at least be gentle on myself about having to do it “the right way”. Ahhhh. I felt like I had discovered 20% more space in my psyche!
Who wants to work in the garden? Before and after…
I love the Philip Glass quote, “I don’t know what I am doing, and it is the not knowing that makes it interesting.” It embodies the roominess of the Buddhist concept of “beginners mind”. A plan is fine but I don’t need to have all the answers before I start taking action in my own life, whether it is a new mural project or reducing single-use plastic in my life.
Speaking of beginnings, this year I started a podcast, If These Walls Could Talk. I am excited to share with you two new episodes:
Episode 13 with artist Hanna Daly: Hanna has painted over 1000 murals throughout San Diego, and is a fountain of helpful information and wild stories about life as a mural artist. We dive into the nitty-gritty of life as a mural artist: the money, the physical aspect, and the perks.
Episode 14 with artist Alex Cook: As soon as I saw one of Alex Cook’s You Are Loved murals I knew I wanted to interview him. I started my podcast just to have the excuse to call up amazing humans like Alex and share them with you. His approach to artmaking is so radically different from mainstream street art culture (is that an oxymoron?), which includes a unique collaborative approach and an overtly loving message.
Thank you for following my work by reading along, and also for sharing it with anyone you think might enjoy a dose of art and inspiration in their inbox. My hope for you this weekend is that you take it easy on yourself! Instead of getting overwhelmed by getting the turkey right, the short shopping season or what to do about climate change, consider that you actually can’t get it wrong. You are the artist standing at the blank canvas of a whole new holiday season. Whether you try 20% less or 20% more with the turkey, the hugs, or time on the couch this year, consider that there is no “wrong way” to do…you.
Morgan Bricca is a mural artist living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her clients run the gamut from professional creatives, including architects and designers to building owners, school administrators and community advocates. When she is not making art, Morgan enjoys sipping boba tea with her kids and taking naps on the couch.