Round Anxieties & Being Ruthless
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.