From a multi-million dollar estate in the Hollywood Hills, it took a charming little bungalow in a quiet Colorado town to help me re-find my soul.
When I first began my book RightSIZE UP, I had a somewhat abstract idea of what quality of life really was--for me. Like millions of you, I'd done the meditations, I'd prayed to God, I exhausted myself trying to crack the inadvertent veneer that had accumulated around my heart.
During my hyper, turbo-tasking career producing, writing and staring on-camera in hundreds of hours of original lifestyle programming for Discovery Channel, off camera, I found no real time to nourish myself. While I adored having the ability to dispense life-affirming inspiration to millions, like much challenging, it goes through you as you step aside. Yet I, was caught in the all too typical (if not cliche) pyridine that comes with and is part
of the entertainment structure. With a brutal daily TV schedule, a touring one-man theatrical show, multiple design and liscncing deals plus publishing a book every year...."spent" was the best way to describe me dancing as fast as I could to stay ahead of the steam roller as the machine continued to get way too big.
Contributing to it all was the fact that I was told I had to live large--it was part of the business--expected--especially having now become a popular "celebrity designer"---I still cringe at that title because ironically my only goal from the onset, was to inspire everyday folks (like me) to embrace the simple life, listen to their hearts, defy what society thought and put quality of life first. It wasn't like I was Anna Winter of Vogue or something, I was using the home only as a tool for people to unlock their inherent personal creativity on as small a budget as was humanly possible....
One night, I remember siting by my pool in the Hollywood hills--fountains spewing, candles lit in the gazebo beyond and music wafting up into the star-filled LA sky. I began to laugh to myself....
"What the hell am I doing here?" I thought. I felt like the only guest at a 5 star resort hotel, like an episode of American Horror Story. I suppose this was supposed to be the moment when I was supposed to say to myself how supposedly proud I was of my accomplishments whilst surveying my supposed kingdom. Yet, I was embarrassed that I'd adapted to the Hollywood norms, persuaded that it came with the territory. When in truth, me and fame had never been a good fit, In the past I'd walked away from several promising artistic, theatrical and musical careers trajectories when the spotlight got too close.
Sitting there with my feet dangling in the shallow end, the metaphor was not lost on me. Deep down I knew I'd have been just as happy in an unfinished artist loft in the barrows of downtown LA sharing a midnight cup of coffee by a roadside food truck with real people. I'll spare you the elaborate details of why I (or any of us) agreed to all of this, but the bottom line was that I'd never felt more stupid in my life. Sitting there in the splendor; a dyed in the wool loner, it was the first time I'd ever actually felt lone-ly.
For years I'd been a traveling vagabond ---Loving being able to go wherever the next exciting creative project took me. I always felt fortunate enough to be able to participate successfully in every area of the formal and commercial arts. Through it all, my goal was never to be in the limelight but to continue to understand the limitless power of personal creativity and the difference between it and the social label of "talent" that was used to commercialize and commoditize this extraordinary gift which is available to each and every human on this planet. No different then God who is available instantly to everyone through prayer, it's often man's desire for control and order that complicates and commercializes it. We humans need to divide and concur the intangible.
While what I was doing on TV everyday was, indeed trying to clarify this difference (using the home to as the metaphor-bridge between our mental/spiritual interior and our physical interior) my own brain, filled with only what I put there, tolerated the LA bubble. However, my unconditional and quiet heart was not fine with it at all.
So, deep down that restless feeling that something was missing; compounded by perpetual physical fatigue was evidence that this transparent Shangi-La was merely a set---and just a well decorated lie.
What I'd lost was the art of the hand. The silent moments sanding a flea market find and turning it into a extension of my own character. I hungered for those blissful creative moments when time seemed to stop and God talked through my heart...and all was well with the world.
See, on TV, with time valued at a thousand dollars a minute, I'd gotten used to every U.S. vendor throwing their wears at us for hopeful inclusion in your show. While we'd always stuck to a firm, achievable budget, the process of design had atrophied into leaping through thousands of catalogs with my team. We'd order 200 of those, a thousand yards of that and then more just for back up. While we did many hand- crafted demos for the viewers, I personally haven't held a paintbrush, sewed a seam, carved a detail nor sawed a board in years. Sure, I discerningly approved other's work down to the smallest detail, but without the physical engagement my heart had started to close. Without those much-needed prayerful, creative vigils that nourished me design became a job not a joy.
Luckily with an open heart, truth WILL circle back through the God-given personal creativity gift within us and immediately at our disposal. It's there not to further ambition or build an empire with, but as a way for us to commune between our limitless inner world and our more finite physical one. It's our antidote to stress where we can slowly, methodically, lovingly and deliberately begin curating our personal affects and re-examining our choices. It's the moments suspended in time where we partner spiritual control and bring evidence of our inner life it to three demential proof that we are never alone.
Finally through the RightSIZE process the need (and courage and trust) to venture outside my usual hermit-like comfort zone, returned. I was open to begin to re-learn the vital and essential skills of human interdependence once again. This time I would customize it through my heart and not my head--through my own hands and not other's...and on my own terms.
Now, once again it's time to re-nest. I'll begin with a tiny rented bungalow that needs a little TLC, on the edge of a sleepy collage town surrounded by magnificent cliffs that rise up to meet the turbulent Colorado sky. I'll skower through bins at the old hardware store in search of an aged knob for the perfect dresser re-hab that will grace my bedside. I'll unpack the treasured new essentials that I've collected and curated one at a time off-the-beaten-path. In the moment I have discovered ranter than anticipated. I've cherish the process not just the result. My accomplished pat on the back this time has come through my creativity and confirmed my well-honed decorator's eye to spot the treasures amidst the trash. To appreciate the beautiful potential in what someone else forgot about.
More importantly, I will give thanks for the privilege to re-embrace and re-
order time. By living frugally through the inmate gift of creativity, using it as wisely and treating it as the greatest privilege of all, I will curate new priorities, (retiring social ambition and wealth for the layered richness of splattered cloths, dirty brushes and leather hands).
I will re-learn to exhale continually, sleep deeply, and search to see the face of God directly, in the eyes of my fellow man.
Not to fear, I will continue to share! When once I was obsessed about making sure the script re-write was clear to an audience, now I just search for clarity in how to take that bookcase at Walmart and embellish and destress it enough to make it look centuries old on a dollar ninety eight.
NOTE: (You can read more at Lowell Home, about a journey that basically began by leaving the key on the foyer table in LA with little more than I arrived with, escaping to Santa Fe as I learned to RightSIZE, and then eventually setting across the country owning only what would fit in the back of my SUV.)