Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Round Anxieties & Being Ruthless

I have been posting a lot lately about archery and horses, two things I adore. But I think writing about them, along with others subjects such as hawking, hunting, butchering, lambing, and so forth give my readership the impression I am fearless. I am not. I may be one of the most terrified people I know. Fear sits and swirls in me the way oil does in puddles. Anyone who takes the time to notice can tell, can see it there. And just like rainbows of color in poisoned water we can let it slide because it looks pretty. Horses, hawks, bows and hunting stories are very pretty. Stunning, even. But I want you to know that under every photograph, blog post, sentence, and story there is a woman who is very afraid.

I'm afraid of being thrown off my horse and breaking my arm. I'm scared I don't have health insurance, even now with the state programs it costs a 1/3 of my mortgage. I'm scared of being hit by a truck in my horse cart because some teenager was texting her boyfriend. I'm scared of keeping Cold Antler. I'm scared of Jasper when he turns his read end towards me. I'm scared of what my mother thinks. I'm scared of what you think. I'm constantly worried about money. I'm scared of getting close to someone romantically. I'm scared of heights. I'm scared of looks at Stewarts when I walk in without makeup or a shower in kilt and muck boots and what the locals must think I am. I'm scared of being alone, and loneliness. I'm scared of bee stings. I'm scared of noises in the dark. I'm scared of collection calls, nightmares, running out of firewood, and a million other things.

So why does a woman who is often so anxious out there in public wearing kilts? Shooting arrows? Riding horses down Main Street and traveling on highways in horse carts? Why did she quit her job when she was broke to start out with? Why did she buy a farm as a single woman, alone, so far from any relatives? Why did she share that horrible story about the dead sheep? Why is she doing ANY of this?

If you think I am fearless you are mistaken. If you think I am arrogant, you are being fooled by your own assumptions. Here is the only reason I do any of this stuff. My deepest secret, my driving force, my manta, my anthem, my most important lesson I can share: I am okay with being afraid. It is a natural part of life, survival, and humankind. I am absolutely terrified of regret.

Regret is poison. It destroys people faster than any disease of the body. To know something could have been and not having acted on chance, that is my biggest motivation. Every new job I took across the country. Every book proposal that was shot down. Every man I told I loved (and I never said that unless I meant it hard enough to shake the ground), all of it was done because the idea of not acting terrified me. Bones heal, banks foreclose, jeers at gas stations are forgotten... but the idea that I might wake up one day in a life I based around security and comfort wondering about the farm that may have been, the life I might have had? No, no, no, no, no.

If Cold Antler goes down in flames of failure I still know I tried. I got far enough to know the freedom of self employment and to grow good food through hard work. Memories of riding Merlin and hunting in my own forest can never be taken away. No, I do not have regret about this place, or any decisions I have made - including the mistakes. That may be the biggest accomplishment of my life. That I learned that being scared was as normal as rain, common and unpleasant - but necessary. And knowing the wetness of fear, feeling damp all the time in fact - that it never stopped me from reaching for my goals. I'm okay being Jenna the Scared. I'll never be Jenna the Haunted.

In my favorite Novel, The Name of The Wind, some time is spent talking about painful memories. In that story the main character describes how the most horrific moments in his life are not the most painful. How he can still see images and relive events in his past that should be the most painful but he has handled them so many times in his mind that they have lost their sharp edges. Roll fear around in your brain long enough and it rounds itself off. Still scary, but something you can handle without hurting yourself anymore. That is how I treat my fear, the anxiety I live with every day. Round anxieties can't cut you.

But regret never loses its edge. It never goes dull. In fact the more you think about it the sharper it gets. I see my fear as a stalking tiger, strong and deadly. But I see regret as a handgun pointed directly at my temple. Both might kill you but the tiger offers you a chance of escape, or perhaps the animal's disinterest in eating you that day. But a gun at your head is never an idle threat. Regret is ruthless.

And I'm writing all this because I know a lot of you can relate. Some of you are in that transition zone between lives, as I was a few years ago. Many of you want to quit your day jobs, buy land, grow food, milk goats, work with draft horses and play fiddles by campfires. And you can. You can do all of these things. Usually it requires sacrifice, lifestyle changes, comfort changes, and that same stubbornness that I have. But it is possible. You don't have to be rich, married, parent-approved, or even a land owner to be a farmer. You do have to be brave. You need to understand that all those things you are scared of are valid and real. You need to understand failure is a possibility. You need to not care what your in-laws think. You need to be okay with giving up things you used to think of as "normal" to make ends meet. You need to be certain.

