I never knew that evacuating from a fire several weeks ago would totally change my way of looking at things, but it did. While it sounds dramatic, it was a life-changing event.
The key part was having a couple of hours (about 3) to pack everything I considered valuable into a small pickup. While this might sound difficult, it really wasn't -- I was on autopilot. First came the pets and their supplies. Then came the "important papers", such as current bills, social security card, passport, insurance policy, etc. After that I packed my CPU, my art business records, and some of the artwork. When it came to the artwork, I took those pieces that I had sold but were waiting to ship, some small "sellable" artwork, a number of sculptures, and a few pieces that I refuse to sell because I like them too much. Most of the latter were abstract pieces and still lifes with wonderful textures. And finally, a few household and personal items that I figured would be hard to replace or which I had strong attachments to. This included my Schaaf knives, a Gesswein, music CD's, an antique Tibetan prayer bowl, and a couple of trash bags full of stuffed animals.
The bottomline was, except for some of the artwork, everything I took was valuable to me. Notice I didn't take clothes, jewelry, books, furniture, a tv, ... or anything that most people take. I doubt that most others would have packed teddy bears instead of clothes, but that's what I did.
After the crisis was over, I unpacked and started to think about what I had taken. I was silently comparing it to how I live my life, what I do for art, and how I view possessions. It took a few weeks for this to soak in and then to blossom into a new insight into what I want in life. And slowly over these weeks I have re-arranged my life to reflect this new insight.
On a personal level, this has meant that I am back to spending time gardening, cleaning my house regularly, reading decent books, etc. All these things I have done sporadically, but now I'm finding time to do them regularly. This is accomplished by understanding for example I don't have to spend an entire afternoon reading (I can read for 30 minutes and then put down the book) -- a little everyday can accomplish a lot over time.
On a physical level, I am doing tai chi, cooking decent food, and trying to lose weight. One of the keys to the latter is a vow not to eat commercial deserts or sweet stuff -- if I'm too lazy to bake something, I don't get to eat it! So far, I've lost 2+ pounds and feel a whole lot better.
In terms of art, this will mean that I will divide my time between "sellable" art and "personal" art. Sellable art includes portraits and art that I intentionally do to sell on eBay. For example, I know irises are well liked, so if I do another botanical watercolor of one, it would be in this category. The personal art is stuff I want to do for me with no real expectation that it will ever sell. Most of my scultpures, abstracts, and "textured" still lifes are personal art. (This is the stuff I took because I wanted it and not because I should.) While this will mean I produce less stuff for eBay, I honestly think that in the long-run, I will end up selling more because I'll be happier.
I'm still working at trying to fit everything in that I want to do, while still having enough time for doing art. It's been an interesting exercise, though. And while I would have prefered not to have been evacuated, I'm glad something positive has come out of the experience.