Jim Carrey painting

Will you know when you reach enough?

Jim Carrey recently announced his retirement from acting. At the same time he released a short film about his  love of painting called I Needed Colour  in which he speaks about the importance of art in his life.  (See the firm embedded below.) In an interview about his decision to step back from the film world he said:

"I really like my quiet life, and I really love putting paint on canvas, and I really love my spiritual life, and I feel like - and this is something you might never hear another celebrity say as long as time exists - I have enough. I've done enough. I am enough."
Jim Carrey

It would be easy to dismiss that statement as coming from the mouth of a privileged man who has made millions. Of course he has enough. Except that he wasn’t just talking about having stashed away enough money to retire.  He was talking about a deeper all encompassing sense of being able to say he felt adequate in the world.  His words referred to the rare ability to know that one has made enough contribution,  to the understanding that it is not selfish, failure or courting oblivion to step back and take a different route.

To know that you have enough is often something we assume comes later in life when you have had the time and opportunity to tread the traditional path of home ownership and pension contribution. But there is a great danger in believing that the benefits of creativity have to wait until you have accumulated cash enough to ditch your job, let loose and chase a life of artistry, whatever form that takes for you. For some people that day may never come. Or it will come only very late in life. If we believe that having enough means imitating Jim with his huge studio and bountiful supply of canvases and paint before we can be creative, we miss a trick.  

Art can be made with stones on a beach, with sticks the dirt of a city park or, as these twelve artists know, with the humble biro pen. Having enough is an attitude of abundance not a figure on a balance sheet.  It can be done alongside a day job as long as we value it enough to carve out the space for it. So often, however, the ability to reach that attitude is completely tied up with our ability to consider that we have done enough, that we are enough.

I see this a lot with the lawyers I speak to who long for a more relaxed life.  Yet, they cannot reach it because they see an ever present need from their client base – especially those who work with people living with depravation and abuse.  If I don’t keep taking the work, their thinking goes, people will remain in need and It is my duty to work myself to the bone to the bitter end to be of service in the world. It is thinking that ignores the difficult fact that the need will never end. It is thinking that borders on a saviour complex, a belief that it is down to them and that there is no room for other people to come up through the ranks to take on the necessary work.    This mindset pushes people into misery, exhaustion and deprives them of a decent family life and a healthy enjoyment of life, ironically all the things that they are working to help others have.  

Jim Carrey in the same interview explained  that he was going to continue to be in the world no matter what. “We have more of an effect on the world that we know” he said. 

Whatever our career  and however important it is there comes a time ( whether its at the end of a day, a week or a season of life) when we have done enough and can move on to different, easier ways of being in and influencing the world.  A time when we allow yourselves more of our creativity so that you can contribute to the world in a different way. The knack is being able to recognise when enough is enough. 

We have been conditioned to believe having done enough comes at an age arbitrarily determined by the government as state retirement age. No matter that, for many, that age comes many years after dissatisfaction and disillusionment has crept into the day job. No matter that it arrives long after the siren call of a passion or an adventure has been heard and silenced.  For some, it comes long after the needs of a modest life style have been achieved and the cravings for luxury are being chased instead.  Retirement at any other age is referred to as ‘early’ as if there is only one appropriate time and we are either premature or late if we don’t confirm to a transition bang on a set birthday. 

In contrast, the FIRE movement  ( Financial Independence, Retire Early) which preaches the exact opposite, focuses on accumulation of extreme wealth in the early years to be eked out through  years frugal lifestyle later and seems totally out of reach to to those not working in high paid careers to start off with.  It also leaves many who try with with a need to find something meaningful to do with their days.

We miss the fact that there is a middle ground between extreme wealth by our late twenties and soldiering on until, creaking, we pass the ever moving threshold at which we are admitted to the OAP gang.  The ability to incorporate creativity into our lives right now, with all the mental and temporal space that requires,  comes with knowing we have enough and have done enough. And knowing that we have enough and have done enough depends on us really understanding that we are enough, just as we are right now. That we have nothing to prove.

For as long as we pin our self esteem, our justification for existence, on what we own or what we do for a living we will never fully be able to open ourselves up to the abundant world of living as a creative person.  We will always sacrifice the time we need to earning more or working or serving or caring more. Until we recognise that we are enough, we will deny ourselves the most crucial part of life. We will crush the the delightful and delighted part of us that dances and sings, writes and splotches paint around. The part that expresses our unique personality and leaves a trace in the world that no one can replicate. It is when we realise that we are enough, no matter what we have or what we do, that we can find a way to open up to all that creativity has to offer.

Being an artist or a novelist or a fashion designer does not necessarily require us to retire or leave a job or abandon the family. A wholeheartedly creative approach to life does not demand penury or a bohemian life lived in an off the grid yurt. It simply requires us, on a daily basis to say, I have enough to be able to adopt a creative mindset. I have done enough to be allowed to enjoy creativity, I am enough to be entitled to express myself, just for myself. 

Is it ridiculous to say such a thing when we live in an era when people are struggling to eat and pay their bills? It is certain hard to do so and I don’t pretend to be able to speak for such people never having been in that situation. However this article by a woman who treasures creativity even in her poverty can give her view, which is that creativity is not art necessarily, it is a state of mind, a way of being. And more, it is joy.  It is why arts provision for communities in poverty is as important as food and energy provision in my view, because creativity is a fundamental part of us, a need that we are born with. 

Whether our arts materials come from attending an arts club run by charities like Mustard Tree  in Manchester or they come by a Jacksons Art delivery box to our door, in order to allow ourselves to use them we need to believe that we have done enough and that we are enough. After all, is that not one of the wonderful things about creativity – the end results are levellers.  Whether we are millionaire Hollywood stars in our own studio, Afhgani refugee women meeting at a project, or children making pies in the mud, the source of joy that we all deserve is available in creativity. It is right there in making expressive marks, playing with colour, magicking from thin air something that has never existed before. It comes with moving our bodies, using our voice, collaborating with others to tell tall tales around a fire. Creativity in one form or another is available to us all, right now. 

Because we are all, quite simply, enough.