If you want a life like mine it is waiting for you. But damn, is it ever scary. And being scared is okay. You'd be an idiot to not be at times. But never let discomfort stop you from preventing regret. Fear rounds itself out, it really does. It never leaves but you learn to live with it. But if not living the life you want is something you may regret, really regret, then I urge you to be as ruthless with it as it will be with you. Take the risks. Confront your spouse. Be honest about what you need to feel whole in this short and terrifying life. Because in the end the only difference between the people who wanted farms and the ones who had farms is that dance.

Everyone's story out there is different. We all have our own limitations, reasons, and fears. Some of us can never have our farms or be able to keep the ones we have. Maybe I'll be one of those people? Who the hell can see forever? But I do know that losing a thing is better than never having it in the first place. I'll take my fear with a smile and it will never stop me from getting on a horse, eating my home-butchered chicken dinner, stalking deer, driving carts, or paying my bills. And I'll do these things not because I am stronger than you, but because no part of me will ever be okay with that gun to my head.

So that's my secret. That's Cold Antler. And that's Jenna Marie Woginrich.

I hope it's yours, too.


Blogger Chautauqua said...

Having just left a 38 year marriage, bought my own home and having the same fears as you, I find this post comforting. Being in the middle of a huge health challenge, also without insurance, fills me with fear and insecurity. being always 'down to my last $3" is not a fun way to live. Would I throw it all away and move back in with my Ex? No freeking way. So, Jenna, thank you for confirming that what I am experiencing is shared by others, and han't killed anyone (yet!). Blessings on you, and blessings on me too.

April 16, 2014 at 11:13 PM  
Blogger TransFarmer said...

I really needed to read this right now. The next couple of months will be my transition time, and I've been going back and forth over it in my mind. And it has scared the hell out of me. This gives me courage to move forward.

April 16, 2014 at 11:57 PM  
Blogger Carrie said...

Bravery is acting in spite of fear. You are very brave, Jenna, and I admire you.

April 17, 2014 at 8:06 AM  
Blogger ThiftedBliss said...

Great post Jenna, thanks for sharing all that you do. Regret is all about inaction and it is poison to the soul. I do not want to end my life with any regrets, I want to try as hard as I can to live true to my heart and soul. As Chautauqua said, Blessings to us all trying to live a life without regret.

April 17, 2014 at 8:19 AM  
Blogger Kyler and Sylvia said...

Excellent post, Jenna,

Thanks you for your Transparency.

A bit of our own deal: We just lifted subjects on 124 acres of farm(able) and forest land here in BC where we live.

Our mortgage with Farm Credit was approved last Thursday.

The company I'd worked for, for 12 years, released me from their employ this Monday.

If I'm honest, with myself, I may be terrified.

But, I KNOW that:
"...why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?" (Matthew 6:27-30).


April 17, 2014 at 10:00 AM  
Blogger hart said...

The bit about regret is very true, I had never though of it as the real thing to be feared.--hart

April 17, 2014 at 10:25 AM  
Blogger jules said...

You go girl!

April 17, 2014 at 12:22 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Making decisions out of fear, whether it's fear of regret, or fear of failure, is not a health practice for mindful living. If fear keeps you from making wise choices, then it's a helpful guiding principle. If fear of regret keeps you from making wise choices, it's the same thing.

April 17, 2014 at 12:43 PM  
Blogger English sheep gal said...

Most people would be scared to tell everyone they were scared! Telling it like it is, as always, which is why I value your blog so much.

April 17, 2014 at 12:46 PM  
Blogger doglady said...

Your post sounds as though your hold on CAF is tenuous. Although you've expressed before that you have some financial concerns, this post sounds more serious. While you may not want to work either full or part time, that option should be in your conversation with yourself about your future. I'm over full retirement age but I still work because I wish to maintain my homestead/farmette life style. As much as it would be nice to have a self sustaining existence, with a mortgage and taxes it isn't possible. Financial obligations must be met even if the means to do so aren't what we wish.

April 17, 2014 at 1:10 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Great comments on this post, very much so! I'll do my best to address them.

April 17, 2014 at 6:28 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Amy you are right fear of regret is still FEAR, and scared is scared. Very good point. This post could have been summed up as:

I am not scared of failure. I am scared of regret. And that fear of regret keeps me going.

But I am not that good of a writer alone at night!

April 17, 2014 at 6:29 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Doglady, hello old friend :)

You are right. Cold Antler is tenuous and has been all winter. But I am ahead of you when it comes to work. I took up a position at Orvis, my old employer. I am working 20+ hours a week for them as a telecommuter. I just started and feel blessed to be back among good people and solid work!

April 17, 2014 at 6:30 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

ESG, thank you. I was scared of that, too. :)

April 17, 2014 at 6:31 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Trish, I am honored by your comment and blessings

April 17, 2014 at 6:31 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Trans and Carrie, thank you.

April 17, 2014 at 6:31 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Karen, HUZZAH!

April 17, 2014 at 6:31 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Kyler, I thank you.

April 17, 2014 at 6:31 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

hart, I like the name: and yes, fear of regret is fear!

April 17, 2014 at 6:32 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

thanks Jules!

April 17, 2014 at 6:32 PM  
Blogger 2 Punk Dogs said...

Congrats on the telecommuting gig! I've noticed the stressed posts here and there, great to know this will lift some of it.

April 17, 2014 at 8:41 PM  
Blogger doglady said...

You may be lucky and find that 20 hours/week is just what you need to make it. Surely hope so.

April 18, 2014 at 10:01 AM  
Blogger Maine homesteader said...

Lucky to be able to work from home. I am in the car 2 hours 3 days a week to make our homestead work. But if that is what it takes...and I am lucky to have a skill that is still marketable.

April 18, 2014 at 10:27 AM  
Blogger Maine homesteader said...

Lucky to be able to work from home. I am in the car 2 hours 3 days a week to make our homestead work. But if that is what it takes...and I am lucky to have a skill that is still marketable.

April 18, 2014 at 10:27 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Well spoken, as usual Jenna! You just rounded up my whole philosophy. People often ask me how I manage a farm and a full time job. How do I cope with the anxiety, the fear, the disappointments that are inevitable in it. You have summed it up better than I ever could. Here's to strong women, facing our fears, and triumphing in a myriad of small ways every single day. Get down wit' yo bad self!

April 18, 2014 at 10:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good for you Jenna, I hope the new job helps. I also hope you can manage all your chores, and still ride Merlin from time to time, with the new schedule.

April 18, 2014 at 12:08 PM  
Blogger mdoe37 said...

Regret and being paralyzed with fear is definitely poison.

I think that "steadier 20" will help stabilize things for you. Ya I know, its working for the man. Most of the farms around here that I know one of the spouses works at least part-time outside of the farm... if nothing more than for the benefits. You're slugging it out alone. You still live on a farm, milking your goats and collecting your eggs. Just helps take the edge off a bit.

I'm staring down 50 and am filled with regret of always doing things the safe/proper way (my God what will people think). Don't give up on this ol' girl yet...I think I have one more leap left in me.

April 18, 2014 at 12:27 PM  
Blogger Kyler and Sylvia said...

Thanks for addressing our comments in this way, Jenna, the line-by line approach is great: I feel as if you've interacted with me personally:

Makes for easier reading.

April 18, 2014 at 3:14 PM  
Blogger Molly said...

Great to hear about the 20 hour/week telecommuting job! Very few people get to work from home, so you are one lucky woman. A steady, reliable income should help with some of those sleepless nights. And sure beats depending on irregular income from reader donations. I understand the uncertainty about the mortgage. I just paid mine off, and I will tell you, there is absolutely nothing like that feeling of owning your home free and clear. It was a long, uphill road, full of detours and roadblocks, but I made it, and if you make the right choices, you will too.

April 18, 2014 at 4:08 PM  
Blogger English sheep gal said...

Does it still help out financially if we click on the adverts on the blog? If so, with a few new readers lately might be worth a reminder to everyone that this is a really easy way they can help (and we are interested in many of the products anyway)!

I'd love it if you can repost some of your summary vids, esp the 1st year one! They cover the scared and celebratory aspects of life at CAF

April 19, 2014 at 11:15 AM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

Well said as always Jenna. I am getting ready to go through a huge transition to downsize (sell home and belongings, move out of state) practice voluntary simplicity. I have always wanted to take some time and dont want to regret it so I'm doing it (before grandchildren, and to get away from a job i find soul sucking). Your bravery inspires me all the time~

April 20, 2014 at 10:29 AM  
Blogger Deb Johnson, Quiltbeeme said...

Good decision to go back to work if only part time! Being Independent means not having to beg and not feeling that the world owes one their dream - that's not Independence but Dependence. Youth wants it all now. Bravery is doing the right thing not just the fun thing. Regrets come in all forms. Being mature and working diligently and methodically for what you want in life leads to no regrets. The best things in life comes to those who plan and prepare for their journey. There is no other way to appreciate the journey, free from anxiety which robs one of the joy they seek.

April 22, 2014 at 2:29 PM  

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